Bardic 101 and FAQ

General Bardic Circle Etiquette for Participants

- Rule #1:  Don't fall in the fire.
- Be mindful & respectful of the venue and the host
- In most circles, each person performs one piece at a time and the turn passes to the next person
- In general, limit your selection to a reasonable time including the intro (often around 3-5 minutes for songs, 5-8 minutes for stories)
- If you make a mistake, it's ok.  Deep breath, continue and finish as best as you can.  No apologies needed, this happens to everyone.
- "Bardic circle math":  in general 10-12 people = 1 hour at 5 min. average per selection.  Be patient, your turn will come back around.
- Keep track of how many times you go up compared to others in a "leap" or "popcorn" circle
- If you see/recognize the author of material you would like to perform, ask this person to be sure they didn't have it 'locked and loaded.'
- Do not upset the caretakers of the small humans.  Period.  If there are "smalls" in the audience, keep it family friendly
- Unless the circle is clearly stated otherwise by the host or venue, keep it family friendly
- When in doubt - Stick with the theme and mood of the circle
- Tend to mood of the circle, be aware too many long and drawn out solo works in a row can drain the energy out of a circle
- You like your audience; tune your instrument.  Multiple instruments in a circle?  Check and recheck tuning with each other throughout the night.
- No Pass Shaming.  If someone doesn't wish to perform, or isn't ready to perform - don't pick on them or push someone to perform.
- Audience is important.  Some folks may choose to be there to be entertained by the circle
- Use of technology for lyrics and such:  try to keep e-thing and i-thing technology limited and disguised as best as possible.  Any backlighting can also be distracting for others in dark/low light/night settings.
- When using a flashlight or small LED light at night bardics to read lyrics by - be careful not to blind anyone in your audience, point it down. 
- Be aware some circles prefer memorization only, or only lyrics 'utilizing technology' that would have been found in your persona's period.  Check in with your host and venue.
- Be good audience for your fellow participants.  Listen to others as you would like others to listen to you.
Including but not limited to:
*  Cel phones - Keep them on silent.  Leave the circle to use them for talk or text - in a dark setting the light is distracting.
*  Don't mumble or sing another piece 'sotto voce'
*  Try not to flip your book overmuch while others are performing
If you are prepping your next turn, you are not listening to the current performer.
*  Leave the circle to prep your instrument, including warming up drum heads.  That "sssshhhhhhhssssshhhhssssshhhhh" sound?  Yeah.
*  If you're going to work on a small craft project, have all your materials handy so you're not digging while another person is performing.  If you have to dig, do it on the breaks, leave the circle, do it between songs.stories.     
*  (For smokers)  If you are going to smoke or 'vape' (e-cigarettes) - ask if there is a designated smoking area.  Step behind the last row of the circle area and keep downwind.  
If in a pick-plass-play circle and your turn is soon, ask the host to hold your turn until you return.
*  Beware of noisy jingly accessories - may add unwanted percussion

Recording Etiquette at Bardic Occasions

For those Recording:
- Ask the hosts before recording in a performance venue
- If folks are already sitting when you set up, check if they are okay being next to a camera
- Watch tripod and cord placement so not to create a trip hazard
- Try to get as much information about the performer including contact information when possible and include it if/when posting the video
- Be willing to stop recording or to delete/remove video when asked
- Do not record anyone who asks not to be recorded
- Consider setting your camera back and using the zoom so not to disturb the group
- If concerned about sound quality, consider looking into wireless mics (that could be placed in the center of a circle), or other mics with long cords and adapters
- When using a cell phone or other iThing/eThing device for recording (or taking photos!), please silence shutter sounds and other clicks and beeps the device makes when recording
- No Flash Photography!  It is distracting and can be hazardous to performers.
 
For those around/near audio and video recorders:
- If you find yourself sitting down next to someone who is recording, prepare to sing along quietly or move
- Do DO NOT PERCUSS NEAR A CAMARA  (including: drums, zills, clapping, etc...)


Fire Hopping 101 & Etiquette for SCA Camping Events

 (many good discussion points on Fire Walking 'Fire-hopping' found here: 


What does "Mug the Gate" mean?

