watervole: (Morris naked)
 Anonymous Morris were in fine form at the annual St George's Day event held by Bourne River Morris.

Here we are dancing a relatively recent addition to our repertoire.   This is a modern dance called 'Smuggling' (mostly copied from a Boggart's Breakfast dance called 'Poaching' but with a new figure added)

C, who joined us at age  12, is now 16 and has grown a foot in height overnight.  Everyone kept asking who our new dancer was!

Having four fit adult males really brings out the best in  a dance (I also do this dance, but I was in the band on this occasion).

 I like this particular performance, there's a lot of energy in it.

watervole: (Default)
 Sleepy today...

Had a very good day yesterday.

Anonymous Morris's charity for this year is the Dorset Wildlife Trust.  As the Trust look after a large chunk of Brownsea Island (which is where the Scout movement began, is a SSSI nature reserve and also in the middle of Poole Harbour), we asked if we could go and dance there.

We had a very good day on the Island. Went over on the National Trust boat at 9:30 and explored part of the island while things were nice and quiet.

Things are changing in the National Trust.  One very welcome change is the existence of purple tree signs.  They mean "You are positively encouraged to climb this tree".

Which several of us promptly did.

Later on, we found supplies of wood stacked wigwam style against tree trunks.  These are also for play.  Build your own shelter and play in it.  Youngest dancer promptly tested one of them out.

Later on, a couple of us had fun with a dug out canoe (on land, but still fun).

There was also wildlife and the obligatory red squirrel sighting.

As our recorder player is the church warden, we also visited St Mary's, the island church.  It has no main electricity and is lit only by candles.  The harmonium, which Janet also plays, is powered by someone hand pumping the bellows.  Callum proved a very good bellows pumper.

We did several dance spots around the island  (good hard standing (and chairs for the audience) outside the National Trust cafe.)  Things were relatively quiet, because it was the day of the Bournemouth Air show, but we still had enough audience to collect over £50  for the Dorset Wildlife Trust.  (One lady, who was really keen on their marine conservation work, put in a ten pound note!)

Richard took everyone round the Nature Reserve while I stayed and looked after all the kit (felt fair as I've had most opportunities to go round it).  I even collected a few extras pounds by playing the concertina while they were gone.

It was a good day out and a nice chance for the side to socialise as well as dance together.
watervole: (Poole Mummers)
 Tinner's Rabbits was created by Grimspound Morris, but we've sort of adapted it.

The chorus and the triangle figure are still pretty much the same as the original, but the rest, err, isn't...

But we like our version, and it makes good use the space when you only have three dancers!

I filmed this last night when we danced at the Lord Wimborne in Poole.  (there was an audience, but the camera is pointing away from them)


If you're interested in seeing how the dance has changed, here's the version we were dancing a year ago.

In this version, 'snare' is the only figure added by us and the rest is original.

watervole: (Default)
 Had a good, if tiring, weekend at Wimborne Folk Festival.

Friday - collecting tins and then ceilidh
Saturday - lots of collecting tins, then ceilidh
Sunday - Anonymous Morris danced.

I'd been watching the weather forecast with trepidation for some time, the Sunday forecast was for lots of rain.

Fortunately, the actual day wasn't nearly so bad.  We had a lot of showers and drizzle, but not enough to prevent us dancing and not enough to drive all the audience away.

Two children from our recent workshops at Ferndown Middle school joined us for the day.  One acquitted herself very well in the dance she'd learned and the other drummed for all all day through four dance spots and assorted weather.  (Started off a bit fast and sometimes off the beat, but had it pretty much in hand by the end and was starting to anticipate some of the stick strikes and add extra beats for those.)

Both have expressed an interest in joining the side, as did a lady who was at one of the dance spots and another lady who picked up one of our flyers.

So, let's see who turns up at our next practice session...

