Damien Barber on cutting a rug
One studded belt, one luminous tiger print muscle vest, one studded denim jacket complete with picture of Toyah Wilcox, one tartan bum flap, one pair of 'baby bouncer' Airwair, one crew-cut sprayed blue, one fake nose piercing linked by a chain to one real earring, a quick kiss from my mum and I was ready!
A year later I'd moved 50 miles to Poringland just outside Norwich, started my first year at secondary school and stopped dancing for the next 18 years. When I say 'stopped dancing' I mean I stopped dancing for fun; there was always the obligatory dances with girlfriends, potential girlfriends, grannies, cousins and the like, but I can't say I ever really enjoyed them. They were more functional than anything, social duty.
It's therefore with a large helping of reflective bemusement that on Saturday 15 May The Demon Barber Roadshow launches a new show based solely on dance, a show that I've not only been instrumental in creating but one that I'm also performing in. So what happened? Why did I spend 18 years in boogieless exile? I suspect what happened was that like so many others I was told that only professionals, pop stars and attractive girls could dance and that anyone else looked a prat. Certainly as a teenager in the mid-late 80s my peers would have rather cast me into the abyss of eternal shame than allow me to get on down at the school disco. Besides, we had no time; we were far too busy standing around laughing at all the fools dancing with all the attractive girls.
11 years ago I met my partner, Tiny Taylor, who dances in our show. Tiny was involved in the UK folk dance scene and I was duly welcomed in. I knew some of the crowd due to the crossover with the song and music circles, but I had only really skirted around the edge. The folk dance scene is a real community and generally inclusive and tolerant. It is easy to be part of as, by default, everyone looks an idiot due to the lack of professionals or pop stars. Also, as an extra bonus and contrary to popular belief, there is also a fair smattering of attractive girls (and boys too, according to Tiny). In 2000 I helped form Black Swan Rapper and once again I was dancing.
In our new show we invite three hip hop dancers down to our local pub 'The Fighting Cocks' where we inflict traditional dance on them for an hour and 20 minutes. The main purpose of the show is to try and put traditional dance on a par with a dance form that is recognised universally as 'cool'. A tall order maybe, but one that's certainly worth the risk. The hip hop dancers in our show are convinced, which is a good start. The real test will be when their friends come to see them dance the morris! We'll be launching the show in Leeds at The Carriageworks Theatre on 15 May and will be putting on a second performance at Wakefield Theatre Royal on 24 June. The Demon Barbers are also launching our new album at gigs in Sheffield and London in early June. Check out our website for details.
Damien : -)