American Morris Newsletter  

American Morris Newsletter

Volume 25, Number 2
July, 2005

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 AMN Article, Vol. 25, No. 2  

Duns Tew: Tew Much

Jocelyn Reynolds


A Short History of the Recreation of a Possible Duns Tew Tradition.

Steve Allen, at, describes the recreation of a possible Duns Tew tradition thusly:

"The village of Duns Tew lies in Oxfordshire roughly in the middle of the triangle formed by Adderbury, Bucknell, and Kirtlington.

It is known that a traditional morris side performed in Duns Tew. It is not known whether the morris was indigenous to the town or visiting from nearby. In 1985 or 1986, Tim Radford of the Adderbury Morris Men taught a workshop at Sidmouth. He began the week by teaching the known traditions of the 3 surrounding towns. He and his class then proceeded to reconstruct by interpolation what the Duns Tew tradition might have been. 

The tradition is marked by its very energetic and jiggy stepping which involves lots of bouncing, very crisp hanky motions, and W-shaped hand positions during hockle-backs. The sidesteps and heys are unique."

Duns Tew Arrives in the Golden State.

I went to the Sidmouth Folk Festival in 1988, and traveled and hung out with some people from the Open Morris world, Mike Salter and Liz Pearce (now Botterill - and I hope I've spelled that correctly!). Through them, I met a lot of other very nice Open Morris folk, including the Scratch Morris Team, who joined forces to perform Duns Tew at events, after the first Duns Tew workshop. I no longer remember whether all the Scratch folk were at the first workshop wherein Duns Tew was created, but certainly some of them were. This was only 2 years after that workshop, as I understand it. I heard a little bit about Duns Tew from them, and dropped broad hints about just how much I'd love to learn Duns Tew. But nobody seemed to notice until the morning of the day they were going to perform on the esplanade. Suddenly I found myself being handed a green sash and green hankies, while saying, "But I don't know Duns Tew!!" So they quickly gathered several other Scratch people, and a musician, and in about 20 minutes taught me the figures, and a couple choruses, and said, "See? You'll be fine!" I said, "AWK!" However, I did join up with them that evening down on the esplanade, and had a grand time doing the two or three dances they trusted me with. Although in retrospect, it's very clear that they never taught me how to be a middle in the hey! (More on that later.)

Meanwhile, they also gave me a set of the notes, which were very silly (they were written from Cecil Sharp's point of view, and are purported to be notes taken while he was on a collecting trip), and included descriptions of all the figures, and the dances, and what looks like notes from a second year of workshopping, though I never confirmed that part.

When I got home to California, and went back to Berkeley Morris (with whom I danced at that time), they asked me to teach a Duns Tew workshop, which I did. It was great fun, but there was that pesky hey...

In 1989, I moved to Boston to attend Boston University and get my master's degree in Morris history from Tony Barrand. But in 1991, I came back home to San Francisco for the summer and the fall semester to do course work at SF State University. A friend of mine was working as development director for the Lamplighters (San Francisco's Gilbert & Sullivan troupe) at that time. She called me up one day and asked me if I would put together a team to do pre-show dancing for the Lamplighters' production of Ruddygore (a play whose action begins in the spring). It would be running in September and October, as I recall. I wasn't dancing with a team at that point, so I created St. Francis' Dancers, and chose Duns Tew as our tradition. (I figured that since I had very little time to pull a team together, and since no one else on the team knew Duns Tew, nobody could use up time arguing with me about how it should be done!) The dancers were Patsy Bolt, Nils Davis, Alisa Dodson, Kalia Kliban, Sherry Kumler, Fred Perner, Tom Whitmore (all experienced dancers), and me, with Jon Berger playing. We had a grand time, and created something really special, I think. 

Meanwhile, I received an invitation to the Ale Hallows Eve Morris Ale, down in San Luis Obispo, hosted by Holyrood and Six Pence. It was going to be held very close to Halloween and also the end of our stint with the Lamplighters. I got St. Francis' to accept the invitation under the name The Dead Ringers (credit for the brilliant name goes to my old friend Pattie Whitehurst. I really wish I'd thought of it). Patsy and Nils didn't join us at the ale, so I invited Rebecca Jordan (of Lemon & Capers, later Red Herring) to come out from Boston, and Jay Hudson (of Sunset Morris) to join us from Los Angeles. We really needed eight dancers because we were also doing the Shropshire Bedlam's Morningstar. We taught Rebecca and Jay the dances on the Friday night of the Ale.