If we just gain one person from the festival, I shall be happy.  If we gain two or more, I shall be extremely happy.  (I don't count people until they've been to three sessions - three seems to be the charm)
watervole: (Default)
 We've been copying dances from other sides (with permission) ever since we started Anonymous Morris, but we've also written a couple of our own.

Today, at Wimborne Folk Festival, we got the ultimate compliment on one of our home-grown dances.  Bloodstone border asked if they could copy it.

We smiled happily and said yes.  We filmed it this afternoon for them and have just uploaded it to YouTube.

watervole: (Default)
Knackered, but in a good way.

We visited Ferndown Middle school today.  It's school project week and one of the many things they're doing is morris.

Henry and Graham took the day off work so we'd have two energetic males to enthuse the boys.  Graham has the handy ability to dance and drum steadily at the same time (I can dance and play the concertina reasonably well).  That means we can go backwards and forwards and help key the dancers into what they're doing, while still maintaining the music (and Ian and Pam provided essential back up with their accordions).  

Several of the children were interested in the instruments as well as the dance, so we'll add in a bit more about the instruments when we face new groups of children tomorrow.

Paul, from Bourne River morris came and lent a hand as well (we loaned him one of our tatter jackets).  His advice, as a retired teacher, was very helpful.  He suggested splitting the children in each class into two groups and letting each group perform in front of the other at the end of the session.

I got my last group of the day to choose themselves a name - they picked 'Splinters'... and that really got the team spirit going.

There's a lot of interest (especially from 'Splinters') in joining us for a day at Wimborne Folk Festival. We'll see how much of the interest survives remembering to hand the form to their parents, etc. but it was very welcome to see them keen to try it.  We'll hold another session in a week and a bit for those who want to come to the festival. 

Tomorrow, we have four more classes to teach.  Oh my poor Achilles tendons!  Still looking forward to it though.  There were some really promising dancers in today's sessions.
watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
 Anonymous Morris dancing Tinner's Rabbits this afternoon.

The origin of the dance name is in the Three Hares symbol.

watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
 Having the Queen's Jubilee this June is resulting in an unprecedented demand for morris dancers.

I've had two enquires today alone.  We've already turned down one that clashed with a folk festival, but I'm hoping we can make some of the other ones.  It's an excellent opportunity to raise some money to cover our hall rent for next year.

The other seriously busy period is around May day.  We've three bookings that week.
watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
Is there anyone in the Birmingham area who would like a visitor for the first weekend in March?

The Joint Morris Organisations are holding a workshop on publicity on Saturday the 3rd, and I'd quite like to go.  The workshop is in Tamworth, but as long as I can get there from Birmingham, anywhere in the general area would do. 

It's not practical to get there from Dorset by 11:30, unless I wish to get up before 5am...


Dec. 17th, 2011 03:52 pm
watervole: (Poole Mummers)
 We went mumming last night.  Great fun.

Visited four pubs, three of which were fairly quiet early (for given values of early) in on a Friday evening, and one (the last at 9:30) which had a folk duo playing.

The first three had tiny audiences, but this was generally a good thing as it allowed the cast to gain confidence and get used to having an audience.

By the time we reached the Portsmouth Hoy, we were well into the spirit of it all and performed to great gusto. The audience cheered, booed and laughed in all the right places and it was great.

The ad libs were also starting to fly fast and free.

Doctor (Part of the script) - I can cure your wife of a headache, your husband of a bellyache.

Audience member - I'm not married.

Doctor - I charge extra for that!

St George, in a remarkably unsaintly manner was carefully stabbing both the dead bodies, that he'd slain in the swordfight, to ensure they were properly dead and tipping the devil (me) a penny to try and help me raise money to prevent the Doctor from raising them from the dead!

The great joy of performing in a space this small (you know how much space there is in the bar of an average pub) is that you're really close to the audience and able to get immediate feedback from them.

