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Folk, Morris, and hip hop – with bells on!

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: July 04, 2012

  • Stunning performance: Time Gentleman Please! will take audiences on a journey through the genres of folk, hip hop and breakdancing to name a few

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Time Gentlemen Please!, a show fusing folk and hip hop, represents the latest chapter in an evolution of music and dance styles which started life with one man and his concertina in the 1980s.

That man was Damien Barber: "I did 11 years of solo touring from the age of 18, with my concertina and traditional songs."

But at the end of the 90s when the musician formed The Demon Barbers he gave his purist roots a bit of a shake-up.

"I was touring in America quite a bit by myself," says Barber. "I met up with a band called Cordelia's Dad and they were inspirational to me because they were a rock band but performed traditional songs. They just threw it all into the same show. It was fantastic.

"I thought 'that's what I want to do'. After 11 years of struggling on a folk scene that itself was struggling at the time, I thought I needed to do something a bit different and something I could take around the folk festival scene.

"I got The Demon Barbers together to carry on singing the songs I had always sung but give them a bit of a kick and get them a broader audience."

The transmutation wasn't to end there. Barber also met a clog dancer called Tiny Taylor who, as well as stealing his heart, introduced him to young and talented dancers.

"I thought it would be great to showcase them at one of Demon Barber's gigs and by the next year we had called the show the Demon Barber Roadshow.

"There were clog dancers, a really percussive element we integrated into songs, then we had Black Swan Rapper from York with sword dancing – a traditional north east miners dance – and Cotswold Morris doing their traditional two-man thing in whites and bells."

But Barber never kept himself strictly on the musical side of performances, learning sword dancing in those roadshow days. Now, with Time Gentlemen Please!, his involvement in all aspects of the show has continued.

Barber says: "I am running around singing and dancing all through this show. It has been created by everyone really. A big part of traditional music and dance is the community aspect and it's important we keep that identity as a group."

Time Gentlemen Please! takes the fusion a step further with the introduction of hip hop. The show brings together folk, clog, sword and Morris dancers with counterparts from the worlds of breakdancing, popping, krump and beatbox.

Barber says: "When we all first got together we had some research and development stages and it's surprising how many similarities come out in the dance styles. Also, with hip hop and folk, both have suffered quite a bit with general stereotyping. You have the gangster stuff along with hip hop and on the other side you have all the folk stereotypes."

In Time Gentlemen Please!, when three hip hop dancers head out for a night at The Fight Cocks, they get more than they bargained for at the pub. A dance contest ensues with styles confronting one another.

"There's a real battle going on," says Barber. "There's always been a competitive element in traditional dance and there's obviously one in hip hop because we have 'battles'."

Sword dances are performed with snooker-cues, pub bouncers perform competitive Morris dancing and breakdancers flirt with clog girls. Meanwhile, The Demon Barbers take English folk music on a journey with hip hop, house, funk and ska and even burlesque and drum and bass along the way.

Time Gentlemen Please! at Lincoln Theatre Royal on Friday, July 13 (7.15pm). Tickets: £16.50, £14 concs, £10 under 18s. Box office: 01522 519999, www.lincolntheatreroyal.com

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