Geoff started clog dancing while still at school in Chingford where Peter
Boyce was teaching morris, sword and, very briefly, clog stepping. Once
Peter had exhausted his repertoire of 2 steps and a break which he'd learnt
at a weekend workshop, he arranged for Brian Hayden to teach Geoff and
one or two others. Brian had been a member of Newcastle Kingsmen while
at University in Newcastle and had been taught to clog dance by Johnson
After learning about 5 steps from Brian, Geoff's first performance was
in a pair of borrowed clogs which were too big so he had to wear 2 pairs
of walking socks in them to keep them on. He bought his first pair of
clogs by post from James Clare's market stall in St Helens. They cost
29/6 and he was still dancing in them 30 years later.
When he was in the 6th Form, with the aid of Mike Jensen (later of Carlisle
Morris & Sword) who was teaching at the school, Geoff wrote a small
booklet as an aide memoire for workshop participants which he called "Clog
Steps for Beginners". Since he didn't have enough steps or breaks,
Geoff had to make up a couple of new ones. The first 100 copies were run
off on the school Gestetner and stitched together by hand, a skill that
had been taught at primary school. A couple of years later someone from
EFDSS noticed the booklet at a Sidmouth workshop Geoff was running and
asked if they could publish it. It still sells a few copies each year.
In the early 1970s Geoff was running a workshop at an event run by Peter
Dashwood in East Anglia when he was approached by a lady who had seen
the event advertised in the local paper and having been a clog dancer
since she was very young had cancelled her day out with the local WI and
had come along to find out who was running the clog dancing workshop.
After interviewing Geoff and making him dance his "most difficult
step" and also a step he had made up himself, she announced that
she would teach him her own dances. Her name was Mrs Marhoff, who had
danced on the stage with her grandfather under the name Viona Wynne.
|Over the next few years Geoff visited Mrs Marhoff at her
bungalow in Cambridgeshire and she taught him her hornpipe dances. She was
very insistent that he danced them in the way she had been taught them by
her grandfather, a former Durham Pitman's Champion. Geoff's daughter, Louise,
was also there but she was a young baby at the time sitting on her mother's
knee while her dad was put through his paces by a very strict tutor. Woe
betide him if he crossed his feet when he shouldn't!
|In 1976 Geoff danced in the inaugural revived Northern
Counties Clog Dancing Competition in Durham Town Hall and met Johnson Ellwood
for the first time. When Johnson found out that he had learnt his first
steps from Brian Hayden he was really pleased. A few weeks later, Johnson
wrote to Geoff inviting him to visit him in Chester-le-Street and learn
some new steps.
|In 1996 Geoff started a new team called Seven Stars Sword
and Step Dancers and after years of dancing as a solo performer has had
to learn to dance the same steps as other people - quite a challenge at
times! It has also given him the chance to choreograph dances for groups
of dancers to avoid what he calls "formation foot waggling".
When Louise was a very young girl she had been very taken with a group
of Irish dancers at Sidmouth and so she had attended lessons at the local
Brian Boru club where she learnt a couple of simple jigs. Later, when
she was a teenager she wanted to learn how to clog dance so Geoff taught
her some waltz steps as well as one of Mrs Marhoff's dances.
| When she went to University clog dancing had to take
a back seat for a while. However, after graduating and moving back to Wigan
she started dancing once again. When she moved to Cardiff for further study
she joined the local team, Cobblers Awl and under the tutelage of Carol
Loughlin was introduced to Welsh clog dances. More recently, she now also
dances with Bristol-based City Clickers.
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