Sunday, February 26, 2006

IVFDF Morris Tour

Saturday dawned bright and sunny, though very cold - so two out of three conditions for performing Cotswold Morris! Unseasonal though February is, my friends at Rockhopper Morris will dance anywhere, anytime if they are invited to do so. Composed as they are of about twenty dancers, all of whom dance with other Morris sides (otherwise known as "a bunch of tarts"), opportunities for regular dancing do not exist, so we have to dance when we can.
The Intervarsity Folk Dance Festival was at Cambridge this year, they asked us to join in the Morris tour, so that's where I headed on this beautiful, sunny morning. The event, known in the dance world as IVFDF (or "IVDIV"), is an annual coming-together of folk dancers from the universities of the UK, in a weekend of workshops, dances, sessions and general sharing of friendships and experiences. I've never been before, so really enjoyed being a small part of it.
The Morris tour was organised by Emma Darby, who is a member of Gog Magog Molly, and also of Oyster Morris, from Canterbury. She did a great job - the bus was on time to take us to the town centre, there were plenty of people to watch, and we had a decent lunch break - enough time to get food and beer in a very crowded tourist city on market day!
We were teamed up with some very good sides, including the phenomenal Black Swan Rapper (dancing as well as I've seen them, considering the open air, and the cold), Berkshire Bedlam , Pecsaetan and the aforementioned Oyster Men and Women. It's a real pleasure to dance with these teams, who take their performance seriously and continually strive to ensure that their standard of dancing is as high as it can possibly be. Attention to detail is the secret - how to enter the dancing arena, ensuring consistency of movement within the dances, maintaining contact between music and dance, always keeping a focus on the performance while dancing, believing in what you do and communicating this to an audience.
Unfortunately, some of the sides we met were, as is often the case, not in this league at all. They are the teams that I regard as "social clubs who do a bit of dancing as an excuse for meeting once a week". They're mostly women's North West sides; Border sides trying to look like the Shropshire Bedlams, and failing miserably; mixed sides who "do it for fun"; or people that just like dressing up. Most of these outfits really haven't got a clue about what modern Morris is all about, can't be bothered to look at the history of the dance-form, and, worst of all, dance for themselves, not for the audience. The exception is the "dressers-up", who collect a large audience because of how they look, then deliver severely sub-standard dancing that gives the whole movement a bad name. Time for some serious weeding-out of the dross, say I! There's a job for the Morris Federation!!
Still, it was a good day - we had twelve dancers, so were able to put two sets up for Brighton Camp and Framer's Boy, and it was really good to spend a day with these lovely people, meet friends from other teams, and see a few others that I haven't met for a while, back at the IVFDF base, which was a school on the outskirts of Cambridge.
The evening dances looked interesting, but I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and headed home after some post-dance refreshments. On reflection, Cotswold dancing in the winter isn't all that bad!


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