JMO Day of Dance 2021 goes virtual

Reviews of the various online music sessions and workshops run by the Joint Morris Organisations (JMO) on Saturday 24th April 2021.  See you next year at the ‘in person’ event on Saturday 9th April 2022 in Liverpool, hosted by the Morris Ring in the North West.

Music Sessions – 4 sessions run in turn by Sarah & Tom Sennett, Emma & Jon Melville, Sel Adamu & Ben Potton, and Sarah Matthews & Doug Eunson

“I was delighted when Tom and I were asked to be one of the session hosts at the virtual JMO day – music sessions are generally something that happens after the dancing has finished, and this was a great opportunity to bring it into the main part of the day.

“The ‘virtual pub’ opened early (although most of us only had cups of tea to sustain us at that point!). If you haven’t yet experienced the delights of a Zoom session, it’s the chance to play along as people take it in turn to lead tunes. Unfortunately Zoom doesn’t currently have the capability to let people play together with their sound on without it making some very odd noises! So mostly you can only hear yourself and one other person, but it’s a real joy to see so many people playing the same tunes, joined together online from all over the world!

“Tom and I were the first of four households leading the sessions, and we were far from the only people who stayed online for most of the day. There was an incredible variety of tunes, although several old favourites were repeated, and there was some discussion in between about tunes that Morris sides use for their dances – just as you would expect in real life, in fact.

“I didn’t make it quite to the end, having left the virtual pub to try out some very strange hand and foot combinations in the final dance workshop of the day (the Oddington tradition is aptly named!). It wasn’t quite real life, but bringing the Morris community together was wonderfully reassuring that we’re still there, and looking forward to an in-person JMO day just as soon as we can.

Review by Sarah Sennett of Chiltern Hundreds, and Rockingham Rapper

‘Bacca Pipes’ solo dance – Rachel Cole-Wilkin of The Belles of London City Morris

Rachel Cole-WilkinRachel started with some background information about the dance and an effective warm up. She spoke clearly and had a lovely, friendly manner. The basic steps were demonstrated and clearly taught, with Rachel building them up in stages. She used coloured neck ties as the Bacca Pipes which enabled us to see the position of her feet in relation to the ‘cross’. Her use of one coloured sock was a great visual prompt to help identify whether we should be moving our right or left foot!

Rachel Cole-Wilkin feetWe learnt three figures, each was clearly demonstrated. Rachel answered questions giving opportunities for reinforcement where necessary and acted on feedback from one participant to change to dancing with her back to the camera which was found to be very helpful. The recorded music was played at an appropriate speed for learning the dance. Two of the figures were repeated to make up the completed dance, with one of them danced again at a faster speed to finish – very helpful to reinforce our muscle memory.

“Thank you Rachel, I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop, it was a dance I have always wanted to learn and I shall look forward to practising it again, and hopefully adding more steps.

Review by Linda Glanville of Chinewrde Morris, Silhill Morris and Chiltern Hundreds

‘The Celebration’ North West solo dance – John Earnshaw of Wakefield Morris

John Earnshaw JMO 2021This dance was presented by John Earnshaw from Wakefield Morris. He devised the dance in 2007-08 as a solo North West dance when Wakefield Morris were a bit low on numbers – it has also turned out to be a very useful dance for Social Distancing!

“The session started with a shared screen video of the whole dance being performed by a number of different sides as a Mass Dance at a Beercart Festival a few years ago. John explained that some of the steps came from other dances, hence the names of some of the figures e.g. the 1st figure is called ‘Failsworth’ from a dance of the same name and figure 4 ‘West Bretton’ is from another of John’s dances and figure 5 ‘Royton’ from The Royton Dance by the Newcastle Kingsmen.

“We started the dance with a walk through of the steps of the Chorus without music to start with and then he added the arm movements using sticks to emphasise the movement – the sticks were then not used as the bells were too noisy! When the music was added, participants suggested that playing it a bit slower would be helpful, this was done. The music used for the dance was The Galopede, which has a 24 bar sequence – 8 bars for the Chorus and 16 bars for the figures. The recorded music was played by Liam Parker.  John was picking up on comments throughout the session to help people with the trickier bits.

John Earnshaw JMO 2021The dance has 6 figures + chorus. the 1st figure was ‘Failsworth’, one of the easier figures to start with. The 2nd figure – ‘Walk and Stamp’, John explained the diagonal stamp section. The 3rd figure – West Bretton’, quite a difficult one to explain, it’s all about timing and balance and ‘Step, Slide, Step, Hop, Polka, Hop, Pause’!

