Dance And Storytelling Make History In Sanquhar This Summer

A’ the Airts’ Summer Activity Programme will be working in collaboration with “Nonsuch History and Dance” to celebrate and promote the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland.


Sanquhar’s Community Art Centre, A’ the Airts, will run a 5-week School Holiday programme from the 4th of July until the 5th of August. The 5th week of workshops will include an exciting opportunity for the young people of the community to work on a collaboration with Nonsuch History and Dance Company’s celebration of “Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022”. Nonsuch are a professional dance theatre company and educational charity.


The History

In 2019, Sanquhar was visited by this leading international historical dance organisation. Following a successful summer course of dance in the town hall, involving students from all over the world, Nonsuch History Dance was granted charitable status in Scotland last year and now returns this August, as part of the celebrations for Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022, to offer a week of free events for adults and children of all ages.


The Project

This is a project of collaboration with many locals in Sanquhar and around the Ayrshire area, with a major link to A’ the Airts and the summer school for young people, managed by Yvonne Barber. Tutors of dance will work alongside musicians and visual artists and the final storytelling presentations will be filmed and broadcast as part of an online resource. This resource will tell the story behind the dances from history, inspired by famous Scottish figures such as Robert Burns and Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots.


The Casket

National Museum of Scotland has recently secured the silver casket once owned by Mary Queen of Scots. This casket would certainly have contained her most precious letters. This storytelling project will imagine the many letters written by her mother, Queen Mary de Guise, preparing her daughter Mary Stuart for the marriage to the Dauphin in France, soon to become King Francis II. Part of this preparation of a princess was to learn the dances that were required to be danced at the royal courts. These noble dances connect to a tradition of historical dancing, leading back to dances known by Margaret of Scotland who also left Scotland to marry a French Dauphin a hundred years before. This Year of Stories 2022 project for children looks at the marriages of young princesses and princes, and the important connection between Scotland and France.


The Dance of Robert Burns

As part of the Year of Stories 2022, adult members of the local community are also invited to come learn historical dance, music and poetry to tell the story of Robert Burns and one of his most famous characters, Tam O’ Shanter. You can learn some of the dances that Robert Burns knew as a young lad in Scotland and create a dramatic performance based on his poetry.


Dance is important in the story of the young Robert Burns. Robert goes against his father’s ruling and attends a dance in his Scottish town – and this changes his life! From this moment, Robert declares his love of women, dance and folklore and these elements inspire his greatest poems. A character in one of these poems is Tam O’Shanter. His life is also changed by an encounter of dancing wild women on his way home from a night of carousing with his friends. Through evening classes, the participants are invited to explore storytelling and create a dramatic story of their own with dance and music.


Both young and old participants will join with the Nonsuch History & Dance International Summer Course, led by professional actors and dancers who have professional experience of theatre, TV and film. The week culminates with fun social dancing, including a grand ball in the Town Hall of Sanquhar. This week of events has been supported by the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. This fund is being delivered in partnership between VisitScotland and Museums Galleries Scotland with support from National Lottery Heritage Fund thanks to National Lottery players.


The Tutors

The tutors from NONSUCH HISTORY AND DANCE are established experts in historical dance, and have worked on many projects internationally, including film and television. The Artistic Director, Darren Royston, appeared on BBC DANCING CHEEK TO CHEEK as Dancing Master to Len Goodman & Lucy Worsley, and has choreographed many stars including actors of the Harry Potter movies and dancing with Nicole Kidman in an historical ball scene for Wernert Herzog’s feature film Queen of the Desert. Project director and tutor, Penelope Boff, has had an international career in dance performance and education, in particular with the UNESCO International Dance Council, and is now based locally in Sanquhar. Faye Maughan, a professional actress and dancer who works regularly in the UK’s drama schools, and will assist as a featured performer in this project.


The invitation

Everyone is encouraged to come to give it a go and join the free classes, even if they have no experience of dancing these dances. When Robert Burns went to his first dance, he found it a great way to socialise – indeed his love of lovely ladies was fired up from reeling on the dance floor! However, if you don’t feel able to participate as a dancer, you are also invited to watch from the sidelines and be an audience at the balls in the Town Hall. Free performances open to the public will tell the stories of Queen Mary and Robert Burns, and recreate the dances of their own histories.


Marie Christie, Head of Development at VisitScotland said:

“We are delighted to be supporting Nonsuch History and Dance through the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. Events play an important role in our communities as they sustain livelihoods and help to celebrate and promote our unique places, spaces and stories. Themed Years are all about collaboration and Museums Galleries Scotland, National Lottery Heritage Fund and VisitScotland are pleased to work in partnership to create this fund to showcase community stories. By supporting events taking place within our communities, including Dance and The Story, new opportunities with be provided for locals and visitors to come together and find out more about the diverse stories, past and present, that our communities have to share.”


There are events being held in Sanquhar all throughout the week from 1st – 7th August at the Sanquhar Town Hall, Sanquhar Community Centre and A’ The Airts Community Art Centre. All events are free, and you can find out more at https://www.nonsuchdance.co.uk/storytelling