Monday, June 06, 2011

Morris On!

In a slight departure from our usual folk music and dance entertainments, last weekend, the Fool, Jamie and I loaded up the van and headed for Lexington, Mich. With some friends for the 2011 Midwest Morris Ale. We only went because our friend Spider talked us into playing music for Braintrust Morris, her Morris team. (She didn’t have to talk very hard; we’ve been listening to a lot of English folk music for the last couple years, so we were predisposed.)

First-ever Braintrust Morris practice with everyone, at the UM School of Dentistry overhang.

On Saturday and Sunday, the nearly 300 dancers and musicians in attendance split up among a half dozen buses and descended on nearby towns to perform. Morris dance is not a participatory dance like contra dancing; it’s a performance dance. (You can read more here.)

Border Morris. Don't they look fierce?

We danced in parks, we danced at historical re-enactments, we danced by the lake where Jamie watched boats. In between engagements with the puzzled public, the green grass and the blue May sky, we visited pubs.

Dozens of people, most of them wearing white with bells strapped to their shins, poured into local watering holes, ordered drinks and literally – within 10 minutes – started singing. In harmony. Loudly. The Fool was thrilled. He never gets to belt out high tenor harmonies for any reason at all, except for one night when he was doing Opera-Singing Clam Puppet to entertain Jamie in the bathtub. One dancer from Minnesota has my eternal gratitude for covering Jamie’s ears during one verse of a song he was leading so that Jamie didn’t learn a new swear word (he learns enough from me, I’m afraid) and for changing another verse so that it was about a sailor who landed on shore and went down to the pub to find a … date. Uh-huh. Still, I appreciate the sacrifice of the rhyme scheme.

Then, because everyone had brought their instruments with them, sometimes, more dancing broke out.

Jamie was utterly enchanted. In many respects, this was an ideal situation for an active toddler. He got to spend lots of time outside, he got to see many different kinds of boats, he got to see many different dogs, and whenever we went to play, he stood between us and watched the dancers.

Now that we are home, whenever I want him to entertain himself for 10 or 15 minutes, long enough for me to unload some dishes or whatever, I put on Spiers and Boden, hand him two dinner napkins and let him leap around the kitchen.

The camp we were at had animals! We went for a walk one morning to visit them all - rabbits, some goats, some horses, a couple dogs, and an alpaca.

(Knitting: one toe-up sock for the Fool out of cotton. I tried to bid on a big bag of mixed laceweight at the weekend’s silent auction, but lost by $2. Just as well. I have plenty of yarn I should knit first.)


Emma said...

The Unthanks made a fantastic programme for the BBC called 'Still Folk Dancing After All These Years', where they travelled around Britain looking at traditional dancing. Here's a Youtube clip.

tycho said...

I see myself!

It was great to have you.

The singer that covered Jamie's ears was Steven Levine (

Next year!

Benita said...

Are you planning to be at the Indiana Fiddler's Gathering this year? A few of us will be there, spinning wheels set up and spinning to the music. Fun!!