American Morris Newsletter  

American Morris Newsletter

Volume 25, Number 1
April, 2005

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The Digital Video Research Archive of 
Anthony G. Barrand's Collection of 
Morris, Sword & Clog Dancing

Anthony G. Barrand, Ph.D.
Boston University

Tony Barrand's collection of film and video of Morris, sword, and clog dancing has now all been digitized and most of it has been edited and compressed into Real Media format, uploaded to a streaming server at Boston University and, in collaboration with Dr. Frank Ricardo, has been made available for broadband lines at http://www.bu.edu/uni/dvra/ with a "full-text" search capability. The original media have been donated to The American Folklife Center as the "Anthony Grant Barrand Collection of Morris, Sword, and Clog Dancing at the Library of Congress" and will be cataloged as AFC2003/5.

This article is intended to explain what's available now at the new Boston University digital archive, where it comes from, what remains to be edited, and what things other interested people could do to optimize this resource for research purposes.

How did the collection start?

I became passionately interested in Morris dancing after seeing the nascent Greenwich Morris Men dance when John Roberts and I were on staff at Folk Music week of the Country Dance and Song Society at Pinewoods Camp in 1974. We went to a Dance Week the next year to learn more about Cotswold Morris, took a class on the Papa Stour sword dance from Patrick Shuldham Shaw, and saw the newly-formed Ring o' Bells women's team. The earliest film in the collection is from my first wedding in Vermont in May 1975, when Ring o' Bells came and danced with the new Marlboro men's side. The collection began in earnest, however, in 1976, in three ways:

  1. A friend filmed the Saturday show dancing of the first Marlboro Morris Ale using the then state-of-the-art Sony portable 1/2" reel-to-reel video tape recorder that was part of the research equipment associated with my faculty position at Marlboro College in southern Vermont.

  2. Then, that same summer, the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers performed on the Mall in Washington, DC for the U S. Bicentennial celebration. The local Vermont team, by then women's and men's sides known together as Marlboro Morris and sword, was dancing the Headington Quarry repertoire and I wanted film to study and learn from the source. In addition to their stunningly smooth home repertoire (they seemed to glide through the hey) the Headington men also danced some Bledington and Adderbury dances and performed a six-man rapper sword dance. Checking out noisy bagpipes from a nearby stage, I discovered the "Portuguese Mainland Stick Dancers", 8-man sets dancing elaborate, puzzling, and exciting stick dances in skirts and shawls. These later were notated and taught at Pinewoods Camp.

  3. I went to England in December, 1976, with a borrowed silent 8mm film camera to document two traditional Sheffield-based Longsword dances notated by Cecil Sharp: one at Grenoside and the other Handsworth since our local women's team had chosen to use the Handsworth dance after Fred and Dinah Breunig had attended a workshop given by Harry Pitts, Captain of Handsworth.

From this point on, I filmed any and every Morris, clog, mumming or sword event I could, both for study purposes (because my academic research had begun to focus on questions of aesthetics of Morris dance forms) and to create a resource for my own expanding role as a teacher of Morris and sword. Prior to this, teaching at Pinewoods camp, for example, had basically relied on what had been taught in previous years and on information gleaned from Cecil Sharp's The Morris Book (Part I of which is available online at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/12926). I had learned, however, that what Sharp had notated and published and what others had later interpreted from his notations was often completely different from what I was seeing when I watched traditional dancers. With the technology being available to me, I thought that it was time to create a new resource so other could see how things were done and done well.

What's in the collection?