“We then danced the 1st 3 figures with Chorus with John calling the moves and which foot to use. The last 3 figures were – ‘Royton’, Slow Side Step’, with or without the ‘Shimmy’! Then the 6th and final figure to finish the dance. After practicing the 2nd part, we then danced it all the way through, no mean achievement in just 1 hour!

“The session finished with some questions, mainly about the West Bretton figure. From my own experience, there will be a ‘light bulb’ moment, but it does take practice and as John said ‘it is like an A-Level in North West dance, so don’t despair you will get it.

“It was a very enjoyable workshop by John, and we are looking forward to dancing The Celebration out with lots of Morris friends very soon.

Review by Sue Rawlins of Pump House Clog Morris

‘Mrs Marhoff’s Single Hornpipe’ Clog Stepping routine (aka ‘The Sunderland Hornpipe’) – Toby Bennett

Toby BennettThe Clog Stepping dance Mrs Marhoff’s Sunderland Hornpipe taught by Toby Bennett was most interesting as it was a style of dance I had not tried before. As well as Cotswold, I also dance Appalachian on a regular basis, so attending a dance workshop I had often seen but not tried was exiting but quite a difficult challenge. I thought being able to shuffle would make it easy to master, but it was so different from what I am used to.

Toby Bennett feetI thought Toby was an excellent tutor and thorough in going through the dance,  breaking it down into 3 stages was very helpful, doing it at a slow pace was almost manageable but, once the 3 sections were joined together and dancing along to the music it was very difficult to keep up. Time is always limited at workshops and it is difficult to perfect a new dance in such a short time, so for me this was just a taster. I loved the dance and I would like to think I could master it eventually, but definitely would need to break it down and would need longer to practice at a much slower pace.

“As a beginner myself I thought it quite advanced, but those who were already familiar with clog stepping would probably have found this a lot less challenging.  I do like a challenge, so none the less I am so glad I was able to take part.

Review by Sue Stimpson of Phoenix Morris

‘Over the Hills’ Jig, Oddington style (Cotswold) – Ollie Simons, musician Matt Simons, of Peterborough Morris

Ollie and Matt SimonsI very much enjoyed the opportunity to take part in the JMO day of dance on Zoom. Especially after a year of no morris dancing it was great to have an occasion to put on the kit.

“As a member of a side that dances mainly Cotswold traditions I was particularly interested in having a go at the Oddington jig. I actually had a go at everything.

Ollie SimonsThe workshops were all very well presented. I enjoyed the challenge of the unfamiliar. The brain as well as the body had a good workout.

“The Oddington tradition is not one that I know. I was, therefore, a matter of getting my head round differences to what I’m used to, such as starting left when I’m used to starting right, down where I’m used to up, in when I’m used to out. Great fun.

Review by James Myles, Banchory Morris Men, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Massed Dancing

“When JMO 2020 was cancelled, plans were made to simply postpone the event for 12 months. Who knew then that the event as a joyous dancing-out occasion wouldn’t be able to go ahead for a second year? Not be disheartened, the officers of the Morris Federation, Open Morris and The Morris Ring set to and planned an online event. And what an event they planned!

“The day started off with a little Bacca Pipes jig taught by Rachel-Cole Wilkin – dropped in to watch and couldn’t work out why I’d never previously learned it. This was followed by The Celebration a North-West solo dance taught by John Earnshaw, sorry didn’t see this, needed to pop out. However, I was back in time to watch Toby Bennett stun me with his fast footwork in Mrs Marhoff’s hornpipe, I know why I’ll never make it as a step clogger! The workshops finished off with Matt Simons teaching the Oddington Jig – Over the Hills. Back on safer ground here, I really enjoyed learning this well-taught jig.

JMO 2021 Massed Dancing Bonny GreenThe day finished with some massed dancing of all the dances taught at the workshops during the day along with some old favourites. Something for us all whether you were a Cotswold, North-West, Border or Step-clogger. It was quite a test of the old grey matter to see if I could remember the ‘Waiting for the Vaccine’ solo Border dance taught a couple of weeks ago. It was just like learning to ride a bike, a couple of fall-offs but generally managed to stay on.

“An excellent day finished with the traditional farewell dance – Bonny Green Garters. Lovely to ‘see’ so many dancers enjoying themselves despite everything. Huge thanks to everyone who made it possible, teachers, musicians and teckies behind the scenes, and of course the Officers of the Morris Organisations. Here’s to meeting up in person in 2022.

Review by Chris Hall of Bunnies from Hell, Black Gate Morris, White Horse Morris, and Hong Kong Morris

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