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January 6, 2009

Strictly Morris
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:39 PM *

Rumours of my death

The Beeb, perhaps in search of alarming headlines, tells me that “Morris dancing could be ‘extinct’ within 20 years because young people are too embarrassed to take part.”

This warning is quoted unexamined from The Morris Ring, which describes itself as the National1 Association of Men’s Morris and Sword Dance Clubs. I note in passing that all of the dancers on the website landing page are male, beardless and wearing white2.

I was curious about the Morris Ring’s emphasis on men’s Morris and Sword dance. The site doesn’t mention women dancers at all, but I know there are some. So I went a-googling. Turns out there are two other prominent Morris dancing societies in England, the The Morris Federation and Open Morris, both of whom welcome male, female and mixed teams.

Neither organization appears to have been contacted by the BBC about the article.

Hey Nonny No No No

Then the things got strange, as they so often do on the internet.

I ran across an article in the Independent on Goth Morris. That led me to a couple more neat articles on Goths and Pagans and what they’re up to with sticks and hankies.

There are groups all over England doing really interesting things with Morris dancing. Look for groups that do “Border” or “Goth” Morris, black their faces, and wear top hats or bowlers and tattercoats.

Some, like Boggart’s Breakfast in Sheffield or Stone the Crows, are non-religious, mixed-sex groups that are just in it for the fun. Others, such as Hunter’s Moon Morris use Pagan imagery in their outfits. And some, like the Witchmen and Medusa Gothic, appear to have traveled all the way full circle back to single-sex groups performing Morris as a ritual.

I recognize the types I see on those webpages. These are the real-ale drinkers, the beardies and the crafters, the reconstructionists and the reenactors. I bet most of them are in fandom to one extent or another.

And, of course, this stuff is all over the shop on YouTube.

Pull the other one, it’s got bells on

It’s the perpetual tension between orthodoxy and relevance, of course. How far can a custom change before it is a new practice? How much can you preserve a tradition in a world whose tastes move on? How can you get the next generation interested in pastimes that are immutably associated with their elders?

I’ve never done Morris dancing, but like practically everyone in Scotland, I’ve done a bit of country dancing4, which confronts many of the same issues. Is it a living tradition when everyone only knows four dances6? Is it more important to have many people having fun with it, or should fewer people do it and do it right? Breadth, or depth?

My view? I think that a tradition that is not perpetually reinventing itself is dead.

Goth Morris, Pagan Morris, and whatever grows out of them (Emo Morris? Steampunk Morris?) are part of that process of reinvention. I’ve nothing against the white-clad traditional Morris dancers, mind, but I don’t think they have the monopoly on the custom that they think they do. Their branch may die (though it may not), but the body of tradition goes on.

And silently in Glasgow quick hands began
Angrily making cushions.

  1. English, of course
  2. Unless that Hobby Horse in the slideshow is female or bearded3
  3. obPratchett or both
  4. Country dancing, aka ceilidh5, tends to be part of most formal social dancing in Scotland. We had a ceilidh every year at the Price Waterhouse Christmas dinner, and the Royal Bank of Scotland’s post Y2K celebration was an extremely well-run country dance. They are ubiquitous at weddings.
  5. Pronounced Kaylee
  6. Strip the Willow, the Gay Gordons, the Dashing White Sergeant, and the Eightsome Reel, but I need a caller for that last one, please.
Comments on Strictly Morris:
#1 ::: BuffySquirrel ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 06:56 PM:

I was surprised by the idea that Morris is nearly extinct, too. It certainly didn't look in any danger at the last festival I was at!

#2 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 07:05 PM:

What the must-only-be-MEN traditionalists either don't realise, or try very hard to ignore, is that the Morris would have died out in the first half of the last century if it hadn't been danced by women. All the men, after all, were off getting killed in France.

We have thriving mixed sides, and women-only sides, and mixed sides that consist only of women because men don't want to join in and risk girl cooties. We have a great many different traditional types (I used to play percussion for a Northwest Clog side). Just look at this list for the Essex sides alone.

And you're completely right about fandom.

#3 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 07:24 PM:

And there is out-country morris too. I know lots of morris dancers in Calif.

#4 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 07:34 PM:

There's morris all over the place -- dying out seems a tad odd.

#5 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 07:34 PM:

(Now, what happened to my copy of Ngaio Marsh's Death of a Fool?)

#6 ::: MadGastronomer ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:05 PM:

Steampunk Morris must happen.

#7 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:10 PM:

Which obPratchett is footnote #3 referring to? Or is this yet another arcane Fluorospherian ritual which I have just stumbled upon?

#8 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:13 PM:

I've done morris, mostly with mixed sides. There's also seriously Queer morris -- the White Rats in San Francisco are a side that frequently sews bells directly onto their arms. I've danced with them, though never been part of the team.

Spent the last 4 days staying with a friend who documented one of the earliest women's sides, who has seen original documents dating women dancing the morris as far back as any individual men dancing. When I'm not traveling, and have more time, I'll try to drag out some more info. There's been a lot of steampunk morris already, actually -- I think it predates the term "steampunk". Emma (Bull) may remember the folks who danced for her outside the Other Change of Hobbit back when she did a signing there for one of her early books, Falcon IIRC.

Lots of folk do morris now, and mixed sides are a lot commoner than single-sex sides, I think.

#9 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:14 PM:

My girlfriend, who mingles in Pagan, Burner, and BDSM scenes in the States, mentions Morris dancers with bells actually sewn in -- I assume with sutures or medical staples. Unfortunately I can't recall whether this actually exists or is something she would like to see happen.

#10 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:16 PM:

@8 -- all knowledge is contained within the Fluorosphere -- White Rats, thank you!

#11 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:17 PM:

Goth Morris, Pagan Morris, and whatever grows out of them (Emo Morris? Steampunk Morris?)

Nine-ball Morris, which allows to include the occasional odd gentleman.

#12 ::: Howard ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:23 PM:

It's like powwow, for white people.

(Seriously, though. My ex-wife was Miami, and we used to go to powwows all the time. The costumes, the circle, the agreed-upon fantasy that it's ancient tradition when it's really modern speculation and vaguely informed reconstruction -- Morris dancing and powwow are very similar. Still, I would like to see a face off between a lead fancy dancer and a neo-pagan Morris dancer sometime.)

#13 ::: rams ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:23 PM:

"I told you -- NO ONE is to do the Stick and Bucket Dance Ever Again!"

#14 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:25 PM:

okay, that'd be awesome: trad music, IN MY CLUBWEAR.

I am in no way hardcore enough to sew bells to my skin, though.

#15 ::: rams ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:26 PM:

And, by Mary Jo Salter:

A Morris Dance audioRealAudioDownload

Across the Common, on a lovely May
day in New England, I see and hear
the Middle Ages drawing near,
bells tinkling, pennants bright and gay—
a parade of Morris dancers.

One plucks a lute. One twirls a cape.
Up close, a lifted pinafore
exposes cellulite, and more.
O why aren't they in better shape,
the middle-aged Morris dancers?