In 2013 a group of bards enthusiastically following the idea of Analeda Falconsbridge and Drake Oranwood, started a movement encouraging camps at overnight events such as Pennsic to place a decorated mug visibly on their gate or entryway to the camp to indicate that wandering entertainers are welcome.  We have it on very good authority that one camp at Pennsic used a stein large enough to hold half-a-gallon or more. 
The camp master was heard to say as he hung it (with bright pink ribbons), "Do you think people will notice it?"

Here is a brief article from the East Kingdom on Mugging Your Gate.
http://eastkingdomgazette.org/2013/07/03/a-sign-for-entertaine%E2%80%8Brs-mug-the-gate/

If that is not enough try a song written about this new tradition written by Drake Oranwood.
http://drakethebard.com/bardic-songs/mug-your-gate/
 in the


What is a bard in the SCA?

This is a question many come back to as there are evolving roles bards play in the SCA, as well as changes to many performance arts including bardic.  The short thought essays here are presented and have been edited by the SCA Bardic Arts Resources website administrators through the years.  These are unofficial opinions, and do not represent the final thoughts or polices of any specific SCA group, Region, Kingdom, or Inter-Kingdom event.

Answer #1, 8/15/13, at website creation

Short Answer:  A bard is someone who does bardicy artsy things especially performing around campfires at night, for courts, concerts, feasts, kitchens, A&S... 
 
Long Answer:  *Laughs* 
There is no concrete answer to this question.  Probably never will be.  It varies too much from person to person and kingdom to kingdom.
And that's okay and is as it should be.
 
Ask 5 different bards and you will get 3 short but very different answers, 1 completely off-topic NSTIW story, and 1 dissertation on the subject complete with documentation about the differences in Bards in the SCA, What bardic job types there were in various period times, and may include footnotes as to what a 'bard' was to the ancient Druids and Irish cultures.
 
For the most part - (IMO, types Lorelei- Web Admin) the Bardic Arts are one of the many performance arts in the SCA, but is the one that uniquely tends to have a focus on works that relate stories and ideas.  Are observers, keepers, performers, and often creators of the stories and songs of the history and people of the SCA; as well as works inspired by their Group/Household/Shire/Canton/Barony/Principality/Kingdom pride, events in period, and works about period times or in period settings inspired by events in the SCA.
Along with performing - many bards will add original works to the wealth of material that help support and build up 'The Dream' of the SCA.
Bardic is an Art/Craft - but there is a Social aspect, as well as many opportunities for service to the Society through performance and also organizing entertainment at events.
 
The bardic arts are allied with (but different from) those doing European and western music, madrigal, and chorale music ensembles.  At the time of writing this FAQ (8/15/13) some of the blurry lines of distinction - the European music folks tend to use a lot more concrete documentable sheet music and music theory, and less creation of their own material outside of arrangements of older period works.  They also have a much larger population using instruments rather then vocals.  They tend to focus on the music that was written down in period, and less on the oral traditions and music of the people.  While many bards will utilize these tools - it's not the primary focus.
 
My suggestion?  Focus on WHO are the bards in the SCA.
What sort of bardic or performance art you yourself would like to focus on,
and what being a bard means to you.
 
The rest, as they say, "is detail only."

~Lorelei Skye, Site Administrator
8/15/2013


#2.  "Period" v. "Non-Period" performance works?  2014, discussion at Known World Cooks and Bards

The question of period v. non-period v. SCA culture is right up there with " 'what is a bard?' ." 
It has been debated, and dissected many many times on many lists for nearly 40+ years.
Summarizing (and potentially over-simplifying) discussions on this held at the 2014 KWCB, as well as from bardic materials found dated back from the early- to- mid 1970's. 

Typically selecting works to perform depends entirely to where you are (location), where you are hoping to perform(venue), who you are performing for(audience), and who is organizing any gathering(host).

There are places where SCA culture pieces are fine, there are other places that will take/be open arms to "traditional/common era/moderns' from 1620-1920+, and there are places that will want period-only or period-style with or without documentation.
**And. That's. Okay.**

The SCA is not, and likely never will be, a 'one size fits all' organization.

