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Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal

GUEST,.gargoyle 18 May 04 - 08:08 PM
Snuffy 18 May 04 - 08:38 PM
GUEST,Ron Davies 18 May 04 - 11:48 PM
open mike 19 May 04 - 01:38 AM
Partridge 19 May 04 - 03:51 AM
Geoff the Duck 19 May 04 - 12:08 PM
Richard Bridge 19 May 04 - 01:21 PM
LesB 19 May 04 - 01:47 PM
Herga Kitty 19 May 04 - 05:18 PM
The Fooles Troupe 19 May 04 - 09:09 PM
Green Man 20 May 04 - 08:09 AM
Amos 20 May 04 - 02:03 PM
Les in Chorlton 10 Dec 14 - 06:01 AM
GUEST 10 Dec 14 - 08:40 AM
GUEST,Guest 12 Dec 14 - 08:23 AM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Dec 14 - 12:39 PM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Dec 14 - 08:42 PM
EBarnacle 26 May 17 - 12:32 PM
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Subject: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 18 May 04 - 08:08 PM

I NEVER would have expected to find this front and center Page One of the May 17, 2004 THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Lords of the Dance:

Off to Cooperstown -- With Bells On

Morris Men Are Keeping Alive A Curious Male Pastime; Staring Down Another One

BY WSJ STAFF WRITER - Barry Newman

GILBERTSVILLE, N.Y. -- Morris dancers dress all in white, with ribbons aflutter on their chests, garlands on their hats and jingly bells on their ankles. They skip about to English village tunes while waving hankies in the air. And they drink a lot of beer.

Morris dancing is a guy thing.

In Britain, it has long been well known as an antique form of folk dance performed by ungainly males. The popular British image of men's Morris is in keeping with a comment variously attributed to Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw or Sir Thomas Beecham: "In this life, try everything once, except incest and Morris dancing."

In America, where it isn't at all well known, Morris dancing was reined in by feminism the minute it sailed in on the folk-music tide 30 years ago. Of 184 active U.S. Morris teams on one Web list, 22 are all-female and 142 let men and women dance together. Only 20, defiant of sexual scrambling, remain just for men.

"Everybody has to do everything in this society," says John Dexter, who deserves some credit for introducing Morris to America. "What's Morris dancing anyway? It's an excuse to get together and drink beer with your buddies. Like ice fishing."

Mr. Dexter, 57 years old, is the violist of the Manhattan String Quartet, known for its Shostakovich interpretations. In 1973, living in the upstate city of Binghamton, he founded the Binghamton Morris Men. Mr. Dexter has long since moved back to New York, but the team he started, now the country's oldest, is still tenaciously a thing for guys.

For 28 years, the Morris men have come to Gilbertsville, 34 miles away from Binghamton, to celebrate spring. Gilbertsville has 375 people, two mock-Tudor stores, and an inn where the men bed down. On a Saturday morning, they were out on the porch, 15-strong: full-bearded and gray-headed, puffing pipes, sipping ale, pinning on satin rosettes.

There was Rich Holmes, 48, physicist; Peter Klosky, 52, museum exhibition director; Dave Sullivan, 48, violin maker; Tom Keays, 50, science librarian; John Dember, 52, community relations; Bob DeLuca, 50, social worker.

"I lost my tankard already," Hal Iverson was saying. He is 55, and retired from a career in finance. Lloyd Lachow, 52, a medical-claims negotiator, was struggling nearby to strap on his bells. "I'm late," he said, "due to age." But when the cry went up -- "Let's move it!" -- he held his hankie high as the Morris men, joined by a team of mates from Toronto, pranced out to the peppy old tune, "Maid of the Mill."

A crowd had built up on Commercial Street, where not much commerce takes place: A few tots sat on the curb, and 13 adults stood behind them, of whom 11 were female.

Watching the Morris men plunge into precision leaping, Shirley Harnish said, "Men are so threatened by anything that might appear feminine." Said Jane Higgins, "It takes a real man to dance with bells on."

The Morris men got out sticks and cracked them together while stamping to make their bells jingle.

"These are warriors," said Valerie Haynes, who moved from Los Angeles not long ago. "I'd love to get a Morris team going here in Gilbertsville. I'd drink beer with them. Would they want me to? Oh, yes! I'm sure."