Already it's not hard to guess
their treasure—her; their president—him;
the Wednesday night meetings at the gym.
They ought to practice more, or less,
the middle-aged Morris dancers.

Short-winded troubadours and pages,
milkmaids with osteoporosis—
what really makes me so morose is
how they can't admit their ages,
the middle-aged Morris dancers.

Watching them gamboling and tripping
on Maypole ribbons like leashed dogs,
then landing, thunderously, on clogs,
I have to say I feel like skipping
the middle-aged Morris dancers.

Yet bunions and receding gums
have humbled me; I know my station
as a member of their generation.
Maybe they'd let me play the drums,
the middle-aged Morris dancers.

#16 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:26 PM:

As far as the Morris Ring is concerned, if women are doing it, It. Isn't. Morris. Dancing. Harumph.

Re Sam's comment: Dancing at Whitsun.

Somewhat stranger than goth morris, the White Rats [Experimental] Morris, which describes itself (on this somewhat out of date web page) as "the world's first queer/pervert/leather Morris team" (as far as they know). The sew-on bells are more than scary, even if (or maybe because) the Rats are smiling.

But perhaps this is why morris dancing is endangered?

#17 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:48 PM:

Sheriff: Ah well, Grimbling, there seems to be a good crowd here for the tournament -- I say, what's that going on over there?
Grimbling: That's Morris dancing.
Sheriff: Yes, I've been a little worried about Morris lately.

Sorry, that's all I have to add at this time.

#18 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:57 PM:

Tlönista: I know someone who used to sew bells to her arms (outside of bicep) and calves.

Thanks, but no. I don't even want to watch. It's one of my squicks.

#19 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:18 PM:

Ginger @ #7: In Terry Pratchett's Discworld, dwarves of either sex are bearded. Makes it a bit dicey for a nondwarf to chance a risqué joke without knowing his audience.

#20 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:19 PM:

Howard @12, that was my second thought. Pow wow dances come from a grab-bag of traditions, and express a recent synthetic culture.

Culture changes, it evolves, it is shared and travels to new groups. That's what humans do. Especially pleasurable culture: music, dance, cooking, self-adornment.

#21 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:27 PM:

I thought the Pratchett-morris reference was to the team of dancers (in Hogfather, perhaps?) who were described as dancing the sun DOWN at the opposite end of the year -- with sound-deadening bells and all in black.

So a local Chicago morris side made mostly of fen decided to enact such a thing outside one of our local SF independent bookstores (when we had such a thing) in his honor.

#22 ::: Random ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:31 PM:

When we were at Spanfest a year and a half ago, they had a whole bunch of morris troupes there dancing. By far the most interesting one was Green Dragon Morris, who did really percussive goth morris. Very cool to watch. And by far the most diverse group, too.

#23 ::: William Donohue ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:36 PM:

Of course, there's a wiki: - there seem to be lot of groups in NY and Massachusetts.

I got to see (well, many years ago) two Morris teams from upstate NY do a May Day dance, climaxing with the launching of an effigy of winter at the junction of the Susquehanna & Chenango rivers. Apparently both those teams - the Binghamton Morris Men and the Heartwood Morris Dancers - are still active. So much for the death of Morris.

-- Brian out --

#24 ::: Howard ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:39 PM:

JESR @ 12: Oh, exactly. I hope my remark didn't come off as anything other than loving this kind of "traditional" dance. I love powwow, and I've just been on YouTube getting all teary and sentimental looking at powwow videos. (Go to YouTube and search for "jingle dance," and try to not to weep for joy at the sheer beauty of it. It's been probably 15 years since I've been to a powwow, and I forgot about the jingle dance.)

Being from the American Midwest, I don't know from Morris dancing other than from travelogues. But I was struck by the similarity to powwow dancing, especially the neo-pagan Morris dancing. If you compare the two, the first thing you think is how different they are, then you notice how similar they are, and finally you think, "Wow, people." And you're right -- they eat good, too. Let's have a Cornish pasty vs. Navajo taco showdown.

#25 ::: m.k. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:42 PM:

This reminds me of a website selling 'traditional'* Irish sweaters I saw several years back, claiming that Aran knitting was near extinction. Clearly they were not subscribers to the Twists and Turns newsletter.

*what is frequently sold to consumers is a heap of blarney. Richard Rutt's A History of Hand Knitting, among others, helps dispels the myths, and makes a good point: "So, how Irish is Aran Knitting? Completely Irish, and it there is no dispute about its origin in the Aran Islands. Some people have expressed dismay that something they believed was an ancient traditional craft was in fact of recent origin and always commercial in nature. They shouldn’t. It is immensely to the credit of the women living on the remote Islands of Aran in the mid-20th century that they developed and created an original style of knitting with such wide appeal...It does no justice to these remarkable women to belittle their achievement or their creativity or to devalue their sweaters just because they, and not their forebears, came up with the style of knitting."

#26 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:57 PM:

Elliot@ 21: I think that reference is in Reaper Man; the fact that they're the only ones doing morris right is mentioned at the start of the book, what they do differently from others is mentioned at the end. More normal Morris dancers also help a fair bit in Lords and Ladies. (The other morris dancers reappear in Wintersmith)

But my favourite Morris reference is Stan (and Garnet) Rogers on Home in Halifax, introducing a song. it's a bit unkind, but I do love the tone of it.:

Stan: "At any rate, they get together at folk festivals, and they gather around in their little clot, or mob, and they do their little dances. And there's nothing really alarming about this, except for the fact that, every once in a while, they will arm themselves with cudgels or bludgeons or some kind of blunt instrument like that, and to the accompaniment of accordion and violin, they will rhythmically and ritually hit each other again - and Again - and AGAIN. And this is considered to be entertainment or some kind of British fertility ritual or something."

Garnet: "It works, too. We've played this song and impregnated whole audiences."

#27 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 10:33 PM:

Depends on what you call it and where you are -- like the Caribbean

Besides, Mark Morris is fond of Morris Dancing.


Love, C.

#28 ::: Mike Booth ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 10:48 PM:

Elliott @ 21: I would be remiss if I didn't link to my friends and acquaintances at the Recently Traditional Fictional Morris, who have been doing the AntiMorris every October 31 for eight years running. They've got links to a few other groups.

There are, indeed, a lot of Morris teams in Massachusetts. Obviously nobody from the BBC thought to look into the New England Folk Festival.

#29 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 10:52 PM:

Anyone seeking proof that Morris dancing, contradance, English Country, and other forms of traditional folk dance are alive and well in the USA need look no further than the CDSS Affiliated Groups List.

Also, our two Morris stickers.

#30 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 10:53 PM:

Elliott Mason @ #21:

There are plenty of Pratchett Morris references to choose from, scattered throughout his works.

The one that came to my mind is from one of his rarer science fiction works, Strata, in which there's a mention of the Morris, during a period of future history when the human population had crashed and there weren't enough meat people to preserve the old crafts and skills, being kept alive by a Morris side consisting entirely of robots.