Yes, there is a renewed trend in bardic to try to learn more specific music theory and utilize said knowledge, about different period topicality and performance styles. 
- Which many of the bardic storytellers and poets have been doing for decades.  It's absolutely nothing for the musically inclined among bards to 'get their backs up' or knee-breeches or skirts into a twist about.  And if one chooses to stay with a different style - there are, and will continue to be hosts, venues, and audience, for it.

An SCA bard, according to SCA sources and the bards who paved the trail for us the past 49 years:  (generally) poets, storytellers, singers that have a focus on a vocal/verbal narrative which is inclusive of BOTH the legends and stories of the periods and cultures we strive to learn about and emulate that are covered by Region/Kingdom preference and Copora; -As Well As- the feats of our home-grown hero's, legends, culture, ideas, and whatnot of the SCA.
There are MANY other types of performance and performing arts - music, instrumental, theater, dance and etc...
It's this focus on the narrative/feelings/ideas, and encouraging both created and selected works about period happenings and the 'modern middle ages', that makes up a big part of what makes bardic unique. 

If you find yourself in a more restrictive venue or region and are chafing at the cultural restrictions (or actual guidelines spelled out in a competition)- 
This is/can be used a learning opportunity to expand your repertoire to have things to hand that fit these types of occasions.

That part is wholly and entirely up to you- as a performer and as a person: how you choose to deal/cope with this situation when it comes up.
(Options INCLUDING talking to the organizer ahead of time and finding out more information for what it is they have in mind, as many competitions and displays are thinking about guidelines and places for scrolls and gowns, not performers.)

As an educational non-profit, yes - The SCA does have clear guidelines of what is considered 'period', and covers a wide variety of cultures and places from the beginnings Middle Ages (if not earlier such as the Fall of Rome and Iron Ages) to the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
In this part of the 21st century there are high quality sources available through the search function of choice from the comfort of your abode 24/7, compared to what we've ever had prior to this.  For those who choose- it's a great and happy mind-enticing exciting thing and they dive right in and enjoy the absolute heck out of it.

That said.
NO ONE -No One- is taking away the welcome, or bardic safe space, of those who are just learning, -or who like the niche they are in and/or created for themselves, by restricting everyone to only one style and/or saying 'only this one way or the highway'.
 
There is, and can be, the option to widen the circle so 'period-focused' folks are as welcome as SCA Culture and Trads and derivative works/parody/filks, etc.
  To choose to have wider performance type circles as a chosen hosted style of bardic circle.
  I've been to many of these. I've helped create these.  I know from my own direct experience - they do happen.

Have the courtesy, awareness, and respect- if a host is trying to create a particular atmosphere (example: Enchanted Ground);
it is up to the performer to be a good guest.  And to be a non-disruptive audience member for the other performers present.
AKA- You likely would not request 'Fillet of Spam' at a Tudor style feast, a Playford dance at a Caroso ball, or break out your best Daffy Duck imitation during an immersion experience for 'Beowulf' or 'Canterbury Tales' reading.  Nor would you want someone else negatively impacting your own performance for any reason.

If you don't like it (or don't feel your material fits the space created) - ask the host/ess for guidance.
You may have the option to offer to create/host a different venue elsewhere at an event or revel, and can create the opportunity to perform whatever it is you are looking for with those others of like mind and repertoire.  The audiences generally appreciate having the option of variety.

Again, the rest is details only, and up to you - the performer.  And those who create venues for performers to gather.

 * * *
 
~Lorelei Skye, Site Administrator;
summary of 2014 KWCB discussions on these topics


#3.  Types of Bardic Arts found in the SCA - Revisited 5 years later, 2018

All Social Media in-joking, (and other arguments aside)- about ‘what is a bard?’, 'What are the bardic arts'?
The earliest reference to this style of performance and works as "Bardic Arts" within the SCA dates back just over 40 years ago (between A.S.10 and 12); and has had a stable definition of what an SCA bard does for at least 30-35 years.  There was even a folk-song and other singing held as part of Zero day.

