Heading out into the gorgeous Cotswolds we had been invited to Lower Brailes for a dance-out with two sides hailing from Warwickshire – Shakespeare Morris and the Flowers of llmington.
The evening started with our side dancing outside the George Inn, where we warmed up the crowd with Sweet Jenny Jones, Haste to the Wedding, Lads a Buncham, Hail to the Chief and Washing Day. Two of our newer recruits Matt and Chris, who had made it to the evening, danced brilliantly as well as Owen who really helped to add a youthful element to our side and bring the average age of the side down! Seeing an opportunity, as the other sides began to arrive, we offered them, and members of the audience, up to dance Shepherds’ Hey – providing the crowd with a taste of what we do and the other teams with a much needed warm-up!
After this Shakespeare Morris and the Flowers of Ilmington began their set of dancing with a procession from St George’s Church which myself, Richard, Matt and David with our faithful Horse Charlie joined in on. We enjoyed a pleasant break taking in the dances of our fellow Morris sides, marvelling at the way in which similar songs and tunes are crafted to create different dances, routines and figures.
Invited to dance again, John led the side in a dance of Postman’s Knock in which overzealous strikes left Richard with only half a stick mid-way through the dance! Whilst I was distracted entertaining the crowd, a quick-thinking Shakespeare Morris dancer managed to swap out the broken stick – a smooth transition which comes from years of experience.
We rounded off the dancing with turn and turnabout, in which we followed Shakespeare Morris and the Flowers of Ilmington’s versions of Princess Royal and Constant Billy with our own! We were once again, revelling at the difference between the sides’ interpretations of the tradition. Since we were so close to the village it’s named after, we danced Stourton Wake before combining the three sides to perform a Brighton Camp for fourteen people as the light was getting to the point where it would stop play.
Not to be outdone though, Shakespeare Morris invited us to conclude with another procession of Constant Billy. It was a superb way to end, dancing side by side with Shakespeare and the Flowers.
Thank you to everyone who came from all three sides – it was great to have you all there and learn more, seeing all the dances is always an interesting and pleasurable experience as we learn about the Morris and its many intricacies. We’d especially like to thank Robert Albarton, Bagman of Shakespeare for the invite. We look forward to seeing you all again in the near future!