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Dr. Anthony G. Barrand
When my Digital Video Research Archive
(DVRA) and the American Morris Newsletter both went online this past year, I asked the editor (Andy Bullen) if I could write a series of essays highlighting some of the topics that can be observed and studied in the collection. As most editors would when someone volunteers to provide regular copy, Andy agreed. This is the first of my new feature that I'm calling the "DVRA Chronicles". It's mostly Marlboro, VT, not Narnia but characters as odd as the lion, the witch (there will be a witch later in this article) and the wardrobe can be seen dancing there.
The essay went in an unexpected direction as I looked for something to tie in with the anniversary of the Newsletter. I kept noticing unintended treasures of the collection started three decades ago: those of us who have been dancing since the 1970s have lost a number of good friends who were dancers to disease, accidents, and plain old age, and they can be seen on film.
I noticed them especially when preparing the three-part account of the Marlboro Morris Ale for the American Morris Newsletter (Vol. 25 No. 1 , Vol. 25 No. 2, and Vol. 25 No. 3) and couldn't get away from needing to point out a few of them as they related to my own history as a Morris dancer. These will be brief vignettes of some of the American dancers who have died in the last thirty years.
Jody Evans, a tall, quiet-spoken woman and an elegant dancer, was the leader of Ring o' Bells (the first American women's team) when they danced at the Marlboro Ale from the first year in 1976 performing mostly Ilmington and Headington Quarry (e.g. Jody at #1 in the set for Double Set-back in 1979). I first saw Jody and the women who would become Ring o' Bells dance at Pinewoods Camp (summer home of the Country Dance and Song Society) in August of 1973.
My earliest film of Jody, however, was taken by Michael Cooney at my wedding to Andy Herzbrun (now Horton) when they joined the nascent Marlboro Morris Men in the first joint Morris tour of a men's and a women's team in the U.S. In the Winster processional, Jody is in the #1 spot for the group of Ring o' Bells.
My most lingering memory of Jody, however, is as Joan of Arc in the Ring o' Bells mummers play for women characters that I first saw at Pinewoods Camp in the mid-1970s. Jody was a French speaker and, replacing St. George, she created the immortal lines:
Je suis J'eanne d'Arc et je suis
Je ne parle q' avec mes ange'
I do not have Ring o' Bells on film with the play but the Marlboro women adopted a version of the play in 1981 based on the original with Mother Earth, the Fool (pregnant, of course), St. Joan, and the Registered Nurse ("If I can't make 'em better, I'll make 'em worse").
Jody's partner was Karl Rogers, who also died too young, of cancer. Karl was at the first Marlboro Ale dancing in the flashy Eynsham "Brighton Camp" at #6 with a Pinewoods Morris Men set (average age over 50). That set included legendary CDSS teacher, Arthur Cornelius at #2.
I didn't know Karl well but he's important to mention on this anniversary because he moved the format of the
Pinewoods Morris Men's newsletter to one that led to the American Morris Newsletter. In "Pinewoods Morris Men: The History" (Reprinted from the PMM Twenty-fifth Anniversary Souvenir
Programme, 1989 http://www.pinewoodsmorris.org/history.html), Shag
Karl Rogers was elected Squire at the 1972 Ale. Karl had many talents: racer, musician, singer, teacher, and he was among the best at all of these. In his year as Squire, he founded the PMM Newsletter, and pushed hard for the establishment of a PMM-funded scholarship to Pinewoods Camp for prospective Morris dancers.
The first issue of the Newsletter appeared in December, 1972. Rumblings of the Morris Explosion were being heard; though the Village Morris Men had come and gone, their members were not sitting around. Roger Cartwright was in Boston making noises about a new team and John Dexter was already at work in Binghamton, NY. From the first, then, the Newsletter was intended not only to report PMM activities, but also to exchange views and ideas among all Morris dancers. Karl's success in establishing the format led directly to the creation of the American Morris Newsletter less than five years later.