This answer is based from interviews; and, so far, is the longest-standing answer from many Senior Bards, and how they define the SCA Bardic Arts:

"SCA Bards are those choosing a performance style of studied and created works with a strong focus on the narrative; most typically in song, story, or poetic forms.
This includes encouraging original creations, as well as recreation, of materials and styles from period, based on period, things that could have happened in period. And is open to sharing stories from the people, culture, events, and traditions of the 'Modern Middle Ages'.
With the methods of creation and delivery that were similar to Bards in period (which were called by many names depending on country and time period.) - to educate, spread news, and/or to be entertaining - among several other tasks and purposes."

(The wording is paraphrased.  This is, in part, based from those Bards who defined the 'Bardic Arts' Art-form; in a forum discussion, during the first "Known World Bardic Congress and Cooks Collegium" (AKA - 'Known World Cooks and Bards') held pre-2000. Some of the phrasing may predate that event by several years, and influenced by those at the forum who started Northshield’s Bardic Madness - now into it’s 28th year.)

~~~~~~~~~~~
It is worth noting- that as with many arts in the SCA, there are several types of Bardic, and Bards, found within the Bardic Arts.
Generally all work together and support each other- and bards decide for themselves how involved they choose to be in any aspect.
Including (but not limited to!):

1) Social Bardic
There is a very healthy, thriving, *SOCIAL* aspect and venues for the bardic artform, and community - which are well maintained and typically freely open to anyone who wishes to join in.
For those attending - could range from new or exploring bardic, to the casually interested, those who may not perform much/if at all, and those who may simply enjoy sitting and listening to hours of live entertainment and hearing the stories.
As well as those who host and create the wide variety of venues for as many types of bardic circles and revels as there are types of SCAdians.

2) Also under 'Social' Bardic - Bardic Circle/Bardic Revels, Bardic Events; with venue and spaces based on what the hosts create it to be.
These venues can range depending on the host; from a more formal setting such as "Enchanted Ground" at Pennsic where the host is working to create a setting where it is your period persona performing what/as would be appropriate to that period/culture; to the "Runestone Bardic Circle" (also at Pennsic)- open to all, and is especially 'Newcomer Portal' friendly.
And very memorable "immersion events" such as the group who hosted a reading of 'Beowulf' - creating an atmosphere setting that was as close to a Period Hall as they could.
Performance spaces like 'The Green Dragon Inn' at Gulf Wars.

In Northshield and Middle Kingdoms there is an event called "Bardic Madness" - full of different challenges (not competitions!) where any one can sign up to try out the different sorts of activities throughout the day. The goal of the event is to create a 'Bardic Safe Space' - where folks who are new to the art can feel comfortable trying things out; and returning/experienced bards continue to challenge and stretch themselves. Calontir has a similar event called Bardic Bedlam. Ansteorra recently had their first 'Bardic Madness' style event in 2017.

Many enjoy the period/persona setting of 'Enchanted Ground'. Others, (on the other end of the spectrum) gravitate towards "Adult/Bawdy Bardics" (can be found at many camping events). And there are many in-between - of all the sorts/styles of "Come and Be Welcome Wherever You Hale From" - bardic circles and revels.

These often encourage most songs/stories (within, what I call the Bardic '10 foot rule' - a ''reasonable attempt ''). Yet if the only song someone new to the circle may know comes from their Ren Faire Favorites, Stan Rogers, Irish Rovers, Clancy Brothers, Broadway...? Most hosts, and those present, will encourage, "Great! Go for it!"
