Ellis has been a folk dancer, morris, rapper and longsword dancer since 1947. He was Squire of Ravensbourne Morris side for two years and their musician for ten. He ran barn dances in venues ranging from Buckingham Palace to the World Conference of Nudists. He was a member of the folk dance team for England and performed annually at the Royal Albert Hall, with his first wife Iris and later with his second wife Chris. He is an Approved Tutor for the English Folk Dance and Song Society and has served on the advisory panel to the Dance Research Committee of the ISTD.
In 1969 Ellis and Chris embarked on historical dancing at the Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society summer school, held then in Cheltenham. Chris became a certificated tutor for the Society and she and Ellis together were teachers for the annual Dolmetsch summer school and occasionally for the Nonsuch summer school. They taught 16th century dance and researched, composed and taught baroque dance and notation. They started the group Pastime, in Orpington, to dance all periods from the 15th century to the 19th, and were the regular ‘residential’ tutors for the Oxford Historical Dance Society when that group first started. They were founder members of the Early Dance Circle. Since 1990 they have concentrated almost entirely on 19th century dance.
Their first experience of teaching abroad was a week in Canada in the town of Brandon, where a daily temperature of 94F slowed them down somewhat. Since then they have taught several times in Italy, Germany, Denmark, the U.S.A. and in Japan by the invitation of Professor Ikema of the Folk Dance Federation of Japan, when they were privileged to have Prince Mikasa in their class. Classes in Japan tend to be larger than in England and in 1993 Ellis found himself with a class of over 1300 on a dance floor formed by boarding over the Olympic swimming pool in Tokyo.
19th Century Dance
Since 1982 Ellis has concentrated his research and teaching on dances of the period 1780-1900, this period providing a wealth of social dances: Cotillons, Quadrilles, Country Dances and Couple Dances. The great variety of steps and rhythms give the enthusiastic dancer the opportunity to widen his experience and enjoyment.
In 1984 the Rogers started their Quadrille Club, a venue for those interested in practising dances of this period in a social setting. Growing requests for a demonstration team led to the formation of The English Quadrille in 1990. This team had the good fortune to have two members who were also members of the Costume Society, Jean and Pawel Nowak, whose expertise ensured that the team were always correctly attired. The team appeared for several years at Apsley House in London together with The Napoleonic Association and the living history group Histrionix. Two or three times a year The English Quadrille danced for English Heritage at their outdoor concerts at Marble Hill, Kenwood House and Audley End. On these occasions they had the support of a full orchestra and the enthusiastic co-operation of the conductors John Bradbury and Anthony Hose. Other memorable performances were given at the Beaumaris Festival, the National Portrait Gallery, the Brighton Pavilion and the annual Strauss Ball at the Cafe Royal. The team also performed at the summer galas of the keyboard instrument museum at Finchcocks in Kent. Throughout the whole period of its existence The English Quadrille was encouraged and supported by the knowledge and advice given freely and enthusiastically by Oliver Davies of the Royal College of Music.
Ellis and Christine have taught at several of the summer schools organised by both the Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society and Nonsuch. Their class for the former in 2004 included, as well as their normal repertoire, such items as dances from the Isle of Man, a Czech quadrille and a Spanish solo dance, La Cachucha.
In 1989 Ellis was asked to be dancing master for the War and Peace Ball, held annually in London to raise funds for Russian charities. The ball was held in the Napoleon Room at the Cafe Royal, Regent Street, to music played by one of the Regiments of Guards.
Some years later the ball divided. One, the War and Peace, moved to the Dorchester Hotel, the other remained at the Cafe Royal and was renamed the St. Petersburg Ball. After ten years Ellis resigned his position as dancing master but the balls continue.
Stage, Screen, Radio and Television
Ellis has advised on a stage production of La Traviata, on various cinema and television productions, and has appeared on BBC radio partnering Debora Bull in a programme about the waltz.
Music and Musicians
Throughout their dancing life Ellis and Christine have been fortunate in working with some outstandingly talented musicians. They would like to thank in particular:-
- Oliver Davies, performance keyboard tutor at the Royal College of Music. He was an enthusiast for and collector of 19th century dance music and an inspired performer of this and classical music.
- Green Ginger, a trio who specialise in Scottish dance music and historical dance music and who have fully co-operated with Ellis to produce recordings and live performances in authentic 18th and 19th century styles.
- Stuart Marsden, a dancer who is also a musician, an asset to any dance club. He provided all the recorded music for the Rogers’ part of the 2004 Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society summer school.