There's  a few photos from rehearsal here -  https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/106166224635586159957/albums/posts 

You can see St George (sword and spear/broom in hand), the Valiant Soldier (with twin light sabres, because we could and we wanted to!), and the Doctor with his black bag  and tatter jacket.  You can't see the Turkish Knight, Beelzebub and Santa, but we all wear similar tatter jackets with headgear appropriate for the role: devil's horns, Santa hat, turban.

The tatter jackets are quasi-historical which is convenient given that our normal morris kit is tatter jackets...

The young lad with the light sabres is Anonymous Morris's most recent recruit. He's only 12, but he's shaping up as a good dancer. 

School fete

Dec. 2nd, 2011 08:32 pm
watervole: (Default)
Anonymous Morris took a table at the school Xmas fair.

Too soon to tell if we've recruited anyone from it, but we did talk to a fair number of people.

We used the evil tactic of running a free competition with a tin of sweets as a prize.  To win, people had to answer a few multiple choice questions about morris (with the answers conveniently available in our flyer for those who wished to do a little research) and complete a tie-breaker as to why morris dancing is fun.

It proved to be a good way of drawing people into conversation and we got enough entries to fill several sheets of paper.

The winner was delighted with her prize (and was also one of the people who is toying with the idea of trying morris - which may explain why she thought of a good answer to the tie-breaker).

It was good to encounter several people who had seen us dancing around the town and enjoyed our performances.

It was amusing to note that our only entry by an actual morris dancer (one of Bourne River Morris), was one of the ones that guessed morris dancing to be French in origin.   Several fell for that one (and one for our outlier of 'Turkish') but most correctly guessed at English.
We had about 90% correct answers on where we hold our practice sessions - but then we did drop pretty heavy hints as to why we'd taken a stand at a fair in this particular school hall.  We figured you can't get a more targeted demographic than people who live within walking distance of the school...
watervole: (Default)
Interesting the way morris dances get passed on.

I'm currently looking through a book of Border Morris dances written by John Kirkpatrick in order to find a new four-man dance for Anonymous Morris.  As the dancers get more experienced, they're learning faster.  There's only one dance that they don't all know from the current repertoire -and that's partly because it's a really draining one to do (though it looks really good when performed)

I found a possible dance 'Four Lane End' and started to work through the notation. It can be a bit irritating because a lot of the time it will say 'this figure is the same as the one in 'Half a Farthing Candle', so you have to flip through the pages and read it there - and sometimes, it would have taken very little extra space to write the full text.  You also have to keep flipping to the glossary and half the terms are defined at the back of the book and half at the front...

I initially mis-read the chorus.  It's very easy to do that the way it's written down, and I notice with some amusement that every side performing the dance on You Tube has it the way I initially read it.

I also note that the point where I thought 'that won't work, you'll have to drop the arm turn' the sides on You Tube have also dropped it.

All the sides I see dancing 'Four Lane End' on You Tube are American - I couldn't see any film of  Shropshire Bedlams dancing it, although the dance originated with them.  I'm guessing that all the American sides learnt it from the same workshop and hence have the same variation of the chorus.  (the way they dance it is the way that is used for the final extended chorus in the original version)

Annoyingly, Kirkpatrick defines a 'Border'  step as taking 2 bars, and it took me quite a while to realise that in the tune he's using for this particular dance,  a 'step' actually fits into one bar.  Took me half an hour to work that out.  I'm trying to think the music for the band at the same time as I'm working the figures for the dancers, so I was rather concerned that the music didn't seem to be fitting.

Have made all those grumbles, this looks like it could be a very useful dance for us.  It's got a nice complex sticking pattern, but it breaks down into a logical sequence that shouldn't be too hard to learn.  There's a stick toss on one figure.  You get to stand still during the chorus, which will be handy for Cu_sith who has a bad ankle.  The figures follow a pattern as well.  It's basically the same thing each time, but with different patterns of stick clashing. 

I like the look of the dance overall and  I think we'll enjoy doing it.  I'm making a start on learning the tune.  (Don't yet know which version of the chorus we'll go with - the You Tube version will require an extra two bars of music, which inclines me towards the original as I like simplicity

Here's the dance - enjoy.