Within limits. The Binghamton men's three musicians are women. They play accordions and small organs called melodeons. They play the pipe and tabor (a drum). They drink some beer. They are not permitted to dance.

Why? Nobody is quite sure. The origins of Morris are obscure. It could be Moorish. Or maybe it was invented by a guy named Morris. It was all the rage in the west of England until the 17th century, when Oliver Cromwell banned it as pagan. Then it went underground until Cecil Sharp, a musicologist, stumbled on a performance at the Oxford Corn Exchange in 1899. He wrote down the songs, annotated the dances and begat a revival. Britain's all-male Morris Ring was founded in 1934.

Three years later, an acolyte of Sharp's named May Gadd took over as director of the Country Dance and Song Society in New York. She was "a stout, crusty, beautifully peculiar English woman," as Mr. Dexter remembers her. He encountered Miss Gadd in the summer of 1964, while he was studying the viola da gamba on Cape Cod. She was at Pinewoods, a dance camp, showing men how to Morris.

"It grabbed me and never let go," Mr. Dexter says. In 1967, he joined America's first full Morris team, in Greenwich Village. The Village Morris Men, now defunct, got their picture in Ralph Ginzburg's Avant Garde Magazine, now also defunct. They danced at the first Earth Day, in 1968. "A great buildup of teams was starting," says Mr. Dexter. "There was a big Morris energy around."

It set off the burst of gender neutrality that made American Morris dancing what it is today. Mixed Morris soon sloshed back to Britain, but for flouting custom the Yanks can't be beat.

In San Diego, the Moreton Bay Fig Morris lists two membership requirements: "You must be a primate. You must have a pulse." A mixed team in Boston defines mixed as "gay, bisexual and lesbian," and in San Francisco, the White Rats calls itself a "sexual pervert/street dyke/mildly neopagan/motorcycle gang/ Morris team." Instead of strapping on bells, the White Rats sew them onto their arms.

The Binghamton men have no ties to all that. When Mr. Dexter came to town 31 years ago, he did find that the masculine type most likely to take up Morris dancing was also the liberal type least likely to want women locked out. "They'd say, 'Why can't I bring my girlfriend?' " Mr.

Dexter recalls. "My only response was, 'You can't. It's a manly tradition. It's only for men.' "

His answer was to set up a separate Binghamton women's team, which still exists. It's called the Harridans.

The Morris men are older now; Howie Seidel, one of their pillars, died recently. But they still dare to dance in public several times a year, and to close their Gilbertsville tour, they drove 30 miles to Cooperstown -- a place also associated with men in funny suits (no bells) and the sound of the crack of a stick.

As they warmed up in Pioneer Park, across the street from a memorabilia shop called National Pastime, a small and baffled crowd collected. A few pin-striped high-school ball players stopped on the way to a game at Doubleday Field.

"Ladies and gentlemen, these are old baseball dances," Mr. DeLuca called out. He is the Morris men's "fool." In top hat and tails, he is part ringmaster, part clown. "OK, guys!," he yelled. "We're up!"

The Morris men jingled out to their positions, held their sticks high and swung away.

"Are they using those batons to celebrate the early bats?" asked Paul Donnelly, a retired hospital administrator in the crowd. Said Pershing Dickinson, who has lived in Cooperstown since 1946, "Never seen anything like it. Grown men dancing."

Evening came. The crowd thinned. "I hope you learned a lot about baseball," Mr. DeLuca called after them. The Morris men packed their gear and jingled down to the bar of the Tunnicliffe Inn to sing old English songs, drink a few pints of Old Slugger and watch the Red Sox beat the Yanks in extra innings.

Write to Barry Newman at barry.newman@wsj.com1

URL for this article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB108474663706812826,00.html


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: Snuffy
Date: 18 May 04 - 08:38 PM

And?


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Subject: Wall St. Journal: Morris Dance
From: GUEST,Ron Davies
Date: 18 May 04 - 11:48 PM

Good positive article about Morris dancing (mostly US Morris dance) in the Wall St. Journal of 17 May (Monday). It's on the front page (middle article--usual place for "human interest" articles.) Has lots of information and some misinformation.

