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62 THE ESPERANCE MORRIS BOOK.
Club owes so much, was present, and in conversation on the subject mentioned that since the Club had given its first performance three years ago 300 clubs, villages, and schools had been taught the dances and songs that this organisation had itself learnt so effectively. Perhaps a leading reason of its success had been that in all cases the dances had been shown and taught them by dancers from the counties, who had inherited old traditions regarding them, and in no case has the professional teacher intervened.
THE TIMES. Oct. 26II1. 1909.
THE ESPERANCE Club.—A performance of morris dancing and folk-songs was given by about 50 children belonging to the Esperance Club. It is always delightful to watch the girls and boys of this Club at their play. They are so bright and happy and natural, and so unlike what one usually associates with anything that can be called a " movement." And yet in a very real sense they stand at the head of a movement which in four years has spread all over England. When the singing of folk-songs and the playing of old English games and the dancing of morris dances were first introduced into the Espcrance Club, with all the hope and all the faith in the world, Miss Ne.il and the others who have helped in the labour of love can hardly have looked forward to a time when they would be sending Esperance missionaries to all the
counties of England to preach the gospel of the happiness which all children seem to find in these childish games and dances that were once, what they arc rapidly becoming again, an integral part of the peasant life of the nation. Of those in which the Esperance children took part on this occasion some, such as " Bean Setting," " Hunting the Squirrel," " Old Roger is dead," and " London Bridge," take us back in thought to very ancient times, to the days of pre-Christian husbandmen, and Judas Iscariot, and barbaric bridge-builders. And in all of them, especially " When I was a young girl," and " Mowing the Barley " and " Gently, Johnnie, my Jingalo," and " Looby Loo," with their taking tunes and little dramatic actions, the children are exactly what children ought to be in their games. Merrily and unselfconsciously (for all their public performances) they are playing at being grown up. In their print frocks and pinafores and many-coloured sun bonnets they made a charming picture on the platform, and the audience were very enthusiastic about their performance. In an excellent little speech which she made between the two parts of the programme, Miss Neal, the organizer of the movement, drew attention to the fact that it has this autumn received the official blessing of the Board of Education. Their new syllabus adopts folk-songs and morris dancing as a regular part of the curriculum in elementary schools ; and no one who has seen the Esperance girls can doubt that that will be a very good thing for the children of this country.