You see, Tuesday night is Morris practice.
Last year we had amazing attendance every week at practice, often with enough dancers for two full sets (of six) all evening long. Once you have more than 9 dancers or so (plus 3 or 4 musicians) the practice room reverberates with energy and silliness, and you leave the room at the end of evening feeling a sort of high, one that can only be addressed by going out for beer and pizza. This year we've had 8 or 9 dancers at each practice, but the practices have been extremely focused. We work very hard. It's always "That was a good practice," every week, and when we collapse at the end of the evening we are filled with a great fatigue that can only be addressed by going out for beer and pizza.
Why is it so painful? My team dances a style of Morris that's a modified form of the Bledington tradition. We dance to a tempo that's significantly slower than any other team I've seen, and our movements are all about verticality. We leap high in the air, as a group. We fly. This is exhausting after only a few movements, since the idea is get as much height (with grace) as possible, so you are always pushing yourself to the limits of your fitness, whatever that fitness is.
When I watched a video of one of last year's practices, all I could think, on watching myself, was "How does that fat man get that high in the air?" Until this year I was having major back pain from the dancing. (I'm learning when and how to rest as the years go by, which is helping avoid the major problems.) Many different folks gave me lots of (conflicting) advice on how to land. I practiced all the methods, I worked at it, I focused on it, and ultimately I concluded that when you get as many pounds as I carry on a frame my size that high in the air, your choice is not whether you are going to hurt yourself or not when you land, your choice is whether you are going to hurt your back or your knees.
I'd think I was doing something very wrong, but it's not just me. All of us are dazed and exhausted at the end of every well-danced dance.
So why do we do it? If you had ever been part of wild expansive well-danced set, when all six of you fly in the air together, when you and your partner encourage each other to greater heights and close synchronicity, you would never ask that question. If dancing one perfect set meant that you'd never be able to dance again, would you still dance that set? It's not an easy question to answer, especially flush in the post-set moment.
Today there is nothing that feels debilitating, but for sure my feet and my arms and my back and my calfs are letting me know that we worked hard last night. And I'm feeling very good about the team and the season. In fact, we all were feeling good about the team and the season. Those of us who went to Bob's basement pub after practice (Michael brought bake-at-home pizzas, Bob had good brew on hand) talked at great length about getting our team on a trip to the Toronto Ale. We were psyched.
Then we went outside and had a snowball fight in the heavy-falling wet snow and skidded our way home.