Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

You Can Go Home Again...In MorrisDanceWorld

There's a particular sort of romanticized nostalgia I sometimes indulge in, when I think how lovely it would be to reunite a group of people from a fondly-remembered time and place and activity, to recreate that activity. For example, I occasionally think how much fun it would be to get my friends from my college band back together and rent a bus, to have one last band trip. We'd sing the same songs, and stop at the state liquor store in New Hampshire, and happiness would be ours. Of course that wouldn't work at all -- the bus ride was never the actual point of a band trip, and the bus rides took place in a larger context where they were our big release from what was a pretty stressful academic life the rest of the week. And then there's the issue of exactly what moment in time we are recreating: junior year, when I always sat with Melissa? Senior year, so that Michele would be there but Melissa would not -- or was Michele even in the band when she was a freshman? Would Richie be in charge, or Alan? Too many issues, too silly of an idea after any sort of reality-thought.

People who remember the Middletown Folk Festival my parents ran for a couple of decades sometimes talk about how much fun it would be to get together for a weekend (camping in my parents' backyard again?), so fondly do they recall the music at the house after the Saturday night concert and the post-Festival fun on Sunday. But, again, delightful as that was, the Festival without the Festival wouldn't recreate the feeling of the post-Festival party at all.

And yet, as I learned at the Midwest Morris Ale, sometimes such magical things are indeed possible. At the Ale, two former members of Ramsey's Braggarts Morris Men showed up with the teams they currently dance with -- Dave dances with Sound and Fury Morris in Seattle, Russ dances with Bridgetown Morris Men in Portland. Russ and Dave were never on the Braggarts at the same time -- they missed each other by a couple of years. Evidently as long as you have two feet to dance with, a back and a pair of knees that have not given out completely, and a vague memory of syncopated slowed-down Bledington, you can always be a Braggart once more. In the dance itself, all the contextual issues that make other sorts of time-travel impossible vanish.

The Braggarts had decided in advance that during the day Russ and Dave were members of their current teams, but in the evenings and at pickup dancing, they were OURS. Immediately on Friday evening, before anything had begun officially, we grabbed them in to dance in the dining hall, and here they are:

This is the final figure of Lass of Richmond Hill, the leapers - Michael on the left, Dave on the right. Some wags jumped in at the last second to make then leap over a crowd. That's me in the back on the left, in a white t-shirt, and Russ on the right, in black shorts. Lass of Richmond Hill is very much a partner dance, where all figures are done with the dancer across the set. Dancing again with Russ was a joy unbridled; time vanished and we were on the same team again. Both Russ and Dave were, I think, showing off a little for their current teams -- I hadn't yet met those teams, but I saw their members off on the side, watching carefully. In fact, in that picture the guy on the right in the khaki shorts and white t-shirt is the squire of Russ's current team, so you can see what I mean.

You see, I got the strong sense that both Russ and Dave had talked up the Braggarts to their current teams. This is kind of like telling your current wife how wonderful your ex-wife is and how the two of you will just get along like gangbusters. When the partner and former-partner meet, there's a sort of skeptical assessment that takes place. Fortunately both the Bridgetown Morris Men (of Portland) and Sound and Fury Morris (of Seattle) were particularly wonderful teams to spend time with. There's great cross-team excitement now, in the post-Ale haze.

We toured with Sound and Fury on both days, because of musician-sharing issues. Since we had 11 dancers at the Ale (!) we pulled Dave in for our first dance, a double set of Queen's Delight. This is a corner-partner dance, and I was across from Dave -- whom I know, but we were never actually Braggarts at the same time. This picture makes it seem as if Dave is getting way high in the air and I'm not making it up very far, but that's not accurate -- this is a timing issue, and I'm landing as Dave is getting in the air: Dave was getting his Braggarts dance sense back (which he did very quickly). But mostly you can see how enthusiastically Dave is dancing:

(click twice for big expansion).

Just to show that I really did get in the air, this is me in the same dance, encouraging Dave to reach every-higher with his fore capers. You can't see the ground, but I'm flying here:

(you can click on that one as well)

When the dance ended in a collapse of delight, I complimented Dave on his flying. He said that it was hard, he was out of Braggarts shape. "But you were determined not to let an old man outdance you", I suggested. He sheepishly acknowledged there was some truth to that.

As per our prediction, there was a lot of pulling Dave and Russ in with the Braggarts during pickup dancing. It did not feel nostalgic. It was not about remembering. It was about dancing with the guys on your team. It was great.
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