There has been a long tradition of this style of dance taking place in Exeter since the mid nineteen nineties. Dilys Morgan Scott ran a 5 rhythms class around that time. From that evolved a five rhythms peer group which met in the basement of a house on Colleton Crescent which had been converted into a dance studio. Fiona led this and handled all the organisation and administration.
The studio was in a residential area which meant that noise from the amplified music was a problem if the windows were open. If it was warm the windows really did need to be open. After several complaints from all sides - room too hot, music too quiet, music disturbing neighbours, Fiona found that St Matthews Church Hall was free on a Wednesday evening. This seemed a much better venue all round and the group moved there in 2003. Lorna and Ben had already been running 5R classes at St Matthews once a month on a Saturday with live drumming. Kay had also run 5R classes at the venue on a Monday morning.
In 2005 there was a lot of pressure from the 5R hierarchy for peer groups to close. Fiona's response was to propose that the Exeter group should only have teacher led sessions from January 2006 and she organised the programme accordingly. This was controversial as many of the members of the group did not agree with this. They still wanted to have sessions which were not teacher led where members of the group bought along the music and people danced as they wished.
So, in response to weekly 5R teacher led sessions the Sunday Dance Group was formed which was entirely peer led. The first session was held on Sunday 5 March 2006 at St Matthews Church Hall and it met monthly. There was a planning group which involved Karen, Cathrin, Lucie, Alex, Laurence, Michelle and Johnnie.
The group was run on democratic lines and it wasn't long before we were looking for a name to replace the rather unimaginative but descriptive group title (Sunday Dance Group). We considered Barefoot Boogie but that name and format, developed elsewhere, wasn't quite what we were about. Movement meditation was also a contender but in the end the name barefoot dance was agreed by all to be the best and so in 2006 'barefoot dance' was 'born'. Many of the people who attended the monthly Sunday peer group sessions in 2006 were also going along to the teacher led Wednesday sessions at that time.
In spite of this, the former 5R peer group struggled to get enough people week after week on a Wednesday in 2006 to pay its way. Having a 5R teacher every week made it expensive. Fiona decided to close down the 5rhythms teacher led group in December 2006.
From January 2007 the barefoot dance community took on the booking of the hall and organised the weekly dance sessions on a Wednesday and the monthly sessions on a Sunday. After a while the Sunday sessions were dropped. The format was slightly different in that other forms of dance as well as 5 rhythms were now 'taught'. These included shamanic trance dance, biodanza, contact improvisation, improvised live music and other forms where there was no requirement to learn steps. The core still involved members of the group putting together a playlist on a CD or mini-disc and people dancing as they wished. You become your own teacher as the publicity said at the time.