(I wonder what The Morris Ring would make of that...)

#31 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 10:54 PM:

Howard @24, no, no offence taken; quite the contrary. Pow Wows are cool- although the one I went to at McNeil Island when it was still a federal institution had some surreal aspects. It's not the same as going to Makah Days and seeing the welcoming dances, but it's still pretty damned life-enhancing.

#32 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 10:55 PM:

Steampunk Morris flourished briefly in the mid 80s, but then died out amidst fierce debate over the proper place for the steampunk dance-contraptions.* Male, female--tradMorris has it easy, I tell you.

*The "Male, unless you put them in a skirt" faction was particularly vertigo-inducing. Especially when they demonstrated.

#33 ::: pbrim ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 10:58 PM:

Then there is Dalek Morris Dancers where orthodoxies collide.

#34 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:08 PM:

I learned Morris dancing 46 years ago, from Jack Langstaff when he was a full-time schoolteacher; some of the fathers weren't sure about their boys learning non-ballroom dance, but the athletic coaches said the boys were far better-coordinated than average. I haven't danced much since middle school -- mostly just a brief spasm during the early Revels -- but I went back to dance at the May Day before the school's 100th anniversary; the alumni made up at least half a dozen sets. I know of several teams around Boston, from Morris-Ring style to much more edgy; the latter have danced a few times at Arisia, one of the local SF conventions, so abi's bet is at least partially true.

#35 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:17 PM:

Typo in post: "are to" should be "are too".

#36 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:30 PM:

Morris dancing is far from dying here in Minnesota. There are at least six teams here in the Twin Cities, two of which are teams of children or young adults. It's a sight to see when we all gather at the riverside on May Day before dawn!

And yes, as Tracie said above, the Morris Ring organization is notorious for its unwillingness to accept female (or to a lesser extent, non-British) morris dancers.

I've met three of the White Rats (the team mentioned above that sews their bells right onto their skin) at the Midwest Morris Ale (ale = morris term for a large gathering) a few years ago. They were lovely people and taught us a very cool five-person dance figure involving tossing sticks back and forth. (Easy for four, very complicated for five, but lots of fun when it works.)

I don't know how it works in other areas, but here the white outfits are used for Cotswold-area dances, which are danced all summer, and black outfits are used for the Border dances, which are danced all winter. How is it elsewhere?

#37 ::: Juniper ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:33 PM:

“Morris dancing could be ‘extinct’ within 20 years because young people are to embarrassed to take part.”

Tell that to the kids on Banbury Cross and they'll laugh. And their parents will laugh. And so will all the other teams in their area, because while we keep losing dancers to knee injuries and pregnancies and other forms of adult life and can barely get a side (4-6 dancers) together, these kids keep fielding 18 to 20 dancers at a time, and they can all dance.

#38 ::: Hobbyns ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:37 PM:

Ah Willet at #17 already beat me to it. The first thing I thought of when reading this was the Robin Hood skit on the BBC radio show "I'm sorry I'll read that again" where that exchange takes place.

To be honest I've been a little worried about Morris, myself, actually.

#39 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:53 PM:


#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 12:05 AM:

Earl Cooley III @ 39... I was wondering when he'd show up.

#41 ::: Errol ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 12:22 AM:

And here are a bunch about as far away as you can get from jolly old England.

#42 ::: Chris W ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 12:59 AM:

Paul @ 30

It depends, of course, on whether they are boy robots or girl robots.

Reminds me of another Pratchett scene where one of the characters is extremely concerned about whether the golem who cleans out the ladies room is a boy or a girl golem. She is at last mollified when the protagonist agrees to make it wear a dress and call it "Gladys."

#43 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 01:35 AM:

Lenore Rose @#26 -- The song referred to is "The Idiot", and a great many teams have made up dances to fit it (it's got an extended chorus, so it doesn't fit any traditional dances). Berkeley Morris ended up making a set at Rogers' last concert in the Bay Area (he made jokes before it started about the Death or Glory Morris Dancers being in the forefront of the Falklands invasion, and that being why the Argentines left their war brides and went home -- the brides merely said "Baaa" as they left). Anyway, eight of us made up a dance on the spot, several never having heard the tune before. Later, we wrote him a letter thanking him for auditioning for us, and saying that we hoped he'd come back to try again even though we couldn't hire him this time.

The sad part of the story -- before the letter could get mailed, he died in an airplane crash. Eventually, we mailed the letter to his widow at the request of someone who knew them. We enclosed one of 10 buttons (badges) we made up for the Death or Glory Morris Dancers, with a picture of the Falklands and the date of our dancing on them; eight buttons went to those who danced, and one to someone who wheedled it out of me.

I still have mine, on my morris hat.

#44 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 01:59 AM:

Paul A. @ 30

being kept alive by a Morris side consisting entirely of robots.

Oh, Morris Garage dancing!

pbrim @ 33


#45 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 02:12 AM:

I've been idly wondering for over a year as to the affiliation of the woman in this gallery-- the one with bells sewn into her skin:

San Francisco Folsom Street Fair 2007

Does anyone happen to recognize her as one of the White Rats? And does the fellow holding a white rat tie into this somehow?

#46 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 02:52 AM:

#5: (Now, what happened to my copy of Ngaio Marsh's Death of a Fool?)

A favourite here. That's the US title, by the way: the British edition is called Off with his Head. Oops, was that a spoiler?

#47 ::: ConstanceZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 03:04 AM:

I wonder if perhaps the problem is not so much that young people - sorry, men - are embarrassed to dance, but rather embarrassed, put off or offended by the attitude of the Morris Ring spokesmen?

Of course, I'm female, so automatically excluded, but in reading the BBC article, I found the statements condescending and chiding. I'd much rather go play with some other group that seems to have fun with the art and makes it live than with those whose only commentary is to whinge and try to guilt-trip me. Thanks, I have a mother for that. Don't need it in my hobbies.

One of the quotes on ML's front page seems perfectly applicable -- the groups outside the Morris Ring seem to be preserving the flame of tradition, while the Ring types seem to be worshipping ashes.

#48 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 03:33 AM:

Earl Cooley III @35:

And "d too"?

#49 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 03:49 AM:

As you might imagine, there's lots of discussion of this on boards I frequent (I dance and play melodeon with the Chingford Morris). General conclusion seems to be that it's the arch-chauvinism of the Morris Ring that's in danger of dying out; Morris itself seems to be in pretty good health.

Obviously it would be a shame if men-only sides were to die out; the best male sides are splendid to watch. And it's certainly true that sides which were mostly populated in the late 60s folk revival are finding that they're suffering from injuries a lot these days.

In some ways, Chingford's approach is quite a good one; our Cotswold side is all men (though there are women in the band), but the Northwest side is mixed. Obviously it would be nice to have more dancers; I think that's true of any hobby activity.

#50 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 03:52 AM:

And on a quite separate point:

"Is it a living tradition when everyone only knows four dances"?

