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Upton Hanky, The Globe, Topsham

Bradninch Millers Morris is a mixed side (men & women) . We have dancers and musicians of all ages, fitness levels and abilities. We perform traditional dances with sticks, wavers and staves from various traditions including Cotswold, Border, Molly and Wessex Stave. We perform throughout Devon all year round at traditional local events, markets, fayres, open-days, festivals and private events such as weddings.

We Can’t Dance!

Some time ago the band Genesis recorded the album “We Can’t Dance”, which included the song ‘I can’t dance‘. The song, and video that accompanies it, pokes fun at the jeans commercials of the time. It also created the “I Can’t Dance dance” consisting of a series of stiff stylised motions. Phil Collins explained it as, watching uncoordinated tap dancers using the same hand and foot. The comparison was then made to the male models in these advertisements who could not dance or talk but only walk in their jeans.

What has this got to do with Bradninch Millers Morris? Morris dancing has many styles. In our side, dancers use sticks, wavers (hankies), fists and hands and of course our famous staves in the dances, not all at the same time of course. The dances are choreographed so participants are in close contact with each other. Think back to Country Dancing at school, Line and Ceilidh dancing with their names, which may be familiar to you (and obviously of the day) such as The Dashing White Sergeant and The Gay Gordons. All involved the things for the time being we are not encouraged to do, hold hands, dance with a partner and even swap partners! And this is our problem, “We Can’t Dance” needed to be turned into “We Can Dance!”

Wessex Stave Dancers Bradninch Guildhall Morris Dancers in a line

With an understanding of the restrictions, things began to fall into place. Early last summer we put our new Covid-secure practices to the test one evening around 8pm when people were out in the street clapping for the NHS. We think our efforts were appreciated and we were encouraged. However we needed more dances, as even we get bored just dancing to one tune. Social distancing, one way systems, limited numbers, masks all seem ‘normal’ now but last summer they were still new and had to be hardwired into our brains. Fortunately we had the use of a large flat garden where we could work out our new dance patterns. Using flour from a bag that had been found at the back of a cupboard with a long expired best before date, squares were marked out and each dancer took ownership of one square. (In the first lockdown apparently people sorted out cupboards as a way to pass the time). That was our dancing square and that’s where we stayed. Instead of dancing towards your partner, you turned your back on them and danced away. Calls, instructions for the next move had to be altered, you can’t do “into line” if you have to keep apart! We carried on like this until poor light stopped play, the evenings became cooler and we were forced indoors, or not? Another set of restrictions meant we couldn’t use our usual practice venue West End hall. So we moved to The Guildhall, where musicians were elevated on the stage and dancers restricted again to their own squares. By this time the flour had run out so ribbons sellotaped to the floor were substituted. We became familiar with the new ways and were confident enough to make a video at one practice session. It will serve as a record of what we did during the pandemic, a question that I’m sure will be asked in the future – what did you do during the Lockdown?

I would like to say we are furloughed at present, but that isn’t the correct use of the word. Perhaps we are taking a sabbatical, or have we been given “the order of the boot”? When searching for the opposite to furlough I found the following words, recruitment, welcoming, bring on board. We have begun to get together again and we welcome new members to Bradninch Millers Morris. I’ll end as I started with a reference to a song, not strictly morris but, The Bee Gees “You Should be Dancing”.


Bradninch Millers Morris
February 2021