I know I've said this before: Ah, now I know why I dance the Morris. But so what if I've said it before -- I'll say it again. Ah, now I know why I dance the Morris. I dance the Morris so that I can have moments of supreme overriding joy.
The problem with moments of supreme overriding joy is that they rely on a specific confluence of circumstances that cannot be recreated on demand so that you can have those moments again at will. You just have to keep dancing, regularly and ritually, because even a simulacrum of those moments is often fabulous and the hope that you will have another such moment can keep you going for a very, very long time.
About 11:30 am on Mayday, on a glorious beautiful warm sunny day, on a sward of green at the foot of the reputedly oldest tree in Minneapolis, a mixed group of six Morris dancers that included me danced a Bledington Trunkles such as I didn't know was possible. This was the most wonderful set I have ever danced. Was it just me who felt this, from some idiosyncratic manic blip of mood? No. Denise, who has been dancing Morris her whole adult life, says that the last time a set felt like that may have been ten years ago (and it happens to have been Bledington Trunkles as well, also with a mixed group of men and women from a few different teams, with some of the very same dancers). Douglas has danced more Morris than anyone I know, and is not really given to effusions such as I sing, but even Douglas said, "I knew something was up when about two figures into the dance I noticed that everybody else around had gathered in a circle, like an audience." When the dance was over, the quietly sentimental Rick was none too quiet about his sentiment, and he grabbed me from behind and hugged me to him and then came around to face me with a smile so big that his face was almost unable to contain it and he said to me that I have to write about this, about my own dancing this year, for "that Internet group in which I write about Morris".
This is how hard we danced: When we finished, Carol was out of breath. I know none of you know Carol, but that evening when I told folks of this dance, I said that we had danced hard enough to exhaust Carol and people's eyes got wide and their jaws dropped.
This is where I threw caution to the winds: When it was time for my rtb (right-toe-back) figure, partnering across the corners of the set with Rick. I jumped up and landed on the ground in a near split, with my right knee actually touching the ground, like one of the Nicholas brothers. Then I jumped up into the caper and down to the left-toe-back, stretching out my other leg to where it had never gone before. I felt the stretch and pull, and knew I would pay for it the next day, but I was fearless (and the sun was so warm and the grass was so green and soft that I lost my fear of shattering my kneecap). So now my thighs are sore, which is a new one on me, but I treasure today's soreness and stiffness because it is the badge of Mayday morning, and each ache and creak is a reminder of the Bledington Trunkles.
When the dancing is good, the dancers are paying attention to each other, matching each other, moving together. Some say that it is Douglas who sets a hard-dancing, high-leaping pace, but this time I blame Rick. Rick is an experienced and stupendous dancer, with a lightness to his bounce that is amazing. Rick would look at me across the set with a kind of devilish smile and leap far into the air as we double-stepped to the center from our second corner positions, knowing that he was challenging me to keep up. And then Carol and Douglas, in the third corner positions, would have to match as well.
Oh, but maybe it was Denise and Michael, in the first corner positions, who set it all. Denise and Michael are married to each other, and they would do their figures as a sort of lover interplay. At one point they actually exchanged a fast kiss when they got to the middle of the set, which meant that when Rick and I followed them up with our turn at the figure Rick mimicked the kiss, a gesture I knew was coming, so in tune was the dance. It all set a mood.
The main musician was a local jazz fiddler who also plays for Morris, so his playing was filled with nuance and ornament that I've never danced to before, but once I got inside of it I was inspired. Backing up the fiddler were two squeezebox players, friends of mine both.
Friends of mine all. That's really the deal here. Does the dance work because we are friends, or are we friends because the dance works?
And oh my gosh, here I sit in retrospect and it hits me with a thud that I danced a set of Bledington Trunkles with five of the best Morris Dancers I know, and helped make something that can only be made by an entire set.
It made my Mayday. Now this was a wonderful Mayday all around, from the dawn dancing with everybody (and the new children's Morris team, Northern Lights) to the smaller mixed group that dances around town all day to the evening dancing around downtown Minneapolis to the food and beer at a pub to end the holiday. But in the middle of it all was the Trunkles to end all Trunkles. If that is not enough for me, then there is no hope of satisfaction in this world.