It's Even More a living tradition when everyone only knows four dances. Back when people danced in villages, they danced the odd dance or two. This business of knowing loads of dances was always something for a few peculiar enthusiasts.

#51 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 05:24 AM:

This thread cheers me enormously, after the Beeb news report irritated me immensely.

Not least because the term 'morris side' was entirely absent in the TV piece. Which did at least incline me to take the entire story with a substantial helping of salt. If they can't get that detail right...

We have an exuberant women's morris side hereabouts (Cotswolds, UK) who are all breast-cancer survivors, dress and dance entirely in pink and do a lot of good raising funds and awareness.

#52 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 06:01 AM:

Ranter Morris. Extreme-left libertarian guerrilla morrising. You heard it here first.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 06:20 AM:

I can't wait for Errol Morris's documentary.

#54 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 06:52 AM:

Chris W (#42) Golem Gladys is from Going Postal, which I finished reading not long ago. Gladys reappears along with the protagonist & several others in Making Money. where 'she' has gone heavily into the feminine role.

And I never see Morris dancers without thinking either of that Ngaio Marsh book or Kenneth Williams' folk singer character, Rambling Syd Rumpole, from Round the Horne, or both. Is Morris related to the 'Floral Dance' of the song?

#55 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 06:57 AM:

I'm just shocked that abi admitted to not knowing Hamilton House or the Reel of the 51st...

The latter was invented by members of the 51st Highland Division in PW camps during the Second World War. George MacDonald Fraser had a great story about ceilidh - The General Danced At Dawn - which includes the memorable line "There are two forms of Highland dancing. There is Highland dancing as it is performed when ladies are present. And there is Highland dancing."

#56 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 06:59 AM:

...which of course leads to the obPratchett of the Ninja Morris Men of New Ankh "who can do terrible things with a simple handkerchief and bell" - presumably they dance a sort of capoeira Morris.

#57 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 07:18 AM:

Tracie at 16: Ooh, thank you - I'd somehow managed to miss that song. Lyrics, for anyone who can't watch the video.

#58 ::: martyn ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 07:27 AM:

This is the BBC we're talking about. Unless it is done by the yoof if Islington and is determinedly multi-cultural, it not only is dying, it must die and deserves nothing less.

Out in the real world, however, is is a case of Morris On, or Morris Off, if talking to anyone from the BBC. It isn't as though any team is going to get an Arts Council grant (although I'd be thrilled to be proved wrong)

#59 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 07:53 AM:

When we were in Lancaster this summer there was an ad in the men's bathroom for Stone the Crows morris team who were going to be performing outside that pub the next week. My son's Canadian girlfriend (who does not know Morris, but knows us quite well) refused to believe that Morris dancing was anything but a huge hoax concocted by us out of a couple of pints of cider until we showed her some on You Tube.

I like to think of the whole gamut of Morris dancing as one of those baroque things free people do. I don't want to do it, I don't even want to see it very much, but how nice that other people are out there enjoying themselves with their bells and sticks, and their stapled in bells, and their black leather, and their little ribbons.

#60 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 08:07 AM:

Interestingly, the free and open nature of Morris dancing is enshrined in UK legislation (well, England & Wales, at any rate) - the Licensing Act 2003 specifically exempts "morris dancing or any dancing of a similar nature" from any licensing requirements.

#61 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 08:30 AM:

Sam @ #60, that combined with ajay's #56 conjured up the idea of "OO7: License to Morris".

One of my daughters does capoeira, incidentally, and I would be astounded if no one has yet thought of combining it with morris dancing. Particularly around Carnival.

#62 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 08:40 AM:

Strip the Willow, the Gay Gordons, the Dashing White Sergeant, and the Eightsome Reel, but I need a caller for that last one, please.

What about Hole in the Wall, Posties and Mairi's Wedding?

#63 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 08:48 AM:

People have been telling me that Morris dancers have been mostly middle-aged and this is threatening to kill it within 5 years for the last 20 years. There are two folk festivals in local towns that I either go to or find myself in the middle of for other reasons every year, and every year anywhere the pavement widens enough to accomodate a side* you find dancing going on (which has spectators blocking half the street, and on the other side of the road, and it brings the town to a standstill but I can't complain as sometimes it's me blocking). If this is it dying, then you can't have been able to move for dancing for the entire 19th century (that might explain why they had more pubs back then though).

I was confused for a while as the first all female side I saw called themselves Molly Dancers, so I leapt to the incorrect conclusion that this was the name for a female Morris Dancer.

In Broadstairs during Folk Week they have torchlit procession of the Morris sides which is so long that the groups at the back have been known to get bored and go to the pub; seeing a massed batallion of hobby horses emerge from the dark clearing a dancing area lit by flickering torches is a scary thing.

As for being a fertility dance I remember one dance being introduced with the words "If you think you see anything rude, it's just a fallacy".**

* Which is mostly outside pubs. Coincidence? I don't think so!
** This is a pune or play on words. You can see that dance here.

#64 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 09:31 AM:

Juliet E McKenna #51: This thread cheers me enormously, after the Beeb news report irritated me immensely.

The thing that irritates me about them most is their ubiquitous misuse of what appear to be (but usually aren't really) scare quotes. Whoever wrote their style guide needs to be spanked for that.

As for the typo in the ML post, I guess I probably should have just emailed abi about it, but I don't know a good way to get her attention quickly for things like that.

Maybe next time I should just say something outrageous that would shock a moderator into punishment mode, with a postscript of apology that mentions the typo. heh.

#65 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 10:36 AM:

Neil, #63: I'm confused by the dancing tree; there don't seem to be any steps for it in the description. Is this one of those oral-tradition things?

#66 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 10:48 AM:

Weirdly enough, they interviewed this guy on "As it Happens" last night, and Carol Ott extracted from him further information: that part of his concern is that Morris was fossilized when the songs and dances were recorded in the late 19th Century, so that new music, for instance, wasn't incorporated as it had been when the dances were a vernacular phenomenon.

#67 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 11:05 AM:

In the days when I was a young sword-slinger, a bunch of us did an annual May Day performance in Central Park. We were often joined by at least one Morris side. It was lovely to watch.

#68 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 11:14 AM:

Earl Cooley III

Thanks for the heads up. Gefixt.

Sometimes there is no quick way to get me. I have these things called a "bed", a "family, and a "job" (collective term: "life") that occasionally get in the way of reading Making Light.

#69 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 11:29 AM:

I have these things called a "bed", a "family, and a "job" (collective term: "life") that occasionally get in the way of reading Making Light.

A true moderator craves not these things...

#70 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 11:36 AM:

Lee #65, The tree wasn't there when I saw them. I would assume it's some sort of hobby or beast (a green man?) Although I don't think it's delibrately getting in the way of the filming it's in keeping with tradition for it to cause trouble.

#71 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 11:51 AM:

Dave Langford@46; I would have thought the US title was more of a spoiler, if we're looking for them.

#72 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 12:00 PM:

Wow, all these edgy hardcore Morris sides make mine look downright boring, a word I'd never thought would apply to us. :o

Juliet@51: the all-breast-cancer-survivor side is AWESOME. Mad props to 'em.