Also on that Pinewoods Morris Men team at the first Marlboro Ale was Jack Shimer dancing at #5 in a set for Fieldtown Dearest Dicky that included Howie Seidel (at #6) from the pioneering Village Morris Men. I remember Jack as perhaps then most genial man I ever saw on a country-dance floor. Some of that bounce in his step can be seen during massed dance Adderbury Lads a-Bunchum as he walks up the slope waving towards friends he has spotted sitting on the hillside above the Maypole.
I thought John Hodgkin was always going to be heard wandering among the Ale audience asking "Oats for the horse, beer for the
men." At the first Marlboro Ale he was at it right away as Black Jokers danced
Beaux of London
John Hodgkin's teams were those connected to the Country Dance and Song Society, meaning Pinewoods Morris Men, and to the CDSS headquarters near his home in New York city, meaning Ring o' Bells (which included his daughter Meg) and Greenwich Morris Men. When one of his teams was dancing, he was likely to abandon the collection and join the dance, as could be seen in Dearest Dicky clip above.
Ed Durham was a major source of encouragement to me as a novice dancer and was a "ringer" for the men's team pulled together for my wedding tour with Ring o' Bells. He danced first-corners with me in Headington Trunkles right before the ceremony. Ed was a major force in getting the Greenwich Morris Men up and running. Here he is at #5 in The Rose with Greenwich in 1976 and his then father-in-law, Hobby Horse, John Hodgkin.
Steve Adams moved to Vermont to dance with Marlboro Morris and Sword. Unfortunately, I had moved to teach at Boston University by the time he enrolled at Marlboro College but I was able to be the external examiner for his senior thesis on community and festivals. Steve took over from me as Squire of the team after had I had moved to Boston and later danced with Thames Valley and Bouwerie Boys. I wrote about the dances created in his memory after he was lost in the North Tower on 9/11 (American Morris Newsletter, Volume 25, Number 2, July, 2005)
I want here to honor his memory as Fool of the Green Mountain Mummers from 1985 until his death. I've chosen a clip from his last year (October, 2000) dancing at Marlboro Post Office because it shows the exquisite heights to which his role of the Fool evolved along with the two "Tommys", Will Fielding and Dan Popowich.
Steve Adams is second from the left on the back row and
Chris Carstanjen is on the far right on the front row.
He can be seen at #5 in this performance of a version of Longborough
Glorisher done to the tune, "Davy Crockett".
A poorly framed clip (I was probably chatting!), it has the virtue of showing Chris up close. I had already had to give up dancing by the time Chris Carstanjen joined the team so I did not know him well as a Morris dancer. I did, however, know Chris as a small boy. My singing partner and Marlboro and Green Mountain Mummers team-mate, John Roberts and I used to stay with Chris' mother when singing at a small coffee house in Westport, CT in the 1970s. Chris' father was a craftsman with a pottery and wood. After hearing what I'll call our "songs of sexual encounter", he designed a series of bawdy mugs, complete with detailed, anatomically-correct appendages.
And I'll finish with my valiant friend, Dinah Breunig, who finally succumbed to cancer in 2003, though she kept dancing the last few years despite two steel rods attached to her spine. Dinah and her husband, Fred, moved to Brattleboro in the mid-1970s. I had first met them at Pinewoods Camp when taking a country dance class from Fred. Adding two such experienced and skilled dancers solidified the formation of
Marlboro Morris and Sword. Dinah became the long-time team and Marlboro Ale treasurer.
In 1975(?) Dinah and Fred had been at a workshop in England given by Harry Pitts, Captain of Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers, and Dinah became the leader and teacher of the local women's sword team seen here at their debut performance in Wilmington, VT in 1977 with Dinah at #1 and Fred on button accordion.
But although she was a Morris dancer (#1 of the left-hand set on Marlboro May Day, 1994) and musician her most glorious moments were in the women's mummers plays, particularly in the 1990s as she developed the character of the Witch (I said there was going to be a witch) or Old Crone offering to kill Joan of Arc's mother (the Fool calls her "Mrs. of Arc") with a poisoned apple (a la Snow white).
Treasures all. I suppose if the collection stays around online (or its future equivalent) long enough, all of us now dancing can be seen after we're gone and the American Morris Newsletter celebrates, perhaps, its 75th anniversary.