Or, if you want to see it a bit slower and see what a good teacher can do with children, watch this one

There's two different versions of the finish to the dance, but I can't see a version of the original.  That has the dancers tossing their sticks round in a circle.  It would probably look good, though be tricky to get right.  The instructions say to do it to just a drum beat and then have the music come back again, but I'd be more inclined to have the dancers end it with a yell  (the band instructions for the final chorus are messy enough as it is).

We'll also need to decide whether to use single step or 'Border step'. 'Border step is a modern innovation, but it is widely used for many dances.  You can see it on the videos.

watervole: (Default)
This footage of the side dancing 'Valiant Soldier' was filmed last week.

watervole: (Default)
We had to find another practice hall at short notice yesterday.  Our usual venue at the school was unavailable as the caretaker was recovering from an operation.  I wasn't very chuffed to be honest.  The only reason why we couldn't let ourselves in and out was because they wanted the burglar alarms reset after we left and there was no one who was available to do that.

Fortunately, I remembered another venue from when I'd been hunting for a place to practice.  I'd turned down St James' hall as it wasn't available every Thursday - I gave them a ring and it was available last night.

So we danced at St James' church hall in a rather pretty part of Poole Old Town. We even gained a spectator!

We'd left the door open because it gets hot when we're dancing and a lady tourist from Jersey heard the music, recognised it as morris and popped her head in.  We invited her  to stay and she watched a couple of dances.  She dances with Jersey Lilies.   I remember them from years ago when I danced with Dorset Buttons and we were invited to Jersey to dance with them for a few days.

She was delighted to see some young morris dancers.
watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
Anonymous Morris have been asked to do several paid performances on Poole Quay this summer.   This will give our finances some much-needed help.  It's also a great place to dance.  (We're currently at seven dancers and three musicians, but one dancer leaves for university in September, another is from Lichenstein and will have to return at some point, and a third plans to sell his house and go to live on a canal.)  Poole Quay could be a useful recruiting ground.

I've been asked to do two hours a week teaching traditional dances at a school in Poole and possibly an after school club as well.  I'm really looking forward to that.  It will be challenging, but good for me.  And it's paid.

Walford Mill are interested in hiring a maypole for some of their family fun days.

I'm getting better at asking people for sensible amounts of money - all those years of haggling with hotels for conventions has proven of some benefit.
watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
Last Saturday, Anonymous Morris dances at Bournemouth Folk Festival.  We were on a cold, windy, outdoor terrace, but a few hardy souls (mainly stewards) ventured out to watch.  As Henry walked past, resplendent in top hat and purple tatters, one of them was heard to remark: "I wouldn't mind dancing morris, if I could look like that."

Ten minutes later, we had them dancing in an impromptu workshop.  An hour later, they came back and joined in our next public performance.  This Thursday, all four turned up to our practice session!

Yay!  (Though you never dare count anyone as certain, until they've been to at least three practice sessions)

They're a really nice group of people.  They're keen, they're young, they're good dancers and they get on well with the existing dancers.  And one of them is learning concertina as well.

We're suddenly looking at a world where we can do dances for more than four people.  'Shropshire Morris' looks different when done with eight - the dancers suddenly have to think about the lines.

We daren't tempt fate by starting all the six and eight person dances too soon, but I'm certainly going to be checking out the notation and teaching the band the tunes.
watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
I collected a batch of shirts and trousers from the shop on Tuesday, so here's what the full version of the Anonymous Morris kit looks like.

First, we have what I think of as the social version.  Can be worn when dancing at ceilidhs, etc. or when it's simply too hot for a tatter jacket.  The duelling shirt and Cossack trousers give wonderful freedom of movement when dancing and give a 'pirate' feel to the costume when worn with a red sash round the waist (or round the head).  The top hats are partly a reminder of what we're aiming for.  Top hats only tend to be worn by the really good Border morris sides.