#73 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 12:26 PM:

re pow-wows:

Back when I was editing an anthology of Southwestern fantasy/sf/horror in the early 90's, one of the stories submitted used a pow-wow as one of the settings.

Unfortunately, from the story, it was clear that the writer thought a pow-wow was something like a neighborhood bar, where Geronimo, Cochise, and Sitting Bull could hang out together.

The writer was from Australia, but still... I sent it back with as gentle a note as I could, explaining that if he was going to write a story about Native-Americans, particularly real-life Native-Americans, he needed to do some research first.

(This was also the story that not only had ghost buffalo, but ghost buffalo with tentacles!)

#74 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 12:52 PM:

If, as you imply, Bruce, the Native Americans did *not* have ghost buffalo with tentacles, I think that reflects poorly on them, rather than on your Australian author.

#75 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 01:04 PM:

Sounds like more of the old, "everything traditional and grand is dying" trope. Which is a variation on the, "kids these days" trope.

Things that were supposed to have gone the way of the Dodo by now: books, vinyl records, magazines, portrait painting, chemical photography, "traditional" marriage and now, apparently, morris dancing.

And yet, my wife does wonderful gum prints and we have a nice little collection of vinyl records and lots of books (but never enough).

Why so many people feel the need to want so much of our culture to dry up and blow away that they are writing obituaries in advance? Is it just something to fill column inches or is there a larger social trend at work here?

#76 ::: RuTemple ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 01:22 PM:

If nothing else, that poorly thought out press release from the Ring to the Beeb has certainly provoked discussion on beyond the Morris Dancing Discussion List, or MDDL and even the English Country Dance Mailing List (between which there is some significant overlap), it's lovely to see the refutation of Morris carry on over here at Making Light!

Re the White Rats' (Experimental) Morris and the sewing on of bells: Yes, they dance the Folsom Street Fair, and while I forget her name, the woman in the photo is a splendid (young!) dancer with them. The fellow in the photo with the ferret is not someone I've ever met or seen in conjunction with the team, tho. They use a sub-cut surgical suture of something that looks like fishing twine, and squicked me out a whole lot less once I'd seen it. (No. And I don't believe I shall, but thanks.)

The Dead Ringers, an invitation reunion house-party and dance tour team that Jocelyn Reynolds puts together on Hallowe'en weekend actually appears to predate Pratchett's Lords and Ladies description of the Other Morris by a year, and still gets together annually.

It's true, rams, but the reason no one dances the Stick and Bucket dance is that the tune Mrs. Widgery's Lodger has been completely suppressed. Even though it MUST be a bouncy jig!

The whole rubbish about "Morris was traditionally male only" that the Ring holds on to so tightly was, pardon me, crap when Sharp and others were promoting the dance in the early 1900s; In a lesser-known Shakespearean (co-written?) play, there's a morris side of men and women (with a rude-tailed Bavian for a hobby-fool); in the 1890s when the usual family member who led the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance was sick, it's on record that a woman of the Kimber family (I don't have the article in front of me, or electronically - Ann may have been her name) led out the dance.
So - definitely, all the Ring is clinging to and mourning the death of is cold ash (and nonsense at that).

Morris is alive and well, and the youngun's are indeed dancing it! Some of the elders dancing out here in the Bay Area put the middle-aged morris dancers to shame, or at least on our toes - there are dancers out here in their 70s who can, and do, jump higher than I can, partly why I stay tucked behind my fiddle.

#77 ::: RuTemple ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 01:34 PM:

Oops, that was a Bentley woman, and not a Kimber, who led out the Abbots (one t) Bromley Horn dance in the 1890s. My copy of Elaine Bradtke's monograph on the dance and its history is buried in a box of treasures currently, but I would point the interested to herself, who may be found in the library at the English Folk Dance & Song Society.

I also love her comment on concern for the demise of the morris: "Piffle."

#78 ::: bentley ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 01:59 PM:

Several years ago, the midwestern convention of morris dancers met in Ann Arbor. At one point, all the groups gathered on the Diag and performed together. Pretty cool.

#79 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 02:01 PM:

And then there is rapper dancing:

A member of my re-enactment group* is an enthusiastic rapper, what with being from Northumberland and all that.

*I'm chair, and a founding member. I don't actually own it, although we could do with some more minions.

#80 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 02:39 PM:

Knoxville has several active Morris sides and at least one rapper group; they traditionally (there's that word again!) entertain at the big contradance weekend, during the break on Saturday night.

It occurs to me that folk traditions are much like societies in general; either they change and grow, or they die out, become irrelevant, or are overrun. The Morris Ring's One-True-Wayism is the equivalent of embracing a corpse.

#81 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 03:09 PM:

theophylact @ 19: Yes, I do know the bearded dwarves of Pratchett; however, there's no superscript "3" in the post. I looked.

#82 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 03:16 PM:

Ginger @ 81: Footnote 3 is referenced in footnote 2.

#83 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 03:17 PM:

Bruce Arthurs @ 73

If they were in something like a bar, they certainly should have had ghost buffalo wings.

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 03:18 PM:

Anybody else remembers Morris Ankrum, né Stephen Morris Nussbaum?

#85 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 03:24 PM:

Joel @ 82: Phooey! I missed that one! I'll just blame my suddenly low blood sugar for that one, and go on eating my jelly beans.

#86 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 03:45 PM:

It also occurs to me that sometimes these things go in cycles; people go off and create new and exciting versions of old traditions introducing a new "generation" to them. Then some of the people who learn the new versions get interested in the roots and do work closer to the originals*, and newcomers come and join in that version, then a few years down the line some of them try something new and interesting...

Or to put it another way, the all-male, beardless and all-in-white is as valid a version and a tradition as the others, and perhaps that one is in decline. But even if that strand did go extinct, one day a fairy-winged electro-bubblegum-punk Morris dancer will be researching and say "You know what? We could try some of this old stuff. It'll be utterly plasmic!**" and it will live again.

* Or one of the older versions anyway
** Or whatever the kids say

#87 ::: deathbird ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 04:22 PM:

Morris dancing is definitely alive and well in Australia. You can't walk around the National Folk Festival (held in Canberra over Easter)without being followed by the sinister *chink chink chink* of some Morris man/woman's bells.

I once attended a wedding that featured Morris where one of the sticks broke during a particularly vigourous clash and the large flying piece nearly took the bride's head off.

#88 ::: Praisegod Barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 06:02 PM:

Alex at 52: Muggletonian Morris? No proselytizing.

#89 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 06:26 PM:

With less than 90 seconds casual Googling:

When: Wed, January 14, 2009 7:30pm
Where: First Unitarian Society of Newton, 1326 Washington Street, West Newton, MA (map)
Description: English Traditional Dance and Song with refreshments & visiting after the show Admission: Free! (Dessert contributions are welcome). Performances by Banbury Cross Morris & Sword Candyrapper Faux Finnish Green River Tap & Die Orion Longsword and (your hosts) The Commonwealth Morris Men [lack of commas sic]

I may attend, just to see the lively corpse for myself.

