Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Randomly Ecstatic Morris

You really never know when a particular set of Morris will soar. There's nothing you can do to reliably ensure the likelihood of such a thing. But occasionally something clicks, resulting in what those of a certain religious ilk might liken to a state of grace. This results in a feeling so compelling that you will return again and again to dance the Morris, in the hopes of feeling this again. It's like crack, except that I don't think you ever become inured to the high.

On Mayday five years ago I danced a pickup set of Trunkles that I still mull over in my head from time to time. I try to analyze the components that made the dancing feel so spectacular, but I can only approximate them. The setting, the dancers, the weather, and the musicians all mattered a good deal, but at the core it was how the dancers were feeling just at that moment, about themselves and about each other. How do you deconstruct something so subjective?

Our 2005 season is ending soon, with a late-night danceout on Friday at a Harry Potter book release party at Birchbark Books, a charming small bookstore in the Kenwood neighborhood of Minneapolis that is owned by author Louise Erdrich. I'm thinking about our year. We've had some good danceouts this year, and we've had some good practices, and we've had some jovial pizza outings, and the Midwest Ale is always a great pleasure. But it all comes and goes so quickly, and it's hard to take the time to savor individual moments.

So I'm savoring now, and I'm savoring one particular dance set last month that, inexplicably and unexpectedly, felt very good. It took place the night of our annual danceout with Uptown on Calhoun Morris, which we held this year at the Great Waters Brewpub in downtown St. Paul. The weather was threatening, so we were practically the only people willing to brave the outside tables that face a pedestrian mall (where we dance). Uptown is a fun, supportive team, and the evening was extremely casual in mood. Uptown taught us a couple of their dances, and we drank good beer and ate decent food, and we had just a grand old time. The mood was definitely set.

Towards the end of the evening the Braggarts got up to dance and Matt suggested Hammersmith Flyover, which involves three sets of double leapers (think very high leapfrog steps) but I didn't think that was such a great idea for the cobblestoned tight space we had. Plus we were most of us half-buzzed by that point. So I suggested Lass of Richmond Hill which works in a small space and which ends with two leapers, but only two dancers have to do them. The trick here is that we often put our highest-flying members in that position and everybody remembers how all the Braggarts do such great leapers. In fact, all the Braggarts do not do such great leapers, but some of them do such astonishing leapers it takes my breath away every time and that's what gets remembered in this dance.

Anyway, Matt agreed with me and we blocked up and Russ went to the first corner master's position to call that dance, with me across from him in the apprentice position. The music began and we went into our foot up and that was the moment Russ realized that we were not dancing Hammersmith, as he had expected (having caught only the beginning of the earlier conversation). Not only did he suddenly realize that we were not dancing what he thought we were dancing and which he was now obligated to call, but it was quite clear that he was the only one who was confused about this. Russ happens to be very good at switching gears like this, rethinking the dance as we were doing our first double-steps, but this struck him (and me, when he shouted out "This isn't Hammersmith!") as being very very funny. Ok, the beer buzz helped.

We both started to laugh as we went into our first sidesteps, and the laughter never really stopped for the whole dance. This meant that our dancing itself was loose and wild, as if the whole dance were some parodic joke. Nobody else in the set had caught this exchange, but other dancers will pick up a mood (particularly on the Braggarts, which is a team that looks at each other continuously as we dance, raising our eyebrows and challenging each other on each step.)

It was a wonderful time, the sort of wonderful time you can only have with a team you've been dancing with for years with a dance you know very well. This is not the sort of fun that easily accessible, or easy to convey. But take my word for it, this was Morris crack for me.
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