In Search of Cornish Identity Through Dancing and Performing Bodies

Hagmann, Lea Salome (7 September 2019). In Search of Cornish Identity Through Dancing and Performing Bodies (Unpublished). In: XXXV European Seminar in Ethnomusicology. University of Durham, UK. 3.-7.9.2019.

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Growing out of the Celto-Cornish political movement in the 1980s, the Cornish Dance Revival was designed to be a Celtic rather than an English Revival. Encouraged by the organisers at the Pan-Celtic Festival in Killarney, Ireland, the Cornish revivalists started to conduct fieldwork in Cornwall and collected dance material of people who were mainly in their eighties at the time of collection. The few steps and movements the revivalists recorded were then reconstructed based on a) written sources, b) oral descriptions and c) contemporary social dances of other Celtic places, and a corpus of about 40 Cornish dances was established that allowed dancers to perform ‘Cornishness’ on stage.
However, around the year 2000, a couple of younger musicians felt restricted by this limited number of Cornish dances and the thereof resulting small musical repertoire. Additionally, the impossibility of musical variation and improvisation during non-performative Troyls (dance-nights) was lamented. Therefore, these musicians decided to create a new form of Cornish dancing that would permit more musical freedom. By looking towards their ‘Celtic cousins’ in Brittany, the second Cornish revivalists found a suitable role-model in the Breton Fest Noz movement, where they saw young people dancing continually for many hours in chain dances with no need for a caller or set dance forms. The new movement, Nos Lowen, was intended to be Cornish, contemporary and global at the same time.
This paper investigates how this second revival movement transformed the former movement material in order to create a new form of Cornish dancing, and how this process changed the relationship between musicians and dancers during dance-nights. Additionally, and by applying revival theories, I focus on the reaction the former revivalists had towards this new interpretation of Cornish dancing and analyse how dancing and performing bodies in Cornwall have eventually moved apart.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Musicology

UniBE Contributor:

Hagmann, Lea Salome


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 390 Customs, etiquette & folklore
700 Arts > 780 Music




Lea Salome Hagmann

Date Deposited:

12 Dec 2019 12:50

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:33




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