Those present will sing along to the level the new person is comfy with. And if that person feels welcome to stay - after 2-4 hours listening/participating; most find they have made a list of at least 10 new songs they'll want to learn, with several others they'll have learned the chorus, or get 'earworms' from.
....And after 6 months if they keep hanging around, they'll likely be on their way to their own 1-2" bardic binder of lyrics they've collected.

There will be those who start to jot down their own song, story. and poem ideas.
Among those - some being asking, and applying: 'what/how did they do this in period times?'

3) The scholastic and creative side of Bardic.
Here is where you find the word smiths, singer-songwriters, the storytellers, the poets.
Who often work very darned hard in this creative aspect, as well learning the history they're bringing alive in their works.  Some bringing in persona aspects, period instruments and music theory, oration styles, and more.  Taking care to try and choose words, to the best effect, for what they create.
*Note: This is not something that comes naturally to most people. Everyone starts somewhere. And can take much patience with oneself, and practice, to learn how to do this.  The hardest part, sometimes, is starting.

These folks are adding new and original works, arrangements, or capturing a particular style of oration.  To the growing repertoire in what has grown into the SCA genre.  There are many original songs and works out there, these writers have shared/encouraged others to learn and perform in SCA setttings.

What these creative bards are doing, adding new stories, and memories, to the repertoire - is important.

Ask a Calontiri if they know what happened at Pheadra's gate; - next if they were there.
It's a bit like asking how many know about Pennsic War 4; vs how many were actually there first hand.

There are bards bringing the story-songs, stories, poems, poetic forms - using period writing/composition into the shared repertoire.
Some will also choose to retell stories and events that happened in period, or build narratives that could have happened in period.
These are the folks most likely to have some cross-over into period performance, and/or might be working with different A&S criteria on what they do.

Bards may also may cross the bridges that go between different performing art styles, and participate with those musicians whose focus is on period vocal and instrumental arrangements and recreation.  Or into any of the other variety of performing arts, including Theater and Commedia!


4) Performance and Entertainers, Those who Record

These are folks (often with years of experience) who present full concerts on various stages. And those who go to the effort to create CD's and other types of recordings of their works. And/Or help produce and distribute these recordings of/for others.
Many who perform on the various stages do also enjoy being in the audience; in a balance with how much they enjoy when it it is there turn to perform.
And I'll include those who are working to archive other's performances in this section; such as 'ShavaSue' and 'Cerian Cantwr' YouTube channels.

There are many other 'stages' around the SCA, some will encourage full concerts - others sharing the stage with different performers. Including pre-Court entertainment, Feast Hall Entertainment, even going in to the kitchens and entertaining those working at preparing feast. The difference when performing in these types of spaces - is, unlike a bardic circle, the audience is made up of non-performance folks with a wider variety of tastes and styles of what they find entertaining. Events may have an atmosphere they are working to create, that any entertainers should work within those boundaries. "Reading the Room", having a solid idea how one can best match the host and audience wants/expectations.

5) Teachers and Organizers
Those who choose to volunteer to teach various the many various aspects of the Bardic Arts to others.
And those who work constructively with various event's staff; organize different types of concerts; MC feast or Court entertainment; create and maintain different types of bardic events; and many more ... - in general, those who work to provide the many different venues for the Bardic Arts to be able to happen.  (With the more 'social venues' covered some under #2 in this list)

