American Morris Newsletter  

American Morris Newsletter

Volume 25, Number 2
July, 2005

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 AMN Article, Vol. 25, No. 2  

Rant and Raven Morris, Anchorage, Alaska

Chris Berg  

How did Morris come to Anchorage, Alaska, forming the northernmost team in the western hemisphere? Our Squire, Dawn Berg, wanted to carry on a tradition she had learned when she was in England going to the University of East Anglia in 1990-91 with Yare Valley Morris in Norwich. Our side formed in 1994, after a music session where someone was playing "Haste to the Wedding." Dawn got up and tried to remember/demonstrate the dance; a group of folks she was playing Irish music and dancing Highland Dances with got to talking about how it would be fun to put something together for the Renaissance Faire. We then scraped together 8 or 10 of our friends and family, and we started with the Border and Brackley traditions after some great dance information arrived from the Yare Valley Morris Squire.

Since then, we have danced at the Alaska State Fair, Alaskan Scottish Highland Games (they let in the English here), AWAIC Summer Solstice Fair and the Spenard Doo Dah Parade to name a few. Some of our more memorable performances were on a ferry in Seattle, the Alaska Mason's Annual Meeting, the Opening of the Alaska Sea-life Center in Seward, and for the Mayor of Whitby, England, in 1999. We look forward to dancing with other groups when we travel, even if it is a bit intimidating. We learn so much and we get to take a break between dances.

Contemplating Captain Cook...

As our seasons are very extreme, we have a kit that seems to favor cooler weather than not. Black pants and white shirt make us look a bit like waiters when we don't have our hats or our red/yellow/black baldrics on. Perhaps that is why Border appeals to me, since I have a raggy coat to wear. We have black, (we are Ravens after all) and multi colored. We are currently discussing trying to be the Morris Side with the most Kit and costume changes; perhaps then no one would realize we are the only Alaskan team!
In 1997 the Squire and bagman went to England and saw the 1997 Rochester Sweeps at the invitation of a member from Bishop Gundulf's Morris (Ken Anderson). One thing must be said about the Morris community is that the warmth and camaraderie is rich and invigorating. We are very much at home with this since we feel this way as Alaskans with each other as a community. Doing something such as Morris dancing anywhere will garner you a quizzical look and as it is, living in Alaska and being faced with quizzical look is normal to us. What is rare is to be both an Alaskan and a Morris Dancer.

We have hosted one Morris Side from Seattle (Misty City Morris) in 2002. We met them in England at the 1999 Scarborough Fair as a result of a warm invitation from a member of the Yorkshire Coast Morris when he was visiting in 1997 to do a workshop. We have also had workshops taught by dancers from Fenstanton Morris and Hartshead Morris, which is why our repertoire is rather eclectic.

We officially danced at the 2003 Northwest Folklife as a result of our hosting of Misty City Morris and returned this year in a smaller number to dance out in a guerrilla set. As far as traditional dances, at the moment we tend to dance Border and Adderbury traditions with a little Bampton, Brackley, Northwest and Molly thrown in. The nearest Morris group to us is the Vancouver Morris Men and we have them on our list to visit next as I received an invite this year from them.

Anchorage is the sister city of Whitby, England and as such we have some certain ties to them as a port city with seafaring traditions. Our group tries to represent old and new traditions in our name as the Raven is very much an Alaska animal and so the name Rant and Raven fits perfectly.

We are not a large side and we have been reduced to 4 members at one time, but we seem to have gotten healthier recently. We always welcome anyone in the Morris community up here and are now bandying about doing an Ale in 2007.

Rant and Raven. Photo by Karen Jackman.

Come visit us!

 AMN, Vol. 25, No. 2, July 2005  ISSN: 1074-2689