#90 ::: JHomes ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 06:33 PM:

abi @ original post:
and the Eightsome Reel, but I need a caller for that last one, please

Why would you need a caller? It's all perfectly simple:
The beginning.
The middle, eight times, once for each dancer (ladies first).
The end, which is the same as the beginning, except that most people try to do the last sixteen bars in eight bars in order to leave time for spin turns (there are those who Do Not Approve of this).

Shadowing in the reels is optional, and should not be done if the set contains novices, or people who Do Not Approve.


#91 ::: rams ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 07:34 PM:

JESR@66 ~ That nearly happened to Scottish country dancing, but it got headed off by the Nazis. All Scottish country dances had been recorded, not to say carved in stone, until the aforesaid 51st regiment was rearguard at Dunkirk and POW for the whole war. They wrote the dance to stay in shape (shades of Slaughterhouse 5) and were allowed to send it to the RSCD by way of the Red Cross once they convinced their captors that "eight hands round," for example, wasn't code for "Meet me under the south guard tower at 2300 hours..." RSCD published the dance and the floodgates opened -- new dances being written ever since. (I might add that that dance is a stinker to perform, especially at noon in August. No Scot would ever be so daft.)

P.S. The Dark Morris shows up again in Wintersmith, the third Tiffany Aching book.

#92 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 07:40 PM:

#15 ::: rams:

I know you didn't write the thing, just quoted it, and the last verse takes a bit of the edge off, but it's still mostly shaming fat people for having the nerve to move for the fun of it in public.

#93 ::: Lisajulie ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 08:28 PM:

@23 William Donohoe - I, lived in Binghamton, NY from 1981-1984 and participated in the Morris events on May day. As it was explained to me, the ceremony was designed to drive both the Susquehanna River and the Chenango River back down to their banks.

I recall the Ithaca side, a mixed side, as "Hearts of Oak". The Binghamton Morris Men, an all male side (with the appropriate head-set), had a _significant anniversary_ when I lived there and I got to follow them around. Wonderful....

Whatever their (for $fsv of whatever) their views and visions, it really enriched my life at the time/

#94 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 09:15 PM:

Excellent! A Morris thread! Makes me smile just to see it.

I used to keep company with a Morris dancer, one of the MTM (Minnesota Traditional Morris) -- actually, a bunch of you know him from music parties: Gary Schulte, the guy with the violin. The MTM men wore crossed baldrics with a badge on them depicting a moose-like animal with a wreath of laurel around it, so of course we all referred to them as men of moose laurels.

One of the fun parts of a Morris Ale (which I was only on the edges of, but we hosted once and lent out our space for some indoor gathering when it was storming out, I believe), was seeing all the mummers plays the various sides knew. (Speaking of such, thank you again, Mr. Whitmore, for giving me a copy of Emperor Norton and the Pterodactyl! That led inexorably to the Star Trek mummers play that Mike and I wrote, so you get to share a tiny bit of the blame/credit.) Anyhow, the Madison Morris team did something in their mummers play involving a banana, and... oh, you had to be there. I'm going to just sit here and grin incoherently for a while.

Morris dying? I agree with whoever said "Piffle!" Indeed.

#95 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 10:48 PM:

Elise @ 94: The Fiddle God! When Uptown-on-Calhoun is lucky, he plays for our Halloween dancing.

#96 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 01:29 AM:

Bruce Arthurs @73: As implied by ajay @74, what was described was an alternate history where buffalo descended from cephalopods, and the American Indians anticipated 'Cheers' (I just finished reading Of Tangible Ghosts, so I am in an odd frame of mind).

#97 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 02:28 AM:

@92: I dunno, I rather thought the last verse did more than take the edge off. As it seemed to me, it revealed the poet's joke to be at the expense of that judgmental narrator who was, as it turned out, jealous of the dancers' fun and unselfconsciousness.

#98 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 03:11 AM:

Nicole, #97: That's pretty much what I got from it as well. The narrator finally has to face up to her (almost certainly her rather than his) own envy and inner fears. But I also agree with Nancy that the tone, up until the last verse, is exactly what a lot of people wouldn't hesitate to whisper and smirk (and in some cases make loud, rude comments) about, and many of them would not have the narrator's mixed feelings.

#99 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 07:49 AM:

Lee @98, Nicole @97 & Nancy @92, referring to the poem rams quoted @15, Strata Chalup in the ‘Bad for Christmas’ thread said something similar about the clips of people dancing at parties. I agreed strongly at the time.

I've been enjoying the assorted Morrises & such muchly, & learning too. Thanks to all for pointing the videos out.

#100 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 11:01 AM:

You're quite welcome, Elise!

The Dead Ringers (Hi, Ruth) were started for an Ale in San Luis Obispo (Ale Hallow's Eve), because Jocelyn had people all over the country that had learned an uncommon style (called a "tradition", but not yet old enough to be what I'd call traditional). It's an odd group in that it consists regularly of people from the East and West coasts who practice together a couple of times before going out to dance in public, though all have learned the style in much longer practice sessions. It is, AFAIK, the only regularly dancing bicoastal Morris group, with the occasional person from the Heartlands showing up.

The first time I went to an Ale was one of the Midwest Morris Ales; I literally had never met anyone there before the Ale started, and had a wonderful time.

#101 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 11:19 AM:

i still remember the wise advice i once heard in the uk:

try everything once, except incest and morris dancing.

#102 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 12:29 PM:

Yes, morris dancing should be tried many times rather than once.

#103 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 01:43 PM:

Recently Traditional Fictional Morris Dance, based on something written in a Terry Pratchett book.

#104 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 02:22 PM:

I just went to my first Ale this past April, when my side hosted one. It was AWESOME: like summer camp, except with beer.

#105 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 03:42 PM:

Back when I danced with the Ann Arbor Morris (a mixed side then and now), we discussed what our kit should be -- specifically, whether we should wear crossed baldrics or vests. One of the men said enthusiastically, "Baldrics! I love watching women dance in baldrics!!" He got the hairy eyeball from all the women and we went with vests, though today they dance in baldrics. There was also a proposal to wear Morris the Cat t-shirts, and several of us got them, but they weren't officially adopted (at least not when I was there). I still have mine, but it doesn't fit, alas.

Linked from their web site, an account of a 17c morris riot.

#106 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 04:33 PM:

Tom Whitmore @100 -- "It is, AFAIK, the only regularly dancing bicoastal Morris group..."

The idea of bicoastal morris dancing is making my head spin. ;)

#107 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 04:49 PM:

I Googled hopefully, but it looks like Table Morris Dancing is just a joke...for now.

#108 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 05:51 PM:

Morris dancing is following my reading habits around. I just noticed it mentioned in Laurie King's The Moor, the 4th of her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novels.

And I'd never heard of it till this post was put up!

#109 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 06:42 PM:

Linkmeister: Wo that was mooris dancing?