Now, we add the tatter jacket.  Tatters are worn by about 90% of Border sides.

And, last but not least - face paint.

Face painting (usually just plain black, but there are plenty of variations) is very Border.  We don't plan to do it for every occasion, but we're dancing out for a Halloween ghostwalk in aid of Help for Heroes (organised by our friends at the Inner Sanctum who have been selling us shirts and trousers at a big discount), so it seems only fitting to dress for the occasion...

This is my test version which I did to try out the design.

I got the face paints from two different sources.  The black is Snazaroo and the white and pale grey come from the fancy dress shop at the bottom of Poole high street.  The stuff from the fancy dress shop (Grimas) goes on well and gives coverage without needing you to add any water.   The Snazaroo requires you to add a bit of water to use it.

However, the Snazaroo is much easier to wash off afterwards.  The other stuff can be removed with soap and water, but you do feel there's a little bit left behind.

Also, when painting Snazaroo on top of the other stuff, it doesn't work as well as it does on bare skin.

All useful things to note when I'm painting faces in the future.  The above was done with the aid of a mirror, but I think it will be a lot easier if we paint each other's faces as a rule.

I suspect we'll end up with Snazaroo most of the time (because of washing easily), but may use Grimas when we need paint on for a long time. 

watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
Anonymous Morris now have our top hats.

The aim is to decorate them with small objects, in team colours of red, black and silver/white.

Here's my first item:

Little pewter pin badges are ideal as the pin goes right through the thickness of that hat - broach pins would be no use at all.

If anyone has any  unwanted pewter animal pin badges collecting dust in a drawer, I'd be very happy to have them...

(I'm still learning with my new camera.  I've started a photobucket account, but I don't know how to make the picture on LJ a sensible size.  It looks bigger here than it does on Photobucket)

watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
Had a fabulous time yesterday.

Anonymous Morris were invited to a small local DIY folk festival.  We danced along with a couple of other local sides.  (We're slowly getting there on kit, two of us have tatter jackets now)

Listened to some good music.

Anonymous took a break from the sing around sessions to do some gaming in the other bar. I love being part of a morris side where all four dancers sit down to enjoy playing 'Cat in the Sack' and 'Bucket King' and the like.

Then we went back and joined in the ceilidh and generally had a blast.

I think we've gained two more musicians.  We'd have had another if he hadn't lived too far away.

And, best news of all, we have a drum.  Thanks to our incredibly nice friend Ted, who plays fiddle for us when we're dancing out.  Not just any old drum, but a thing of great beauty (in our team colours of black, red and white) with a dragon painted on it.  Sold to us for a price that is far less than it's worth.

I now have a drum to play with my tabor pipe - as  soon as I successfully learn how to play the pipe...
watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
The 'bagman' of a morris side is sort of treasurer and information collector all rolled into one.

Historically, he was the person who looked after the bags while the side were dancing, hence the responsibility for looking after the cash.

If you get a paid booking, that's also money-related, so the bagman tends to be the person who talks to dance venues and the like.

The part of the meeting where all this kind of thing is discussed is thus the 'Bag'.

Tonight, I appear to have nine items in the bag!

1.  Measure all dancers for hats (cheaper if we buy them in bulk)

2.  Measure dancers for shirts (to tell helpful local shop which sizes to get)

3.  Work out transport to get us all to a mini folk- festival this Saturday.   (I'm the only one with a car)

4.  See if anyone wants to go to Poole Beer Festival.

5.  Dancing at Halloween.

6.  Anyone want to do a mumming play?

7.  There's a local barn dance - anyone want tickets?

8.  Are we interested in the Olympic Flame?

9.  Who wants to go to the Open Morris AGM?

(And there's a couple of other items that I'm saving for our AGM, like a discussion of whether we want to learn a couple of jigs)
watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
I'm currently making the first tatter jacket for anonymous morris.  (no I'm not going to make them for all the team, though I may lend a hand here and there).