~~~~
The rest, as they say, "is detail only."

~Lorelei Skye, Site Administrator
5/2018

#4.  Bardic is a Performing Art, Not all Perforing Arts are Bardic.

Brief summary from the first Midrealm Performing Arts Symposium, June 2018.
In many regions of the SCA there is a tendency to refer to any performance as "Bardic."  

Trying to refer to all Performance Arts as "Bardic" is like deciding to refer to all Martial Arts as "Ax Throwing."  Its not heavy combat with a pole-arm, its ax-throwing.  Rapier combat, now called ax-throwing.  That's not archery with a long bow or cross bow, its ax-throwing.   Thrown weapons with javelins or spears, nope that's ax-throwing.  Crown tournament ax-throwing lists.
It sounds ridiculous and possibly offensive that way, doesn't it?  Yet this happens all the time in the performing arts.

This creates confusion, as well as hurt feelings.  Performers can feel slighted, unwelcome, anxious, even angry.  Referring to a Western European Music presentation of specific period documented music, a scripted theatrical play, or a Commedia del' Arte performance, as "Bardic" - misidentifies what these are and can even mislead what an audience may expect to be seeing.

In the Middle Kingdom, this confusion in the naming of these activities has contributed to a growing and serious rift between the period focused musicians and bardic art performers.  Referring to period focused musicians as Bardic, denies the positive and unique aspects that both art forms contribute.  As well as a deep misunderstanding from the arguments about this, has lead some to an entrenched belief that most of those in the Bardic arts have absolutely zero interest in scholarship or serious creative efforts.  And, increasingly, perceived to be putting pressure on Bards to shift away from the encouraged original creations that are unique to Bardic efforts- and close these down in favor of strictly documented works.

It will take time, and listening to each other, to begin to untangle and ultimately heal this chasm. 

The Bardic Arts and artists have known who and what they are for nearly 50+ years in the society.  Those who focus on European period music can get lost in the name shuffle.  Yet, as the recent online disaster around a checklist has clearly showed, "Musician" is not a word that can be over-owned by any one group.
To imply that "musician" is limited to documented Western European Period Music- disenfranchises musicians focused on other cultures and eras including the Middle Eastern and Far East.  And discredits those working from oral histories and cultures that pre-date identified written music notation and developed music theory.

Maintaining a healthy social aspect to an artform, along with the scholarship, is a good thing.  Bardic has held onto, and affirmed, this so anyone can participate in something bardic regardless of level of interest or skill level.  Yet, judging all Bardic by what one may overhear at the most social bardic circles during camping events, creates a very narrow slit viewing window of what all bardic actually includes.

A 'bardic circle' is the general term most often used for any gathering of any folks that enjoy sitting around a fire or revel that includes entertaining each other with spoken and sung works.  This encompasses everything from the period persona circles at Enchanted Grounds, to the Robert Burns circle that happens during another camps Scotch Tasting night.  Some are led and organized by bards- others by those who enjoy the atmosphere of these types of bardic experiences.  But various bardic circles are only a fraction of the Bardic Arts and artists contribute and offer.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to see Bardic, or any performance art, at A&S fairs and competitions.  Unlike a gown, scroll, or lace that can stay on a table for hours- performers are likely to be shown and judged in closed rooms.  Which limits broader audience exposure to those in the Bardic Arts working and presenting within various A&S guidelines.  And A&S spaces like bead count competitions are not typically organized with performers in mind, in general these are highly problematic spaces for both performers and any stationary audience.
Examples:  a performer may have a specific work that has been written, documented, and put together to perform for A&S.  This one work can not be repeated successfully for hours on end at a display table.  And while a performer or group may have the repertoire and endurance to perform the whole time the display is open to show off a particular performance style, these spaces are limited so only one performer can set up in this way at a time.  Which can burn out any nearby stationary audience who may not be able to get a break from the performer.

How many in the audience that say they don't like "Bardic" actually mean, they don't like being held hostage by any one performance style for hours on end?  Or be called rude for talking over stationary performance spaces and so on.  Can the general audience distinguish between a Bardic Performance or 'being Madrigal'ed to Death"?

Along with this- do those that make pottery, garb, or tents have their whole body of A&S work and their value as artists judged by how some of these artists will use plastic cups, nylon tents, or wear sweats/yoga wear for eating and sleeping at camping events?  Of course not. 
Nor are fighters on a large melee field judged by the quality and period accuracy of the armor worn in general by the hundreds fighting around them.

Judging the Bardic Community as a whole in this way is patently wrong, unjust, and discourteous.
And discredits the deeper impact of bardic works can have such as "Vivat the Dream", "Born on the Listfield", "Band of Brothers", "One of Us", "InDUCTion", "Rise", "Belt and Chain", "Come and Be Welcome" many regional and Kingdom Anthems like "Banners of Scarlett", "River", "Stand Brother Stand", "Song of the Shieldwall", "Shield my Kinsman"
...and stories such as "Pavel and Phedra's Gate", or "Valkyrie and the 50."

Attend bardic symposiums, forums, classes, bardic learning events, immersion events, concerts... and listen closely to the songs and spoken works at the circles that encourage and mingle the different bardic arts styles.  There are many about period happenings, in period styles, along with those written about people/events/ideas of the SCA.
This is how and where a person can start to get a glimpse into the whole wider scope and breadth of the SCA Bardic Arts.

At the same time, watch concerts of those performing Madrigals, written period vocal and instrumental music, scripted theater, improvisational theater styles... and more.

