Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

My Life as a Morris Double Agent

Early Saturday morning I donned my new black sneakers and borrowed MTM Renfest Kit and I adjusted my landlord's old baldrics and I affixed my landlord's old pouch to my belt and I looked at myself in the full-length mirror and there I was, in complete disguise as a member of the other Morris team. I felt as strangely dissociated as I did the very first time I put on my police uniform to march with the Minneapolis Police Band -- as if the person looking back at me in the mirror was not me at all. But I also felt as proud as I did the very first Mayday I donned Braggarts kit to begin my life as a Morris dancer. That day was akin to my bar mitzvah: "Today I am a Morris dancer".

Various members of MTM had the same response to my disguise, when they saw me later. They would see me from a distance, in my new faux-Renaissance beret and full MTM kit, and as I came close enough to discern they would do a double-take. This was most satisfying. I felt like a true sneak.

Except for the opening Abram's and the processional in the parade, I didn't dance in the morning -- there were more than plenty of actual members of MTM and these were performances, mostly of dances we hadn't run at any of the practices I'd attended. Besides, I'm not particularly comfortable performing dances I don't know well, and I don't think there's a single MTM dance I'd say I know well. But as they started to notice that I hadn't danced the members of MTM went out of their way to see how they could include me -- asking me what dances I'd want to do, assuring me that it's just fine to mess up a little bit for the RenFest audience. So in the afternoon I danced a lot.

I tried very hard to dance across from Temple or Derek whenever possible. It's a very difficult thing to coach somebody through a dance they either don't know or hardly know while they are in the midst of dancing it -- most dancers start shouting things at you that don't help you in the slightest. But Temple, for example, during a Fieldtown Forester, will say at just the right moment in the dance: "Let your hanky float down" which is exactly the sort of instruction you need that will suddenly bring the feel of the dance into focus. Derek is particularly brilliant at telling you what your next step is in a figure at just the right time using just the right words. I was a little bit embarrassed to be out there in public not quite getting the beginnings of my figures right, but I did find my way into most of the dances soon enough and I certainly had a wonderful time.

Dancing on the Braggarts, for the most part, does not prepare you at all for dancing in with any other team in any other tradition in any other style. On the other hand, dancing with the Braggarts as training for dancing with another team is like training for a race with weights. Once I learned to dance low and even and once I started to get the feel for single steps (the Braggarts have none) I was amazed at how you can finish a dance without having reached the edge of exhaustion.

It was a great sadness that I was unable to return to dance on Sunday, and it is an even greater sadness that I'll be traveling for the next three weekends. Given my experience on Saturday, I would so for sure be out there both days every weekend this year. Let's hope I'm still feeling like this next year.
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