It works like this :

You take a shirt in a suitable colour - I found a dark red one - and remove the sleeves.  My shirt had a good deep armhole, which I regard as a plus because that will allow more air circulation inside the jacket.  It's a thin shirt - so I don't get too hot, but not so thin that it will tear too easily.

I've cut loads of fabric strips - all roughly 5cm wide by 20cm long.  The colours we chose were red, black, red satin, black with a red skull and crossbones pattern (very close in colour to the plain black and red), white, and black with shiny stars.   The combination looks very good together.

Starting at the bottom of the shirt, line a row of tatters all round the shirt and stitch a line along the top of them (IF you've got a decent sewing machine, then this is very easy.  I have a very crap sewing machine that I can't even remember where it came from.  I've gone back to sewing by hand). 

When you've done the bottom row, move about 15 cm up the shirt and repeat the process.  Mix the colours of the tatters to avoid blocks of one colour.  Keep doing this until you get to the top.  The end result will look a bit like a shaggy bird. 

You'll need to do something intelligent with tatters around arm-holes, either leave gaps, or cut tatters to the correct shape.  Likewise, you'll need to something neat at the top.  I'm just getting to the top...

I don't think I'll quite manage to finish it for tonight's practice session, but I'll give it a shot.

Meanwhile, I shall go and write instructions for the dance we're going to learn tonight.  It's got a trickier chorus than anything we've done so far, but it does look really good.  It's called 'Not Not for Joe'.  (One of the traditional Border Morris tunes is called 'Not for Joe' and it's a catchy tune to dance to.  The original dance to the tune is a little dull, so this is a modern version developed by Hunter's Moon)
watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
Steve, from the Morris Dancers of England, DVD series was at Weymouth when Anonymous were dancing on Saturday, so we have some good quality footage on You-Tube.

I'm particularly pleased with 'Tinners Rabbits' which the side had only learnt two days before, and is already starting to look polished. 

Henry's a good caller, and I'm particularly impressed with the timing on the turns (if you listen carefully, you can hear him calling the turn on the spot so that everyone does it together).

We  haven't got our final kit yet, but our chosen combination of red tops and black bottoms makes the dancers look like a team.

Here's 'Valiant Soldier'  -- again, looking damn good for a side that's only been in existence for two weeks.  (and cu_sith has to cope with a bad ankle as well)

See if you can spot me playing concertina in the background
watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
Steve, from the Morris Dancers of England, DVD series was at Weymouth when Anonymous were dancing on Saturday, so we have some good quality footage on You-Tube.

I'm particularly pleased with 'Tinners Rabbits' which the side had only learnt two days before, and is already starting to look polished. 

Henry's a good caller, and I'm particularly impressed with the timing on the turns (if you listen carefully, you can hear him calling the turn on the spot so that everyone does it together).

We  haven't got our final kit yet, but our chosen combination of red tops and black bottoms makes the dancers look like a team.

Here's 'Valiant Soldier'  -- again, looking damn good for a side that's only been in existence for two weeks.  (and cu_sith has to cope with a bad ankle as well)

If you look closely, you can see me playing concertina in the background.
watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
Anonymous Morris had their first public performance today at 'Dinosaurs Not Allowed', a showcase event for young people's morris in Weymouth.  (the event had had a couple of sides cancel, so they were delighted to have us as a new side)

Our repertoire of three dances (one only learned the day before yesterday) was put to heavy use in  a number of dance slots throughout the day.

Our dancing actually improved throughout the day  - when you've had a total of six hours practice, you're pretty well bound to improve with another two hours of dancing.

We haven't got our full kit yet, but we all managed to find a red top and black skirt/trousers and looked definitely like a team.

The sun shone, the company was good, and we all enjoyed ourselves.

We've also, slightly to our surprise been invited to another three events...

watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
We had our first unofficial practice for Anonymous Morris last night.  Official practice starts next week, but we wanted to run at least a few dancers through the basics beforehand.