There are seven main types of performance which comprise the collection, in both Morris and Sword dancing and Mummers plays and clog, step, or percussive dancing:

Morris, Sword and Mumming in the collection

  1. A complete record of "massed" displays at all of the gatherings of American, Canadian, and English Morris "teams" which in 1976 became known as the "Marlboro Morris Ale," held between 1976-present in Windham County, Vermont, USA. Originals made on 8mm film (1975), Sony 1/2" reel-to-reel video (1976-1978), VHS video cassettes (1979-1997), 8 mm videotape (1998-2000), and mini-dv digital tape (2001-Present). These include many performances by the SAME groups who danced at "Marlboro" over a number of years (some over the full almost 30-year period). This is an unusual record of change and non-change of dance movement and accompaniment style through aging and generational replacement of dancers. All currently available.
  2. Performances by English Morris and sword dance teams filmed on location between 1976 -1982 and 1996. These document selected Morris, sword, and clog dance teams and individuals being studied on location in England by Tony Barrand and his students/colleagues, Kari Smith, and Rhett Krause. Originals on Sony 1/2" reel-to-reel video, silent regular 8mm film or Super 8mm film with sound, or 1/2" Beta video. All of this is currently available.
  3. A continuous record (from 1977 to the present) of annual appearances by teams local to Windham County, Vermont in which Dr. Barrand was a founder or co-founder, dancer, teacher, or which were created as a result of his efforts to install Morris or sword dance events into the annual cycle of community life. These include the various men's and women's teams of Marlboro Morris and Sword, Marlboro Morris Men, Marlboro Classics, Green Mountain Mummers, and the July 4th Morris Dancers (a North-West or Clog Morris team). This record is unique in its detail of change and non-change of dance movement and accompaniment style through aging and generational replacement of dancers over more than a quarter of a century beginning in 1975. Particularly noteworthy and unique is the complete record of the local mummers and Longsword teams from 1977 - present. The Green Mountain Mummers have performed the same variant of the Ampleforth play with sword figures based on the Sleights dance. The women of Marlboro Morris and Sword have used the Handsworth dance and, after beginning with a ribbon costume plough play have gradually evolved their own Heroine-Combat play with female characters such as Mother Earth, St. Joan of Arc, Joan of Arc's Mother ("Mrs. Of Arc?") and the Registered Nurse (now finally a Doctor). Originals made on 8mm film (1975), Sony 1/2" reel-to-reel video (1976-1978), VHS video cassettes (1979-1997), 8 mm videotape (1998-2000). and mini-dv digital tape (2001-2002). All currently available.

  4. Miscellaneous performances of various American or English Morris or sword dance teams, 1969-present. This includes copies of film/video taken by other collectors such as Howard Lasnik, Jocelyn Reynolds, Jan Elliot and Tim Radford, and Terry Tobias. All currently available. 

    Clog and other forms of step- or percussive-dancing in the collection (most are NOT YET available in the DVRA)
  5. A complete collection of videotaped meetings/lessons between Dr. Barrand and consultant clog dancer and piano player, Anna Mae Marley of Rockville, CT between January 1989 and September 1996. Miss Marley taught all of her clog and tap dances learned originally from her father, William P. Marley, in the1890's or added by her and her brother, Jim Marley, when Anna and Jim danced for Major Bowes in 1936, or when Anna taught her dancing school between 1942 and 1986. Many of these sessions include Anna's niece, Eleanor Marley Lessig, Dr. Barrand's student and dancing partner, Kari Smith, Margaret Dale Barrand, and several notable English clog dancers who visited Miss Marley. These include: Pat Tracey, Peter Brown, Sam Sherry and Harry Cowgill, Alex Woodcock, Chris Brady, and members of the Padiham Panache clog dance team. Originals made on VHS video cassettes (1979-1996), 8 mm videotape (1996-1998). Later performances of the Marley repertoire by Tony's performance group, The New Dancing Marleys, in 1996, 1998, and 2000 were recorded on 8mm, video and mini-dv cassettes.
  6. Miscellaneous performances and classes taught by English clog dancers in the U. S. These include classes by Pat Tracey, Sam Sherry, Harry Cowgill, and Alex Woodcock.
  7. Miscellaneous examples of performances by tap, Step- and percussive dancers including:

    a. Quebecois dancers, Ginette Dubois Roy, Claude Brochu, Claude Theberge (1977-78), and others such as Pierre Chartrand (1985-6). Some clips are available.
    b. Various instructor performances from the Reading Cloggies traditional Step dance weekends (1991-1996). Some clips are available.
    c. Clog dance performances and competitions at the Fylde Clog dance festival, Fylde, England.
    d. Tap dancer (hoofer) Sandman Simms, tap dancer/southern clogger Ira Bernstein, Quebecois dancer Benoit Bourque, and clog/morris dancer Tony Barrand at the "Step Dance Week" held by the Augusta Heritage Program at Davis and Elkins College, West Virginia, USA in 1986.