#110 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 07:08 PM:

Terry, nope. Nice try, though. King is rather puckish; the story takes place on Dartmoor, years after The Hound of the Baskervilles. She has Russell say to Holmes about the crime scene, "Don't say to me 'there were the footprints of a gigantic hound.'" Holmes looks at her in disbelief and says, "When have you known me to be so melodramatic?"

#111 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 07:21 PM:

obsWhatever — along with xkcd and puns, it appears that Pratchett references[1] can be made in almost every Fluorospherical thread. Well, he has created a whole world, parts of a couple of universes and mythologies, and several societies in considerable detail. I'm mentioning the Cabinet of Curiosity in other comments.

RuTemple (#77) ooh, thanks for that link to Elaine ("Piffle") Bradtke's piece in the Guardian. It has examples, with videos, of obscure and fascinating styles, like the original 'rapper' dance.

kid bitzer (aka young mongrel?) (#101) I heard the advice for life "One should try everything once except incest and folk dancing" first attributed to Thomas Beecham, but there's a school saying Arnold Bax and some Malcolm Sargent (all British conductors). This is the first time it's been narrowed to morris, though that may've been in his mind.

Tlönista (#107) fortunately there's a longstanding <ahem> tradition of [May]pole dancing. One hopes that isn't becoming extinct.

1. Preferably as footnotes (PTerry)

#112 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 07:35 PM:

What better place for Mooris dancing than on a moor?

#113 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 07:37 PM:

#110 — well, Holmes didn't say that. (Nor "Elementary, my dear Watson".)

"Dr. Mortimore looked strangely at us for an instant and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered, 'Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound.'"

BTW, I knew (and miss) a cat who looked very like Morris (and a little like a whale), of whom I've not previously heard. Must check my friends for photos of him.

#114 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 07:48 PM:

Mez @ #113, Oh, Russell knows who originally spoke in Watson's account. She likens Watson to a favorite uncle, but she's not overly fond of Doyle as Watson's literary agent. Holmes thinks even less of Doyle than Russell does.

I've been pleasantly surprised by these books; I resisted reading them for years, but tried one and liked it enough (obviously) to continue. There are now eight and I'm looking forward to the rest of them.

#115 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 07:52 PM:

Terry Karney at 112: Othello might object, though Iago might agree.

#116 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 08:53 PM:

Thom: Yay for double meanings being conveyed. :)

#117 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 08:53 PM:

There are a number of Australian morris sides, too. If you're ever in Canberra over Easter, head on over to the National Folk Festival (actually, if I'm honest, that's probably the only reason you'd be in Canberra over Easter) and watch all the Morris sides performing. There's all men, all women, all mixed, tatterdemalion, trad bells and hankies, and even a few who do things like sword dancing. The last time I was there, they had a "belly-off" against the women who were demonstrating Arabic traditional dance (raqs sharqi, or as it's more popularly known, bellydance). But there's certainly Morris sides in Victoria, New South Wales, and around the ACT area.

Must see if there's a Morris side here in Western Australia.

#118 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 10:10 PM:

Juliet #51, or others
Does anyone know the name or any other details of or links for the breast-cancer-surviving women's morris dancers? This video is the closest I've managed, but I'm supposed to be doing many other 'important' things instead of searching (and it's getter later on Friday arvo, and thoughtless places close overnight, or on weekends, hmmph!)

#119 ::: Susie Lorand ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 10:21 PM:


Tracie @ 105: The photo is a few years old, but does reflect current Ann Arbor Morris kit. (Note to self: implore AACTMAD webmaster to update the winter practice location.) More recent pictures are here.

I had the privilege of fiddling for a subset of the White Rats at the Midwest Morris Ale a couple of years ago. Lovely people and excellent dancers. They didn't sew bells to their skin in the Midwest, but several Ann Arbor dancers now have bell tattoos. Coincidence?

Last year's Midwest ale page is still up. I think the 2009 ale -- Memorial Day weekend, as always -- will be in Minnesota.

Elise @ 94 and Liza @ 95: thanks for reminding me to dig up my recording of Gary Schulte. His playing is my favorite part of the Midwest Ale. (Even better than the Sunday morning single-malt tasting workshop -- the one that frequently gets a temperance serenade from the shape-note singers...)

#120 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 10:23 PM:

in re: the Morris riot mentioned above -- I especially like the phrase "there invited and procured a fidler"

Abi -- When I first learned Strip The Willow, I,and my primary dancing partner of the time, were both wearing satin. Strip The Willow when both dancers are wearing essentially frictionless fabrics is both an exhilarating and sobering (as in "you will sober up Right Now or you will Do Yourself An Injury") experience.

#121 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 11:06 PM:

#77: Bradtke's clips are impressive; I've seen a fair amount of rapper work (including a respectable performance by some of the actors as part of the masque in The Tempest), but never at that breakneck speed, let alone with such ... assistance.

#122 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2009, 12:25 AM:

I can tell you that both Morris dancing and Scottish country dance are alive and well at Bryn Mawr; I have actually participated in the latter. Various alumnae of the club have gone on to continue Scottish even after graduation, as have the students who learned Morris. Morris dancing traditionally opens May Day and the dancers get thoroughly Anassed when they finish.

#123 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2009, 01:10 AM:

CHip, I'm glad I didn't have any beverage in my mouth when I read that.

I do not know about Morris Dancing in KC, MO area, but I do know that Irish and Scottish traditional dance are very active and span across all ages.

My partner, Rohanna, has been teaching Irish Ceiledah (sp. variant) to adults for well over 20 years with her dance teaching partner. They teach through a UMKC program called Communiversity and they have problems keeping their beginners classes from getting out of hand due to the numbers that want to sign up.

And her teaching partner has a son who is a competition bagpiper. One of their students (and his girlfriend) is a rated competition adult Scottish dancer in the region.

#124 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2009, 06:46 AM:

Mez@118, sorry, I don't have any specific details and concentrated googling turns up nothing useful.

Next time I see them performing hereabouts, I shall make a point of getting more info.

#125 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2009, 11:31 AM:

Just watched that rapper sword video. Am suddenly reminded of Todd Menton once, playing for a rapper team that was dancing here some twenty years ago, telling me that he was attempting to make the saxophone a traditional Morris instrument.

Q: What does a Morris dancer have for breakfast?

A: A light cereal beverage.

#126 ::: ers ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2009, 05:19 PM:

I have had the pleasure of playing pennywhistle with a bassoon and a trombone for a morris dance in Canada. Traditional instruments, forsooth!

w/r/t living tradition, from the sublime to the ridiculous: My team has written (both dance and music) a dance in the Border style to honor a teammate's recently deceased father. We were asked to dance at his memorial service, and the dance is now part of our repertoire, complete with introductory explanation.

The ridiculous? Well, en route to Canada (from the US), my team wrote a dance called Border Crossing -- to the tune of "I Fought the Law and the Law Won."