So, Henry, myself, Bev the Banjo, Cu_Sith, the Redhead and Alex all met up on Poole Quay, found a relatively quiet spot and proceeded to go through Shropshire Morris and Valiant Soldier.  Henry's a good teacher, and he has the additional asset of bags of energy and a voice to rival Brian Blessed.

It went very well.  We managed to cover both dances in the course of two hours and the dancers (two with zero Morris experience and one with only a little) learnt very fast.  We acquired an audience in the form of a homeless ex-Marine, but he clapped in all the right places, so I bought him a drink so he could come back to the pub with us and relax indoors for a little while.

Cu_Sith, the Redhead and I will be at Swanage Folk Festival tomorrow, to hand out flyers to all and sundry.  I also get to collect more sticks from Alf of Bourne River Morris who's been cutting them for us.

Here's to next Thursday and the real thing!

(I'm greatly reminded of my first Redemption.  There's nothing like jumping in at the deep end.  The first con committee I was ever on, I was chair.  In that sort of situation, you learn fast.  You ask questions of everyone who knows more than you do and you listen to what they have to say.  In the case of Border Morris, you learn the history, you find people who know the dances, you watch, you make notes, you work out what music will be suitable and why.  You find the venue, do the accounts, recruit the members, organise publicity, get the web site sorted out.  Like a convention, it's partly about finding the people.  I can already see where people are fitting in.  I'm the researcher and treasurer.  I'm band leader at present, but will probably pass that task on when someone more suited appears.  Henry is the teacher.  Alex is the web expert - and rapidly learning what he didn't know already.  Cu_Sith has a gift for recruiting people.  What I still need is someone who likes sewing a lot.  The costumes won't be that difficult to make, but it helps if they all end up looking roughly similar.)

watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
I had a good time at  Discworld!

The morris workshops went well.  In fact, they went so well that we did several extra practice sessions at the request of the dancers and they put on a polished performance in front of several hundred people to loud applause.

I now feel a lot more confident about teaching the two Border Morris dances that we'll be teaching to Anonymous Morris for their first session.

I also got to teach longsword dancing to the assassins who performed it with plastic daggers (as we hadn't got any proper dance swords).  I managed to successfully modify the dance to work with the shorter weapons (you have to cut out figures where people step over the swords, and slightly modify the nut as the daggers are too short to lock together well.  Modifying the nut actually led to a nice follow-on figure where all the daggers were pulled out together and flourished.  (longsword dancing is an English traditional dance from the Northumberland/Durham area and is usually done by around half a dozen dancers in a circle holding their wooden swords in a circle)

This clip isn't my dancers, but gives you a rough idea of what longsword dancing is like  (it uses fairly simple figures, but then I didn't have time to teach my group the more complex options).  The 'nut' is when they join all the swords together in a five or six pointed star.

The longsword team got a great audience reaction as well.  (they hadn't had quite as much practice time as their first workshop was a day later, but I was still very pleased by the result)

I didn't tell either workshop that I'd never previously danced the dances I was teaching them...  (Watched them, researched them, plotted them out on paper, danced single positions on the lounge floor - but never had the chance to perform them with a set of dancers)

I did other things as well, and they were fun, but the final morris performance was undoubtedly the high spot for me (and some of the dancers told me the morris dancing had been the best part of their weekend as well - they were a great group and really gelled together)

If anyone wants me to run workshops on North West Morris/Border Morris /Longsword/Rapper dancing at any convention, just ask!  (I need an excuse to buy my own set of longswords and rapper swords...)

(I don't yet feel competent to teach Cotswold morris - the footwork is more complex - but I'd love an excuse to have to go away and learn...)

watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
We're making progress on Anonymous Morris.  Got pages with dances on, with full details of two dances and the music for them.  Alex B has been working on the web site and it's much easier on the eye now.  We've added data on the roles that need to be filled, and posters for people to download.