Of the latter: accompanists "play accordions and small organs called melodions". Melodions are not organs, but a type of squeezebox, correct?   Morris dance "was all the rage in the west of England until the 17th century when Oliver Cromwell banned it as pagan". From postings on Mudcat, I gather it's unclear how far Morris dance goes back, possibly not to Cromwell. Is there any definitive information on this?

The article centers around a US all-male Morris dance team, but points out that all-male teams are a distinct minority in the US---of 184 active US Morris teams on a Web list, 22 are all-female and 142 let men and women dance together. "Only 20, defiant of sexual scrambling, remain just for men." Why?---"In America, where it isn't at all well known, Morris dancing was reined in by feminism the minute it sailed in on the folk music tide 30 years ago" . As the author says, "for flouting custom, the Yanks can't be beat".

Anyway, I definitely recommend the article to anyone who can get access to the Journal.

Message moved from a Duplicate thread.
-joe clone-


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: open mike
Date: 19 May 04 - 01:38 AM

i love the requirements..."You must be a primate. You must have a pulse."


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: Partridge
Date: 19 May 04 - 03:51 AM

Long may their bells ring!

Pat x


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 19 May 04 - 12:08 PM

i tell you something gargoyle. That is more column inches than I have read in any newspaper over her for years. It is also more serious - the hacks here just attempt to ridicule the wholee business.
Thanks for pointing it out to us.
Quack!!
Geoff the Duck.
(p.s. where's the tiny yellow writing?)


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 May 04 - 01:21 PM

Was it the White Rats who were here (Rochester, Kent, England) for the Sweeps? Impressive, particularly the "street dyke" with a thong and a miniskirt who did a handstand...


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: LesB
Date: 19 May 04 - 01:47 PM

Pretty much the same as here then. I like the thought that I play a 'little organ' (Melodeon).

Les


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 19 May 04 - 05:18 PM

Ron Davies - I hope you'll be at Sidmouth again this year. John Forrest (who wrote a scholarly history of Morris dancing) will be in Sidmouth for the first weekend.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 19 May 04 - 09:09 PM

Your fix of tiny yellow writing for today


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: Green Man
Date: 20 May 04 - 08:09 AM

Doesn't the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance date back to the 12th century.?

Saw it once, stunning. Or was it the five pints of London Pride?


GM


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: Amos
Date: 20 May 04 - 02:03 PM

Unusual! And the WSJ at that!! I had never heard of Morris until I came to the Mudcat.

A


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 10 Dec 14 - 06:01 AM

The reindeer horns have been dated as 12C, I think - not the dance. Rieindeer never found in UK though?


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Dec 14 - 08:40 AM

Quote: "Reindeer never found in UK..."

Only prototypes, but pillaged by Viking animal activists in a raid on the lab c.850 AD and released into the wild in Northern Europe,

Several of their descendants return briefly to the UK each year, accompanied by a fat, jolly, bearded fellow in a red coat....

Reindeer never found in UK indeed!


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 12 Dec 14 - 08:23 AM

When you encounter the Morris dancer named lloyd Lachow, let it be known he is nothing but a deviant sexual molestor. He is a former back cracker who lost his license because he sexually molested his patients.


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Dec 14 - 12:39 PM

That Wall Street Journal article is an example of New York snobbery - snide, condescending and willing to be inaccurate to score a point. For example, I doubt if the 13 spectators were baffled by the performance. No doubt they had heard of humans dancing to music before.

When the September 11th attacks occurred in 2001, we were all truly horrified and grieving. But there's a satirical paper called The Onion which let the proper amount of time pass, and then it published an article headed:

"Nation feels temporary sympathy for New York."

The article above shows you why.


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Dec 14 - 08:42 PM

I was wrong. It was:

NATION FEELS TEMPORARY AFFECTION FOR NEW YORK


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Subject: RE: Morris Dancing / Wall Street Journal
From: EBarnacle
Date: 26 May 17 - 12:32 PM

I have been reading "Will in the World." It states that that Morris is a corruption of Moorish. Looking at the costumes, that would make sense. The book states that Morris was probably one of Shakespeare's early influences.


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