There are *many* performance arts and artists to be discovered!
The more one discovers and experiences work put into the creation of a performance,
the better one can appreciate what each brings to their audiences.




#5.  Cautionary Tale, how casual interest and social aspect to arts activities is a positive thing.


Since 2006, Bardic and other performance arts have had an influx of people- as audience as well as those exploring these activities as something they enjoy.
There are a few things that have led to this influx, such as people getting older and looking for less physically involved things to do.  
And there are many of those who left, or lost, another large social activity that used to be available to everyone as a way to spend time together doing something that still provided a sense of being part of a period-type experience.

It used to be that European dance had a strong and lively social aspect and dancing revels that encouraged anyone who wished to 'tread a measure' as well as listen to the music and watch the dancing.  It didn't matter their skill level, garb, dedication to the art form- just the willingness to be part of the dance.  (There were amazing social skills that were taught within these venues, and also built and offered one of the first non-binary safe spaces found in the SCA!)  In some places, musicians could join in and play for the dancers, regardless of how period their instrument was.
It happened that some original dance music and choreography was created using known music theory and accepted styles at the times the dances were written.
The Pennsic Dance Ball held in the old barn- used to be an event that hundreds looked forward to each year.  At Pennsics 30-35 There was hardly room for everyone to dance at times.
In places and events where it was possible, people would enjoy the dancing, watch/listen/play for several hours some evenings.

Most of the dancers were not joining to take what they learned to teach a class, or enter A&S.  And that was treated as perfectly okay. 
People could still come and have that authentic experience of dancing, playing, and affirmed social fun of being with others in a shared enjoyed activity that let folks mingle and meet in a way that bridged folks of different interest. 
And there were those who would discover dance this way and become part of the community that would help expand and share this art with others through the years.  Others would learn and network enough to bring causal social dance to their local group.  Where people in these far-off corners could learn a few dances that would be the same, or nearly, at every event they went.

Until around 2004, when (in my opinion) the culture of SCA Dance drastically changed.
Some years prior, SCA copora firmly defined the end point of "Period" to be the end of Queen Elizabeth I, not through the 1650's.
Many dances because considered to be "Grossly Out of Period" or GOoP, along with other dances that had been part of the SCA dance culture repertoire for a few decades.  Dances that were called 'easy' and 'more fun' by members of the "general populace;" meaning dances they knew and recognized well enough they could hear the music and just DANCE, sometimes without it being taught or called.  Bringing them to the floor for a romp in nostalgic fun and fellowship.

It wasn't that the newer introduced dances were less fun- they just weren't as well known.  And the forced introduction to the change didn't sit well with people.
Instead of letting the repertoire shift gradually, it felt to many that suddenly dances they knew and loved were now mocked, disdained, and discarded.
Many left social dance.  Which has resulted in no longer seeking event space for dance revels, fewer and fewer bringing dance to smaller groups.
And ultimately the Pennsic Dance ball shifted from the barn to dance tent because they no longer needed the extra floor space.

Where did many of those hundreds of people go to find a social activity that still captured the feel of the SCA? 
Including those musicians that used to join in the casual dance bands but were barred from the "atmospheric" balls in the dance tent?
And offered a welcome to join around many fire circles in friendship? 
Able to listen and share stories and songs that brought back feelings of fun, fellowship, and 'The Dream'?

Bardic Circles and the other performing arts.  A Renaissance level influx of many people newly exploring and discovering these activities for themselves.
At those same bardic circles that aren't considered "legitimate" activities by some factions of people who have a narrow and negative viewpoint of the Bardic Arts. 

Efforts are underway to bridge this gap, and are showing slow encouraging signs of improvement.

In all this, please remember that the "S" of the SCA is possibly the most important piece of our acronym.
The "Society" - social aspect is what brings and keeps people in, and invested, in this wacky hobby of ours.
We ALL need to strive to bring more positivity to the S, and be more diplomatic and courteous in our discussions of the "C" and the "A."
 
And be very aware, sadly, the Social aspect is what ruins and sours the experience in this hobby for far too many. 
Which is leading to a general decline in membership overall.

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~Lorelei Skye, Site Administrator
7/2018