Cécile Laye

Cécile LAYE is CHESTNUT’s teaching and artistic director.

She studied old dance forms in England with the Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society,  Nonsuch History and Dance and EFDSS (English folk Dance and Song Society). She worked in particular under such famed teachers and researchers as  Anne Daye, Anne Cottis, Peggy Dixon, Ethyl Anderson, Marjorie Fennessy, Tom Cook and Alan Davies. In France she studied with Francine Lancelot, Andréa Francalancci and Barbara Sparti.

At the end of the eighties, she founded AMARILLIS, a dance company meaning to bring to the public figure dances of the Stuarts’ time and the English inheritance, as well as some aspects of history and literature, with the collaboration of musicians and singers. AMARILLIS was replaced by CHESTNUT in 1998. CHESTNUT took over its predecessor’s artistic activities (creating dance and theatre shows), its teaching (preparing dancers for Balls through a rich program of workshops and classes) and its publication ones (CDs, dance descriptions, articles on Playford and modern dances).

Over the years, Cécile LAYE has build up a strong experience as a dancing master and ball caller (French Renaissance balls/ English figure dances balls, or a mixture of both). She can pass on her taste for and pleasure in elegant dancing to beginners as well as seasoned dancers.

Besides her activities in the field of dancing, Cécile Laye studied dramatic art and staging, graduating at Cours Florent. She also graduated at Eva Ruchpaul’s Yoga Institute and the Paris school of Gestalt-therapy. She played Shakespeare, Molière and Marivaux in Paris and elsewhere in France and takes part in creating new plays and shows, for children in particular.

She draws on both sides of her extensive training, physical and artistic, to develop her teaching method.

Her constant aim is to understand the needs of a given group and of each person making up the group, to build up a class so that each person gradually understands the dance, becomes aware of his/her body and its expressive capacities, be it during a lesson, a ball, or on stage.

Cécile Laye’s interview by Sandra Stevens – Histoire de bal

French version of this interview on Histoire de bal

Testimonial :

“I like very much, and I find very useful:
– your use of demonstration
– your insistence on matching steps to measures
– your insistence on the correct foot to start a step
– the many repetitions and revisions of dances
These things are sadly missing from most of the dancing events I attend in England.

I like your use of demonstration in your teaching, both by yourself and by others. Although it was the only way in which I could learn the dances, it is in any case the best way of communicating the nature of the movement. It is also a good way of communicating the sequence of the movements, though it was a little hard for me sometimes if your demonstration was not in sequence! It may be difficult for you to believe, but demonstration is rare in my country!

I like your insistence on starting a sequence of steps on a particular foot, and I like your insistence on using the correct number of measures for each figure. I find it satisfying to be rigorous in such matters, though this also is rare in my country.

I especially enjoyed the opportunities to repeat dances many times. At dancing events and in dancing clubs in England sometimes we do the dance a second time, but never more than that. But dancing it repeatedly means that you have learnt it and that you are dancing it without trying to remember what you should be doing next – so you can relax and really enjoy the music, the movement, and the company of the people you meet during the dance. It is good to meet people without the frown of concentration!” 

Alan, attending the workshop in 2015


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