Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Morris Intensive and Pinewoods Folk Music Week

I returned Saturday evening from what jwg summarized on his Facebook as "advanced Morris Dance camp" and that's a pretty good description (my friend Michael and I stayed with jwg and rsc at their summer home in Gloucester the night before we headed down to Plymouth for camp). Technically, as I wrote in a previous entry, I was at the "Morris Intensive" program that was a special add-on to Folk Music Week at Pinewoods Dance Camp. What this meant was that there was a weeklong program for (mostly older) longtime Pinewoods Folk Music week attendees folded in with a weeklong program for (mostly younger) experienced Morris dancers. Those of us there for the Morris Week were encouraged to participate in as much of the folk music program as we could fit into our schedules, and most of us did. And, to put it mildly, the Morris dancers brought a tidal wave of energy to the Folk Music Week. It was all great fun.

It was more than fun, really. The Morris Intensive program was a first-time experiment. Usually a Morris class at Pinewoods involves a week of learning a particular tradition. But this class was a more abstract class, to explore more general issues about what it means to define a Morris style -- in whatever tradition. And what it means to create a dance to an unusual piece of music. And what it means to partner across a set, or to work together as a team. Now, all of these are things that my team does, and I'm sure most other teams do as well, but maybe not in so focused of a fashion with a group that is not already a Morris team. So what happened? We became a Morris team, at least in my sense of things. We did all of the things a Morris team does over the course of a season or two, all in six days. By the end of the week I was feeling the sort of bonding and affection I feel for my own team. This, to me, is happiness.

The class was pretty much divided by generation -- about half the class consisted of folks of my generation (with me among the oldest), and the other half consisted of folks in their teens and early twenties, most of whom have come up through the ranks of the kids and teenage teams of the Northeast. Oh, but those kids can dance. Oh, but those kids have energy. Every day, after our three hard-dancing hours in the heat and humidity, they'd all run to the lake and change into their swimsuits and swim out to the raft, upon which they'd dance. Every evening there was a large dance for the whole camp, and when the dance ended they would run out to the lake, take off their clothes, and swim out to the raft. In the pitch black, I should point out. I never joined the evening swim, I should also point out.

There really was a great deal of mixing of the two separate groups of campers, but something wonderful happened every single night. The folk music week participants mostly faded out from their evening singing session towards midnight, just about the time the young Morris dancers were returning from their swim. At this point the Morris dancers would take over the camp house, and we'd sing or teach each other a dance or even play silly games. One night we moved all the chairs aside and had our own small contra dance, the best contra dance I've ever danced in my life. I never went to bed earlier than 2 am (and I never awoke later than 7:30 am, although I admit that fairly early in the week I gave up on attending most of the morning sessions and would often return to bed for a nap in the late morning -- the Morris sessions were in the afternoon).

I have this odd feeling that over the course of the week I lost 10 years and 10 pounds.

There's an awful lot I have to ponder here, about Morris and about singing and about my place in all these worlds. I hope to be writing about that over the next few days. I have some serious thinking to do about the youth-age Morris dance issue, and about the single-sex Morris team issue, and about the why does my team kill itself on every single dance issue. I have some thinking to do about my own singing -- I heard more compliments over the course of the week about my songleading than I think I've heard in my entire life, and the compliments were of an intensity beyond my capacity to respond to gracefully.

I ended the week wanting to learn a million more songs, and a dozen more Morris traditions, and to see what I can do to bring my own team to a tighter level of dance than we've had in a while. I ended the week wanting to spend a lot more time dancing with the folks I met, now that we've broken down the barriers of strangerdom. I want to work out every morning, and stretch, and become a better dancer. All these goals will fade, and probably soon, but just feeling this inspiration this strongly is a great great thing.

The trip was worth every penny.
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