Just about every folk genre community has its TraditionIsTheOneTrueWay faction and its It'sALivingTraditionDammit faction. It would be nice if they both stopped trying to prove themselves Right. They're both Right, and the world is enriched thereby.

(hi, Susie!)

#127 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2009, 07:26 PM:

100, 106 bicoastal morris dancing:

They must have very long staves.

#128 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2009, 07:45 PM:

Juliet (#124) Thank you very much for looking. It's comforting that others are also having problems searching them out — though the dancers would probably prefer a higher profile.

#129 ::: Frank Wilhoit ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2009, 08:47 PM:

Monty Python had it right: dead fish. Absolutely essential.

#130 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2009, 10:27 PM:

126 ---Would that bassoonist have been Jeff Burke?

Also -a friend of mine, years ago, saw dancing in some mill town in Yorkshire that used machined spindles for the wooden sticks, so I'm thinking Steam Morris indeed predates steampunk.

#131 ::: Susie Lorand ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2009, 01:11 AM:

130 -- Yup, that's the guy. Brilliant musician in many styles. (Which side are you with?)

126 -- Hi, ers, didn't realize you were here! Got any links to video of Border Crossing?

#132 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2009, 10:27 AM:

Susie Lorand @ 131, Sarah @ 130 -- Hey, I haven't seen "Duffy" (Ferdugh? I don't remember how his SCA name is written properly) in many years. I used to see him regularly at Kingston and Peterborough events, often playing and dancing in couples dances with his bassoon as his partner. It's nice to see that he's still having fun with this stuff. (The Ottawa SCA group doesn't have much interest in dance these days, or at least not enough to get more than a couple of people out on a regular basis.) When you see him, would you please pass along greetings from Evan Little?

#133 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2009, 07:47 PM:

I was just there as an observer. Got a lot of photos.

I think Canada needs to develop Road Hockey Morris. Sew bells to your shinpads, get out your sticks and find someone who can play the old Hockey Night in Canada theme in 4/4 time on an accordion. Car!

#134 ::: ers ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2009, 10:43 PM:

Yup, Jeff Burke is the guy. A mensch beyond mention. I won't see him until May, but I'll try to remember.

Susie, I know we have stuff out on youtube. Google on Red Herring Morris and Border Crossing, and bob's yer uncle. (I mostly lurk here... it's Never Boring)

BTW, insofar as we have a hobbycritter, it's a fish. So there. Right now it's a stuffed sockeye salmon named Waldo.

#135 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2009, 02:51 AM:

Chumbawamba's relatively recent album has a title which rather strongly disagrees with the Morris Ring, including the sentences "The people who try to 'guard' any particular form of music are, like the copyists and the manufactured bands, doing it the worst disservice. Because the only thing that you can do to music that will damage it is not change it, not make it your own..."

#136 ::: Thomas Lumley ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2009, 03:44 AM:

NPR's 'Wait, wait, don't tell me' (Panel round #2 on that page) has picked up the BBC's Morris story. They, at least, have an excuse for not investigating further -- they're *supposed* to only be concerned with a good story, not with the facts.

#137 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2009, 01:24 PM:

elise@125: a light cereal beverage? The Morris dancers I know would turn up their noses at American SwillContinental Light (IIRC that's the official name in homebrew competitions). And it's not just for breakfast; I recall being told that the reason for the stick-dance end ritual, in which the side walks past the head leaving their sticks in his outstretched arms, is to reduce damage to people and furniture when they repair to the pub.

A friend Morrises in what calls itself Border (I'm no expert on terms), wearing elaborately and brightly-colored "tattered" coats. His comment on the Beeb was that it was all photography's fault; Morris was always in fancy/unusual clothing (plus bells), but the Victorians' pictures (the first visual record) got treated as Sacred Tradition.

#138 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2009, 01:11 PM:

CHip @ 137: The story I heard behind the white-based costumes for Cotswold (as opposed to Border) morris was that the local morris side was also the local rugby side, so they wore the same uniforms for each.

#139 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2009, 01:47 PM:

When I walked away from the computer after reading all the above, I found myself whistling "South Australia" despite the fact that it's mentioned nowhere on this page. (Key for non-morrisers or non-local morrisers: it's a popular mass dance around here.)

#140 ::: rams ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2009, 08:05 PM:

Sarah @133 -- As for Hockey Night in Canada on non-traditional instruments:

(The medium-tough play hockey, but only the truly tough can listen to the whole 54 seconds.)

#141 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2009, 08:38 PM:

Sarah #133 - here is Hockey Morris on the Hairy Eyeball blog. (Who's law is it that any weird notion is already on the Internet?)

#142 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2009, 09:00 PM:

#26, #43

Among the house lares and penates is a vinyl album signed by Stan Rogers, and the inscription reads "those who morris dance in public may have other habits of which we know nothing"

#132, I'm not sure but something like unto Feardubh. (Which is Gaelic for "black man".) He claimed that he's black Irish. He's in the Fourth Book of the Chronicles of Eoforwic. (I seem to appear in the second book.) "There are occasional legends of a man who actually did not like Feardubh; they are discounted by all as preposterous."

#143 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2009, 09:31 PM:

Signed Stan Rogers? Wow. That's cool.

#144 ::: P J Evans sees suspicious item ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 04:07 PM:

#144 looks like another spambot of some kind.

#145 ::: Joanna ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2009, 02:02 PM:

#141: Maybe you're thinking of XKCD's "Law 34 of the Internet"?

#146 ::: P J Evans sees more spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 10:25 PM:

Still selling drugs, apparently.

#147 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 10:40 AM:

Spam from

#148 ::: Spam Deleted ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:41 AM:

Spam from

#149 ::: fidelio considers possible spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:52 AM:

Well, no, not considers. The hits just keep on a-comin', don't they?

#151 ::: Serge is offered zebra bikinis ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:06 PM:

Is a zebra bikini one where the fabric has a zebra stripe's pattern? Or is this something for fans of Furry Fandom? Not that one excludes the other.

#152 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 03:14 PM:

Serge, your zebra needs a bikini so it will have something to take off in the xxx cartoon.

#153 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 03:54 PM:

LMB MacAlister @ 158... it will have something to take off in the xxx cartoon

...or in a sordid episode of Daktari.

#154 ::: Stefan Jones seems more spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 06:52 PM:

It's a blitz!

#155 ::: MooMommy ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 07:39 PM:

this was getting interesting, too! I'm a fan of the Binghamton Morris! followed them around quite a bit... have to get back to Gilbertsville again, someday...

#156 ::: Spam Deleted ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 11:00 PM:

#158 ::: Spam Deleted ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 06:26 AM:

#159 ::: Spam Deleted ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 06:57 AM:

#160 ::: Spam Deleted ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 06:57 AM:

#161 ::: Spam Deleted ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 07:28 AM:

#163 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 08:57 AM:

Isn't Zary a town in Poland?

#165 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 12:53 PM:

What is it about this thread that makes it such a spam magnet?

#166 ::: Spam Deleted ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 02:28 PM:

#168 ::: Spam Deleted ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 03:01 PM:

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