Because we didn't want kit to be too difficult to assemble, we just kept everything to the basics (basic black, in fact), only I found 8 Grateful Dead "American Beauty" t-shirts, and had "The Dead Ringers" screened above the rose. On the back is the Dead's skull with lightning bolt. People got to choose whether they wanted to wear hats, and were encouraged to wear skeleton earrings. Claire Norman and Avis Minger joined Jon as our musicians for the event. I found other Grateful Dead t-shirts for them, in black, of course.

...In Retrospect. 

We danced fast. When I learned the dances in England, they were done at a brisk tempo, and I thought that made a nice contrast to the team I'd been dancing with in Boston, Lemon & Capers.  Looking back now, I can see it was too fast.  

The hey (finally!):  we got the hey all wrong, in terms of what the middles do.  This was because I couldn't understand the notes.  When I finally found out from Tim what the hey should have been, I decided that I liked what we do better, though it's harder.  (For the record, what our middles do is dance up to the top of the set on a diagonal on the first double step, do what we call a "flip turn" on the hitch between double steps, to face in, dance in to meet on the second double step, swivel to face up, and huckle back down the middle of the set to home; then reverse that for the second half hey.  Occasionally someone gets it wrong, turning while doing the first double step.  That isn't correct.)  Our hey should be attributed to Tom Whitmore, who came up with this solution.

A couple years after that first Ringers excursion, after I had moved back to California, Rebecca decided to come out to visit, and suggested that maybe the Ringers could get together ... ?  So we got together and danced on the Saturday before Halloween, down at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, and we've been doing it ever since. It's always a huge amount of fun, even the one year when we got rained out!

In 1998 I formed Goat Hill to dance Duns Tew on a regular basis. 

Since the notes I brought home didn't have many style points, and I certainly couldn't remember many, in dancing and teaching the tradition, with the help of both teams, I have gradually evolved various moves, so that what we have now is probably somewhat different to what Tim and his morris workshop originally concocted.  Which is natural, I think, and as it ought to be.

A Couple of Notes About the Evolution of Duns Tew a la Reynolds.

During the once to yourself music, the dancers flip their hankies up on to their shoulders (which is also the "at rest" position for the style).  I learned to do that from Scratch Morris.  However, I evolved the timing, which we do such that the hankies land on shoulders on the "1" beat, with a sort of virtual thump.

I also brought in what we call a "flip" turn:  a 180 degree turn during the hitch step in between two double steps.  We use this in Cross and Turn, and it's used during the hey.  It's used in a couple other places as well.  It feels good to do, and looks very cool.  At least, I think so!

Goat Hill eventually renamed a couple of moves so that they would make more sense to us.  First, we renamed Side Steps, because there's nothing "side" about them.  We now call them Up Steps, because they are all about "up."  

We recently renamed Face to Face and now call it Cross & Turn.   According to the dance notes, the lines pass each other, heading toward their partners' places.  Once there, they turn 180 degrees to dance back in toward each other.  However, they are not supposed to dance very far forward.  Some of the Goats thought that Face to Face seemed to imply that the dancers should dance in to actually be face to face.  We'll see if this change is successful in changing how the dancers dance it!

The Dances (Ed. Note-- downloader be warned: the low res versions are about 2 Mb; the high res versions are about 20 Mb).

In the notes below, the dancers are named in order by their place in the dance. If the dancers are in black, they are the Dead Ringers; if they are in white, they are Goat Hill.

Old Gordon

At the Ale Hallows Eve, the second stop of the day was at a very small restaurant, due to the weather -- it was misty to rainy all day.  The space we were able to create for dancing was pretty minimal. 

Kalia Kliban, Jay Hudson, Sherry Kumler, Alisa Dodson, Rebecca Jordan, Jocelyn Reynolds with Jon Berger, Avis Minger, and Claire Norman playing

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Banks of the Swere

The next stop of the Ale Hallows Eve, where this was filmed, was out of doors, on a funky little (wet) stage. This dance is so fundamentally silly that I told people to go ahead and treat it as a buffoon dance, and they really took me at my word!

Jocelyn Reynolds, Fred Perner, Sherry Kumler, Alisa Dodson, Rebecca Jordan, Tom Whitmore with Jon Berger, Avis Minger, and Claire Norman playing

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Tew by Tew

For our show dance at the end of Saturday at the Ale Hallows Eve, we did Tew by Tew, the Duns Tew processional, to make our entrance, and then Mrs. Casey.

