Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Clerical Error in action

Clerical Error in action.

Reinventing morris dancing

Morris dancing has always been linked in my mind to village greens, half-timbered pubs selling real ale, cricket matches – the general rural idyll that is now largely preserved in the stockbroker belt.  As a result, it has acquired a sort of UKIP tinge in my mind – red-cheeked men singing Rule Britannia and waving Union Jacks.  Then there’s all that handkerchief waving and general fol-de-rol.  It’s a bit like buying free range eggs in Waitrose – being in touch with the earth without getting your hands dirty, writes Antony Mair.

But I’ve had to change my mind as a result of the Morris dancing today in Hastings – part of the Jack-in-the-Green weekend, which is a generally pagan celebration of Spring.  A variety of troupes were performing outside Saint Clement’s church in the High Street and subsequently in a space known as Butler’s Gap in George Street.  We had the usual costumes of white shirts and trousers and bell-hung gaiters, plus waving handkerchiefs.  But we also had two troupes that were seriously different.  Clerical Error had come all the way from North Wales.  Wearing dog collars and tail-coats with daffodils wound round their hats and their faces blacked up, they were like African natives mimicking missionary clergy.  Although their dancing was much the same as the others, they knocked sticks together instead of waving handkerchiefs.

Steam Punk Morris -musician and dancer

What I liked about this was the ironic take on Morris dancing – it brought in a new dimension of fantasy.  Taking the process a step further was Steampunk Morris from Rochester, whose costumes were a surreal vision of how the Victorian period might have been or might be in the future – at least that’s what they told me..  And although they had similar musical instrument to the others, they danced to the tune of “We will Rock You”.  The steps seemed to be much the same, but the experience was different – a wacky combination of Gothic Horror and Monty Python.

What was stimulating about both groups was the way they had subverted the genre to create something entirely new but good fun.  I’ll never be able to see Morris dancing in quite the same way again.

Republished with kind permission from Postcards from Hastings

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Posted 08:35 Monday, May 6, 2013 In: Performance

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