This is an excerpt from a series of interviews from February 2018, presented in partnership with ICDF’s Network for Men in Dance.
Andrew Laszcz (UK)
Interviewer: Tell me about you and dance. You are a dancer, and perform with other guys outdoors. What kind of dancing is it? How would you describe it to people who’ve never seen it?
I have, for several years now, been a member of a Morris side. So many people have this image of elderly Morris Men shuffling around in cricket whites waving hankies around, but this isn’t the reality at all. The Morris is very rhythmic and energetic style of dance done to traditional tunes. We dance a mixture of Cotswold and Border Morris, both of which are very old styles of traditional English dance.
All the dancers stand in rows, wielding sticks or handkerchiefs and wearing bells on their shins, which help to keep us in time with each other as well as emphasising the beat. The dances themselves consist of about 4 or 5 figures, with a chorus in-between.
The dances can sometimes get quite loud, with dancers shrieking and shouting, especially those of the Border tradition. It is also not uncommon to see splinters flying off in all directions as sticks collide, sometimes shattering in half. All sides wear something slightly different, but our kit is red, yellow, orange, and black, apparently based on the football kit of the men who founded our side.
How hard are the dances and patterns to learn?
The dances are relatively simple to learn. Once you get the hang of one, the others follow often with little effort. A group of absolute beginners might feasibly learn a Morris dance in under an hour. I’ve seen it happen on more than one occasion.
Patterns and figures learnt for one dance are often used in several other dances, and somebody will usually call each figure before it is danced, so you don’t even have to remember which order they come in. But some dances can be a lot harder, with particularly confusing cross-overs and set changes, so it never gets boring and there’s always something to learn.
What is the feeling of being part of the collective energy of a group of men?
Dancing with the other men in my side is great fun. The atmosphere is always very energetic and light hearted, and you can see everybody else is having just as good a time as you are.
There is something about the experience that is very hard to describe. The feeling of togetherness emphasised and empowered by the energy of the music and the movement of the dance around you is absolutely amazing.
Men in Dance Network
Any man interested in dance can just go on Facebook, type in ‘Men in Dance Network’, and ask to join the group.
(If there are women who have questions, or are looking for pointers about working alongside men as dancers, we’ll be trying to build up suggestions and resources for that also, as Frequently Asked Questions. So address any enquiries to Andy Raine.)