Esperance Morris Book vol 2 - online book

A Manual Of Morris Dances Folk-songs And Singing Games With Sheet Music And Instructions

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An Interview in " The Musical Herald."
Miss Mary Neal has returned to London after four months spent in American cities with Miss Florence Warren. New York and Boston have taken up morris dancing. In the schools also teachers were obliged to teach it, and, having wrong ideas of the dances, they did not like them, but now that they have seen the real thing they are completely converted. Here we have put into the dances the romance of the past and the pride of long possession, but America takes them for what they are worth now. A number of troupes have been started. The Musical Herald representative called on Miss Neal to report progress. " How did your visit come about? " we asked.
" In the most casual way, through an American lady receiving an invitation to attend a concert given by the Esperance Club at Lord Ellesmere's, Bridgewater House. Madame Genee, the dancer, was having her picture painted by the Hon. Neville Lytton at the same time as our Morris Dancers. I sent her the ticket, and she sent it to her American friend, who was charmed with what she saw, said she must have Miss Warren dancing in America, and she would then start a movement on the same lines as the English one. She was as good as her word. A fashionable artistic set backed her up. We started at the MacDowell Club, and in a few days trained twenty-four men and women for a display for their Christmas masque. Amongst them were artists, authors, and such responsible people as the head of the electric lighting department of New York. Out of the nucleus of that troupe we trained another to illustrate lectures, and amongst these were Dr. Gulick's nephew and his daughter. In Boston also we trained a troupe of Harvard students and their girl friends. Miss Warren has been giving a display at Columbia University, also one for the Educational Alliance, at which the chairman, Dr. Leipziger, said most feelingly that he had never seen anything so beautiful. Another important society at which we appeared was the Sons and Daughters of the Revolution, who trace their ancestors to the promoters of the War of Independence. I spoke at Albany at a meeting in support of a " safe and sane " celebration of the Fourth of July, for which our dances are much better fitted than the rowdyism and accidents which often occur. I also addressed high schools, women's clubs Boston Twentieth Century Club, Clark University, the Parks and Playground Society, the dramatic committee for supporting a civic theatre and so on. Sixty pupils joined Miss Warren's classes in Boston in five days. Miss Warren is obliged to return home for the Stratford-on-Avon Summer School, but there is a possibility that she may afterwards spend two years in the States, taking a trained troupe to summer schools, Chatauqua, and graduation exercises After that it is proposed to form two troupes, one going East and the other West. At present she is teaching for the Froebel Society, and I have almost promised to join her cither in October or February next In all this work the lessons are based on the Esperance Morris Book,' and the MS. of the forthcoming second volume. " Your impressions of America, please."
" I was struck bv the extreme civilisation of the cities, and by the complete mastery over material Nature. There is no drudgery. The standard of living is very much higher than in England. I went amongst every class ; the houses of the mil honaires the settlements, universities, also from the millionaires theatre to the lowest music hall, also into private houses and[schools. In one hall Iadv performers who did not please were lifted by the waist and taken off the stage, to others the audience threw money or booed. The men, if not liked, literally took the hook, a large cane hook being put round their neck to pull them away. The American does not sit down and put up with discomforts. Winter is defied by hating night by electric lighting, and so on Business menand newspapers are easy of access. In London, editors are Protected by the lift man and every grade of assistant, but m America all doors are thrown open, and I called on editors personally One o^ the most important of them said, ' Keep me posted , I. want to follow this thing un." American lightheadedness also strike one the way in which thev are ready to take on anything. They have no great traditions and are open ^ receive new impressions. There is a reverse side. England has a deep, strong, rhythmic impulse. The rhythm of America is much more on the surface , it is the rhvthm of machinery, it is all artificial. I learnt to appreciate the coloured people I staved in a house where the coloured housemaid earning a pound a week in the winter, was a prima donna in the
summer, and she took housework with the stipulation ' I never bend.' When she brought my first good cup of tea, I was so pleased that I wanted her to sing with me ' God save the King.' She replied, ' I don't know him.' "
" Is there any scope for folk-music there? " " America needs it even more than we do. As they have there the folk of all nations it is a wonderful country to study folk matters. I hope to assist in starting an International Folk Study Society, having its headquarters in America, to study folk-song, folk-music, folk-dance, folk-drama, folk-legend, folk-religion, folk-lore of every nation. Dr. Stanley Hall is very keen upon this proposal, and there should be in every countrv a representative of each of these sections. I had not left my work for fifteen years, and now after four months' absence I have got the whole subject much more in perspective. Americans, having so many nationalities, know more about folk matters than any one country, and I was interested to find that they completely grasped the difference between folk-dancing and any other kind of dancing. They realise that you cannot have too much technical skill in classical and ball dancing, or, as they call it aesthetic dancing ; thev realise, too, that folk-dancing is spon­taneous. It is the same difference which musicians discern between folk-song and composed song. A dance evolved by the people, they understand, must be carried on in the same way, and the less teaching the better. On my return I saw the miracle of folk-dancing worked over again. Girls came into the Club on a par­ticularly bad night, dispirited by the weather conditions and their dav's tailoring and dress-making, and the boys arrived from electro-plating, motor building, etc. A lady offered to teach a new dance. In half an hour everybody was dancing in perfect time, faces were lighted up. and no one would imagine that they were the same persons who arrived earlier in the evening. Only folk-dancing could do it."
" Is this revival going to spread? "
" Unless it is of civic value it is not worth my while to give mv life to it. As a big national movement, as I believe it is, it wi'll have a great civic effect; it will put boys and girls in tune with the real rhythm of the country, and it will them. This movement originated with the people, and if any who are not of the ' folk ' want to practise it, they must reverently £arn from the people. That is what we are trying to do in Crosby Hall. I am glad to be back home again, and to find my work half as arge again as when I left it; there is a larger working balance all my teachers are engaged, and a great many engagements are booked. ncludTng performances at the Festival of Empire. The devotion and lovaltS of all my workers makes me a proud woman to-day.
As a proof of the genuine interest aroused by her tour, Miss Neal showed us a number of letters, programs, and press cuttings.
Miss Kate Douglas Wiggin, the well-known autiioress wrote
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United States.
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