Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Dancing Out with the Bells of the North

I know that from the outside these reports all seem the same: We went out and danced Morris and it was a lot of fun. The end. But honestly, from the inside every danceout and in fact every dance is different. That's the thing about live music. And live dancers. And social interactions. And ever-changing history.

During "Mrs Widgery's Lodger", for example, with Bob playing for all his spirited worth, I would sidestep down the set until I was face to face with Michael, we'd do two capers facing directly across from each other, and then I'd sidestep back. Is that eyelocking look and smile we get each time ever the same twice? Nope, not at all.

A side note on this live music thing: When I was two-stepping regularly, the organizers of the dances I attended would, on occasion, hire a live band rather than a DJ. To my horror and disgust and yes, engrained sense of superiority, a good proportion of the dancers preferred recorded music. They would claim it was because the beat was stronger or something, but to my eyes they were painting by numbers. When you come down to it, perhaps the biggest reason that Western Square Dancing holds no appeal for me is because it is danced to recorded music. At the contra dance I attended in NYC last week, some folks weren't always happy with some things the band was doing, but not me -- the band was live and unpredictable and while some of their novelty music choices were perhaps hard to follow as a dancer that alone gave spirit and -- how can I put this -- a sense of being ALIVE to the dance, a sense that I don't feel when dancing to recorded music.

Ahem... anyway: Last night Ramsey's Braggarts met up with the Bells of the North at Great Waters Brewpub in Saint Paul, where there are outside tables facing a public walkway (a closed-off bricked-over street) with enough space to dance. You can't reserve the outside tables, but we started to show up at 6:45 for our 7:30 danceout, so there was room for us all to sit and order beer and hang out into the evening. Since we are outside, Jan could bring her dog Morgan. It had been an oppressively hot day, but it cooled off nicely for the evening and both teams were out in number. The food was good and the beer was decent and the management seemed happy to have us there (this is far from a given) and we had much more of an attentive audience than is usual, including many people who spoke to us at length about the dancing itself.

What I said last night was that when I imagine what a danceout with another team could be, at its best, I come up with exactly what last night was: A bunch of Morris dancers, some old friends, from two different teams just hanging out and dancing steadily for ninety minutes -- together and separately. Lisa from the Bells of the North even did a clog dance solo. And Shannon, who is usually playing for Minnesota Traditional Morris on Tuesdays, left their practice early to join us. This is what I want Morris dancing to be: A way of enlivening the street scene and the world and community we live in. And so it was.

Andy noted last night that he feels sorry for teams in cities where there are no other Morris teams, because then the danceouts are always just them -- which is exhausting, for one thing, and you miss the great fun of joining up with other teams.

I have to remember last night when I question why I do this, because then the answer is self-evident.
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