Band practice this evening - I can almost play the tunes at speed now...

Next task for me is to complete my notes for 'Dancing Oolert'.

watervole: (Anonymous Morris)
This icon made by Mick Widder of Widders Morris.

They're a Border Morris side we met this weekend. Great dancers, really good costumes (their hats have decorations based on spider webs and the like. They were formed out of a motorbike group. (It's not that uncommon a combination. I'm not sure why there's a motorbike/morris overlap, but there is. I'm sure I once saw a side that actually danced in biker gear, but I can't recall the name.)

I've added Widders to my mental lists of sides I'd like to get to do a workshop for Anonymous Morris, once our dancers are good enough to benefit from it.

Mick also knows where to get top hats at around £35.  This is not a trivial point if you want top hats as part of your kit.   A lot of border sides use them for the simple reason that they look good and are fun to decorate.

Morris dances are definitely a combination of Chinese Whispers and random errors.  Very much an evolutionary process. Which dances survive under what conditions?  What genetic changes will survive?

I'm just making notes for how Anonymous will dance 'Valiant Soldier'.  Our version will be a hybrid of that danced by Hunter's Moon (which we have on DVD) and Paradise Islanders (which we have paper notation for).  Boggart's Breakfast get credit for help with the sticking descriptions and Steve of Morris Dancers of England for giving us the Paradise Islanders version.

Incidentally, the Morris Dancers of England series of DVDs are excellent value for money and much easier to watch than dances on You Tube.  If you want to get a feel for what morris dancing is like, then I absolutely recommend them.  They're all under a tenner including postage.  They have a DVD of mummer's plays as well - and some of them are very funny.

watervole: (Morris dancing)
I'm away for the next week, but Richard and Henry will still be at home.

I've got a tune to learn for our first dance, so that should occupy any spare minutes.

The dance is called 'Shropshire Morris' and we're using a version danced by Hunter's Moon.  The tune is Mississippi Mud (a variation on the Battle of New Orleans).  Hopefully, Richard will have it up on Anonymous Morris later today.

I'm looking forward to the day when we have a kit and I can have a suitable Anonymous Morris icon.

PS. SamMason, thanks for the bell pads!

watervole: (Morris dancers- watch out)
All my work getting Anonymous Morris plastered all over the internet has started to pay off. 

We've got two musicians for Anonymous Morris.  Kate and Corwen are interested in old instruments, folk traditions, mumming plays, morris and narrow boats!  Something tells me we're destined to be friends...

I'm really looking forward to meeting them.

They found us via the Dark Dorset website.

See Kate and Corwen's page on mast beasts.  If you're at all interested in any traditions involving horses or any other kind of morris/soulcake/skulls on poles, then you'll find this an interesting read.  I have this sudden urge for a hobby horse...  (not strictly speaking a mast beast, but a close relative that is sometimes found with the morris)

I've also got a battered second-hand snare drum via another morris dancer.  It's battered, but was also cheap.  I've bought some drumsticks for it (and signed one of the staff in the music shop as a possible dancer...) and got an old luggage strap to sling over the shoulder and carry it as a side drum.

I've arranged for some more morris sticks.  (We've got nine at present courtesy of Old Harry morris, which folded last year), but I've now tracked down the guy who cuts sticks for all the local Cotswold and Border sides.  Ideally, the sticks should have a year to dry out and season properly, but green sticks are better than no sticks, and they'll improve with time.  (You get a much better sound when seasoned sticks clash, and they're less likely to splinter)

I've paid the membership for a year for Open Morris (one of three morris organisations in the country, they work together on many issues).  This particularly important for insurance purposes as there's a standard morris insurance policy that covers you at dance outs and practise sessions.

I'm currently working on poster designs.  I'll need to get those all around Poole and local youth clubs, etc in a couple of weeks' time.

It's about as much work as running a convention! 


watervole: (Default)
Judith Proctor


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