Sometimes after such a moment - be it singing or dancing -- you find that somebody has made a recording or a videotape, But what you see or hear on the tape is not at all what you felt at the time. The notes are sour, or the mistakes are prominent. And maybe, to some extent, that's true here -- I'm not sure you can see how very happy we are during the dance. Can you record energy? I think you can, a little, but I''m not sure. You also can't feel the reaction of the crowd, although you certainly can hear them. But even given all this, I hope that maybe this video will show you why I dance. And while I think it will also show why I am always complaining about my back and knees these days, it will show you why I continue anyway.
First the setting: This is the third stop of the Saturday afternoon touring in Lincoln Nebraska -- the teams divide into three buses and head off to various spots of the city. We are dancing in the enormous plaza in front of the State Capitol building. What's not clear at first is just how big the plaza is, and how big our set it. Look at the bus and stretch limo to get a sense of size. It was very hot, and very windy: This was the weekend of the thunderstorms and tornados throughout the midwest. We had all taken a cool break in the Capitol building itself, and then started to wander out. I think it was Douglas who wandered down the many many steps to the plaza, and the rest of the team followed, and we blocked up into a very large set and Bob picked up his box and we started to dance.
What you don't see is how incredibly far away our audience (the other dancers on our tour) and the camera are. But what happened, collectively and subconsciously, is that we made our set bigger and began to project the dance to the distant crowd. By the end of the dance, when it was time to dance the hey, we all looked at the size of the set we had formed and wondered how on earth we could cover the distance to the other side of the set during the time we had in the music. Note how we are scrambling at the end -- without loss of congruence and energy, I might add.
Early in the dance I lost my hat to the wind, which had never happened to me before. In the video you see Sam from St. Louis run down the steps to retrieve it. So you know who I am in this dance -- the man without the hat. I start the dance in front on the left side; I cross over diagonally four times during the dance. For each of the figures I am part of the second set (of three). When it comes time for the mid-air splitters -- the fourth figure, starting at 3:53 -- watch me fly, My jaw dropped when I saw this video.
Here's the video, followed by some comments of things to notice about this dance and about Morris dancing. These might seem a little boastful (well, we are the Braggarts), but they are mostly for the benefit of my parents so I think I can be forgiven.
[If that doesn't work embedded you can go directly to YouTube: http://youtube.com/watch?v=QHbSbTx8kww]
- The set begins with "foot up". Even at this distance, notice how high in the air we go for our double-steps, which are the basic moving step. Somebody from another team once said to us, "Your double steps are higher than our capers!"
- This dance is unusual in that the chorus, nearly every time, is "rounds" (which one of our team members forgot the first time through, as you can see on the video). When I saw this video I was astonished at how very large our rounds were, but also at how we are actually equidistant. This is not easy to achieve.
- For the non-Morris dancers: Notice the hanky movements, and how the whole team is moving together as one. In fact, this alone is where the main joy comes -- not from flashy showoff leaps and splitters, but from moving as one with five other guys, in the same style. There's a slight syncopation to our steps, which is what gives us the feeling of flight: mutual syncopation.
- You can hear comments in the background of the video, all made by dancers from other teams. Thus the repeated "ows" -- these folks know what this feels like. The first thing you hear is Alice Love of Omaha noting something about Mad Dogs and Englishmen. This is a reference to the extreme heat and sun, of course. If you listen real closely you can hear somebody make some snide comment about how I can never again complain about my own dancing. You can also hear somebody noting that gravity doesn't apply to Andy -- Andy is the other dancer with the long braid, and a long beard, and he's in the third coupling of dancers for each figure.
This is my team dancing. My biggest hope here is that you will see why I keep saying, over and over, how very much fun this can be.