How to Use the Archive

The images are available as Real Media files and you will need a high-speed connection to view them. Back in 2001 when the first tapes were digitized, I made the choice to display them at 240x180 pixels and use Real media rather than Quicktime. This was a hard decision for a devoted Mac user but I made it because the Real files are much smaller and produced a smoother motion image over the three- to twelve minutes (or longer) of a Morris or sword performance. Real Player at http://www.real.com/ is available as a free download. The images can, of course, be viewed at double or full screen size with appropriate loss of quality but the dance movement remains readily visible at larger sizes.

The web site was created by a former student and now colleague, Dr. Francisco Ricardo, who is interested in exploring and opening up the layers of multiple cross links which can be created from and within a rich text and image data base such as this. The current search engine is based on the full text search in the newest MySQL open source database server application. A link to the Digital Archive Search Operators is provided at each search box after "For Advanced Search Options click here". A simple entry of text will produce results for each word separately but entering the text in quotes will give results for only those combinations: e.g. "Windsor Morris" in quotes will generate only performances by Windsor Morris, but searching simply on Windsor Morris (without quotes) will produce all performances by and in Windsor and more than 2000 clips listed some way or other as a Morris of some sort. Results are sorted chronologically from the earliest to the most recent.

What can you do to enhance the archive?

I would really appreciate each user to contribute any additional information, anecdote or comment they associate with any performance. Each clip is stored in a folder on the server with an identifying number such as MM19940528.2.22 which corresponds to the type of event (MM= Marlboro Morris Ale), the date in yyyymmdd format (19940528), the generation of the digital copy (.2 = digital copy made from original), and number of tapes made that day (.22 = second tape made at the second event of the day). In each folder, each clip is given an equivalent label with the numerical order of performance on the tape as in 19940528.2.22.0014, which indicates it was the 14th dance done at the second Ale show of the day. In the data associated with each clip, I have given as much information as I could about the following items:

1. Date of performance;

2. Name of person who took the film or video;

3. The location at which the film or video was taken;

4. What was the occasion for the performance (e.g. Marlboro Morris Ale);

5. Names of the performers (I have given name of team, composition (men's women's, mixed, or children), and names of individual performers and their positions in the set)

6. Types of "extra" characters (e.g. Fool, Betty, or Hobby) and names of each dancer;

7. Genre of dance in 18 categories (e.g. Cotswold Morris, Border Morris, Garland dancing);

8. Name by which the dance is known to the performers and the wider dance community (e.g. "Island Mary" also known as "Highland Mary");

9. Name of the tune(s) and the musician(s) and the instrument(s) used.

10. Name of the source location commonly associated with the repertoire style (e.g. "Fieldtown". If it seems to be a "made up" dance or not from a "traditional" source or published collection such as the Lionel Bacon Handbook of Morris Dances, it is tagged "invented" with the identity of the choreographer if known. N.B. over the thirty years at the Marlboro Morris Ale, some teams, e..g. Bouwerie Boys almost exclusively do "traditional" dances; other, e.g. Marlboro Morris and Sword women almost exclusively do invented dances.)

In order to optimize the data, the results page from which each clip can be seen has a link box for "Add Comment or Question". Any corrections or additions to the data are automatically forwarded to me by email and I or an assistant will amend the data. All comments remain visible via the "Add Comment or Question" link at each clip.

I have begun adding commentary linking different clips and cross-references among various performances in the collection at the feature labeled "This is what I can tell you about". Anyone interested in adding their thoughtful and informed commentary or insights to the range of issues raised by the archive should submit them to or contact me at csharp@bu.edu.The archive is of obvious use to those with interests in display dances and customs contained here but the unique chronological content showing the same people and teams over three decades will be of use to many with concerns outside of the immediate "folk" world. I have begun receiving enquiries from students and scholars, for example, in the broader dance community looking at development of style as performers age, in education fields looking at how one teacher influences a large group, and in American Studies areas examining the phenomena of Americans in the late 20th century adopting an "English" dance custom and establishing an "invented tradition" in their own community. I am glad to make this collection available to any who wish to use it and I welcome any and all additions or corrections.