The processional is slightly silly, too, so I told the dancers they had to do it with great pride in order to pull it off.  Mrs. Casey still is one of the team's favorite dances.  In fact, this season Goat Hill has reconstructed it for 4 in a diamond shape, to good effect.

Jocelyn Reynolds, Kalia Kliban, Alisa Dodson, Sherry Kumler, Tom Whitmore, Fred Perner with Jon Berger, Avis Minger, and Claire Norman playing

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Old #5

At the Roll Out the Bear'Ale, 1998

Sue Meighan, Rebecca Jordan, Tanya Stanberry, Borden Armstrong, Pat O'Brien, Anise Feldman with Craig Johnson playing

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Seaside Shuffle

Hyde Street Pier, 1999

Jane Hecht, Sue Meighan, Liz Crandall, Rebecca Jordan, Regan Anderlini, Tanya Stanberry, with Jon Berger playing

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Bungalow Bill

Performed at the Summer Solstice dance-the-sun-down event in 1999.

Every year that we've been in existence, Berkeley Morris has invited us along to help them dance the sun down on the summer solstice. They've been doing this to wrap up their season every year since time immoral (at least since about 1987). It's a lovely event, in a quiet sort of way. There are very few casual pedestrians, because of the location at Sutro Heights (just above the famous SF Cliff House, and the ocean). The wind is usually quite strong, and good friends & family come to watch. Warming beverages are drunk. It's good fun.

Peter ffoulkes, Jocelyn Reynolds, Jane Hecht, Tanya Stanberry, Kerri Pidnow, Doug Olsen, with Craig Johnson playing.

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Mrs. Casey

Performed at the Summer Solstice dance-the-sun-down event in 1999.

Borden Armstrong, Elizabeth Barner, Jules Stenzel, Sue Meighan, Jane Hecht, Doug Olsen with Craig Johnson and Peter ffoulkes playing

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Tew More.

In 1999, Doug Olsen composed the first of our original dances. My husband Peter ffoulkes and I were deeply honored at our Nuptu'Ale by the debut performance of Rings for Tew. Doug is the first to say that the dance was workshopped; but the basics were all his. It was his first year as a morris dancer (!!).

Meanwhile, at some point Goat Hill decided we needed stick dances. There weren't any in the original repertoire, and somehow or other many people seem to feel that making sticks go "BANG" has a lot more charm than making hankies go "WHOOSH."

I invented a dance to the tune Soldier O, because I love the tune so much. Doug has choreographed Stompers, to a Spanish estampie called Spagnoletta (c. 1600), which is a team favorite, as is our stolen version of Bean Setting (from Badby). Doug's most recent sticking effort is a dance we'll debut quite soon, called Seven Foot High, set to an old Robin Hood ballad by that name.

A hankie dance called Pacific Flyway, yet another of Doug's dances, was debuted last year, but it's a dance that doesn't work well for less than 6, and this year we only have 5.

Of the new dances, Stompers is the only one I am able to provide here.  The rest have only been captured on Mini-DV tapes, and I've been unable to convert them due to our digital recorder having been stolen.  Perhaps in the future?

Car Park & Garden

Performed at the Summer Solstice dance-the-sun-down event in 1999.

It took several years to get Car Park up and running. I just did not understand the notes. Alisa & I spend an afternoon messing with it, finally, and I believe that's when we worked it out. Turns out that it's very similar to Fieldtown's The Rose.

Berkeley has a tradition of using the Summer Solstice dance-the-sun-down as a forum for beginning dancers to call their first dance in public, so we've done that too! In fact, this could have been Elizabeth's first time out as a #1; I really can't remember.

Elizabeth Barner, Jocelyn Reynolds, Peter ffoulkes, Borden Armstrong, Doug Olsen, Sue Meighan, with Craig Johnson playing.

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It's another Summer Solstice, this time 2004; the Solstice is when I usually tape the team.  I've realized that this is actually poor timing on my part.  Although taping the final gig of the season makes sense in terms of the dancers knowing the dances, the actual dancing surface at Sutro Heights is dreadful, and so the dancers are obliged to dance with less than their best style.  (And in fact I actively encourage this since the year when my feet went out from under me during a flip turn, I bounced around a bit before landing, and dislocated my shoulder!)

Doug Olsen, Heather MacKay, Marion Severy, Anise Feldman, Anne Miller, Elaine Richards, with Michael Siemon and Denise Ray playing.

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