The Morris Federation launched a series of online workshops, talks and demos over Winter 2020-2021. Here is a review of our first Cotswold Morris workshop held over 3 weeks in November/December 2020, for around 60 participants to learn ‘Jockey to the Fair’ in the style of Ilmington.
“I’d never thought about dancing Cotswold before 2020. I didn’t grow up with Morris, and when I discovered North West in my 30s, I thought I’d found my niche. Cotswold, with its capers and galleys, has always felt like something I wouldn’t be able to manage. But then the pandemic hit, and with it the realisation that the North West tradition has precisely one solo dance. So I decided to give jigs a try…
“The early months of the pandemic saw me out on the decking, phone in hand, as I slowly learned the Nutting Girl from my Chiltern Hundreds team-mate Owain Boorman’s instruction video. When the Morris Federation announced a series of three Sunday morning workshops with the Knights of King Ina, of course I jumped at it.
“Week one was fairly gentle, with a group of over 70 participants, mainly dancers in other traditions – although several people commented that they had lost fitness due to lack of dancing opportunities. Andrew and Lin took us through the basic steps that are the backbone of the dance, as well as emphasising the importance of warming up and stretching out at the end of a session.
“The second week took us through the rest of the chorus and the first slows (feet crossed – apart – together if you’re not familiar with the dance). I always thought I had strong legs, but half a dozen repetitions of slows and capers left me lying on the floor with shaking legs and a new-found respect for Cotswold dancers everywhere. More practice is needed I feel…
“Andrew had warned us in advance that the third and final session would involve some high kicking and to be well warmed up before we started. After recapping what we’d already learned, we went through the second slows; a sequence of claps above the head, under your leg (hence those warm ups!) and behind your back. And there you have it – in three sessions, we’d learned the whole thing and had the chance to dance it through a few times.
“Andrew also impressed some style points upon us, including posture, owning the space and the importance of buying your musician a beer! I think all of us owe several pints to Tony, who sat in his car outside Andrew’s house so that they could hear each other and still not “meet” as per requirements. What a hero!
“So will you see me adding a Cotswold jig to my Morris performances when we’re allowed out in public again? Doubtful. But will I be seeking out workshops in my newly-learned style, both online and at future festivals? Can’t wait.
by Sarah Sennett, member of Chiltern Hundreds North West Morris in Watford, Hertfordshire
The workshop was kindly run by dancers Andrew Knight and Lin Steel with musician Tony Warren, all from the Knights of King Ina jig team in Somerset.
Donations from workshop participants raised money for Yeovil Freewheelers Blood Bikes: https://www.yfwbloodbikes.org/