What remains to be added to the archive?

Two sets of materials remain unavailable at this time. The first, small group consists of Morris or sword performances from tapes provided by other collectors such as Jan Elliott and Ivor Allsop. These are on the server and waiting for associated information to b e added to the data base. These will be available shortly. Some of the clog dance materials, such an individual or group dancing the "Marley Buck and Wing" or Pat Tracey's "Old Lancs" in performance situations will be edited soon and made available in a similar format to the Morris and sword performances.

Then there's the incredibly valuable and unique record of over seven-years worth of visits (on average every two weeks) on hundreds of hours of tape of "lessons" given by Anna Marley to Tony Barrand and Kari Smith and others. In these meetings, the history of the Marley family of Rockville, CT was discussed with Anna and her four sisters and a brother, now all dead. The conversations covered the family's involvement in clog dancing since the 1890s. Anna taught and we learned as many as eleven routines such as the Walt Cog, the Softshoe, the Military Drum Roll, and the Staircase Dance. We're in process of applying for funding to come up with a way to present this fascinating record: Anna learned to dance and play piano for clog dancing as a girl in a New England mill town at the beginning of the 20th century; an experienced teacher of children who simply imitated her dancing, she gradually learns as an old woman barely able to dance how to verbalize and "break down" her movements; Kari Smith and I, book-wise and used to late 20th century teachers and dance notations, had to learn how to learn from Anna. There's many wonderful topics to study here in this and other aspects of the dancing in the archive. If anyone is looking for graduate or other academic projects, I will add that I have access to some funding for graduate fellowships.

Copyright and Permissions

Finally, the matters of permissions and copyright need to be raised. I obtained general permission to film as each opportunity arose. It is complex and unclear what rules should apply here. Legal advice I have been given varies widely depending on the institution involved. The usual Library of Congress understanding is that written permission must be obtained from each individual depicted or their heirs. This is a daunting proposition for the archive is a novel collection involving thousands of people as dancers, musicians, and audience, both the living and the dead. The classic folklore paradigm is a one-on-one interview; it's easy to get written permission from one person or his or her heirs. The Library of Congress's first compromise position was a rule one might apply to a performing group someone might record in fieldwork, such as, for example, a church choir: the "Artistic Director" can give permission for the whole group. That's not much more helpful; try making that work with a Morris team "Squire" or "Foreman", especially for a team such as, say, Ring o' Bells who have gone through four or five cycles of team membership and leaders in thirty years. The Boston University position, as I understand it, is to suggest that Morris performances are in the public domain. In the case of a non-commercial, academic research archive, individual permission is not needed from anyone voluntarily participating in a performance in a public place where it was known that the event would be filmed or where permission was explicitly given at the time. People, in other words, were implicitly giving permission by acknowledging that they would want to be seen.

An inventive suggestion was needed to work with both places. My current solution is that I will make every effort to inform people who might be on the films by spreading the word among the Morris dance community that all my tapes and films are available to be seen. If anyone identifiable or recognizable in any performance wishes to deny permission for me to include any clip in which they appear, I will remove it from the online archive. It gets a little more fussy when asking for names of individuals to be included in the data base, thereby increasing the possibilities for recognition. Under most circumstances, the Morris costume or kit makes it essentially an anonymous performance so, where possible, please notify any past or present team members if you're including names when you send those details. Anyone with questions about the use of clips in which they appear should contact me at my Boston University address via csharp@bu.edu.

Enjoy the clips. Please let me know if you find any broken links or movies that are problematic. If you're interested in good quality copies of any performances please ask. At the archive we have the capability of making DVD or cassette copies at the cost of the materials, time and labor.

 AMN, Vol. 25, No. 1, April 2005  ISSN: 1074-2689