I’m just back from a dance-full two days in London – great to move, watch videos, and talk about dance with my clog dancer friend, Toby Bennett.
Toby was another of my students years ago when I worked for Eve Leveaux. When we first met he was a biology student living in Nottingham, where he first learnt clog dancing. He was in my contemporary dance class for a brief period, before leaving to dance in London and then Belgium, then back to London.
Toby is always so intellectually, and intelligently, engaged with whatever he does, whether learning Cecchetti ballet, or playing the fiddle, or clog dancing. He’s a great researcher and student, combining an analytic approach to technique whilst keeping alive the energy and passion required to do whatever he does really well - and then even better. He keeps questioning – both his own approach and the approaches of others. I always think of him negotiating that connection between intellect and physicality so brilliantly.
Anyway that said – it was a delightful way to spend the morning, sitting with coffee at the kitchen table and watching recent videos of Toby dancing, as well as clog dancers old and new - Jackie Toaduff, Sam Sherry, Nic Gareiss, discussing what worked, what we liked about each performer – enjoying the precision of footwork, so neat, so deceptively casual, as if the dancer had just decided on a whim to develop a relaxed walk into something extraordinary. It was beautiful to see a dancer combining a sense of flow in the upper body – a kind of linear journey through the steps, alongside such dynamic footwork. Something so exciting about the quality of lyrical flow juxtaposed with complexity of rhythm.
I especially love this clip of Toby dancing at Sidmouth Festival this summer - the way his dance builds in energy, his expansive use of the space, and the playful sense of freedom and joy he discovers and communicates.
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.