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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PRESS NOTICES (continued).
A large crowd, of all kinds and classes of folk, gathered at Crosby Hall, Chelsea, last week, to see two Flamborough fishermen teach a class of young men the traditional sword-dance of the neighbourhood. The reason of the gathering was that an idea had spread that one needs professional teachers of physical culture to act as middlemen between the dancers who know the dance, and the men, women, and children in club or school who, equally with country dances, revel in this new brightness that is coming to city life.
The experiment was justified. However needful a book may be for reference, and as a record of dances and a means of learning the music, the ideal teacher is the dancer. Instead of quarrelling with those who disagree with her. Miss Neal's differences are " danced out" graciously before an audience which included teachers, dance lovers, one of the leading dramatists of the day, and, of course, the ubiquitous Press. We laughed at the mistakes as the dancers tied themselves and their swords into knots, but before the evening was out the lesson had proved a success, and one was amazed that men who had never seen a sword-dance could get into it so quickly. Then came the girls of the Esperance Club who had been taught on the previous day. They showed amazing aptitude and spirit, and sword-dancing will be among the recreations of the more vigorous womanhood which is springing to light and life.
At the outset Miss Neal said Mr. Cecil Sharp had defined folk­song as " the song created by the ' common ' people, that is, those whose mental development has been due not to any formal system of training or education, but solely to environment, communal association, and direct contact with the ups-and-downs of life." There could be no better definition, and it applied to song and dance with equal accuracy. It brought out clearly the distinction, the wide difference between the art dance, the cultivated product of the teaching of professional masters, and the artless, simple dancing of the countryside, to encourage which was the first object of the Guild. Only the other day some children came who knew many of the dances perfectly, and on enquiry it turned out they had been taught them in the parks by two little girls of seven or so, who had learned them at the Club. It was held by some that discipline, strictness, absolute uniformity were a necessary part of the teaching, but she did not believe in making poor children more miserable than they were already. What the little boys and girls of the humbler classes needed was not so much discipline as joy and freedom ; and the sense of co-operation felt in the acquirement of these songs and dances was discipline enough. The little girls were present and seemed quite unconscious that they were anyone in particular. The Board of Education, while encouraging the dancing, wisely objects to the issuing of certificates of teachers.
express the joys and sorrows of our race. At present the movement is still in its trial stages, and it is too early to say whether it will become, what it should become, a national revival of dancing, or whether it will remain merely a rollicking game for a few enthu­siasts. But this it has accomplished : it has shown that children (and even adults) with no practice in the dance, rapidly become efficient dancers along the old lines, and, further, that they get great pleasure out of the process. Indeed, at its present stage the folk-dance movement is a game rather than a means of artistic expression. I do not condemn it for that; on the contrary, games are good, and if Miss Mary Neal gave us nothing more she would earn our gratitude ; we want to know how to play, for the art of play is the greatest of the arts.
Morris dancing was a dance for men ; but its recent revival has taken the form of a dance for girls, and women are working hard to promote the spread of this wholesome pastime. Mrs. George Montagu, Hinchinbrooke Castle, Hunts, and Miss Constance Cochrane, Croxton, Cambridgeshire, tell us that " as there is at the present time a very general movement in favour of reviving the old English morris dances, it may interest people to hear that these dances have been revived to a considerable extent amongst the school children of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. The work has been almost entirely promoted by the efforts of ladies interested in school children, to whom these dances are an un­qualified delight, and according to Dr. Fremantle (county medical officer for Herts), an excellent form of physical exercise. Recently a class for teachers was arranged for a group of remote rural villages by a lady school manager, and her invitations were warmly and gratefully responded to by over thirty teachers, who received their instruction from six to eight o'clock on five evenings during one week. On a number of occasions the children's morris dancing has formed the most attractive feature at Coronation and other festivities, the girls wearing pretty coloured cotton dresses and sunbonnets, and the boys tall hats. A few weeks ago 150 children gave a series of morris dances at a large public gathering in Hunting­donshire. The instruction referred to has been in every case given in the first instance by the very excellent and popular lady teachers sent from London by Miss Neal, of 50 Cumberland Market, Regent's Park."
" Dear Miss Neal,—I must thank you for answering my letter so kindly. I intended to write to the Esperance Club for the books you recommended, but last March heard by chance that our book­seller had a new stock of game books. We went to investigate, and the first thing that met our eyes was ' The Esperance Morris Book.' We fairly revelled in it, and the interested bookseller kindly opened up parcel after parcel of new books. We left laden with your book, a couple of Miss Gillington's ' Singing Games for Schools,' and some morris tunes, so have something to go on with. The games and morris dances are just lovely, and Tuesday night is the happiest evening in the week. My little children love the games as much as their teacher. They are so easy to teach, and seem to possess peculiar characteristics which really attract and charm the child heart. The children must also sing them at home and in the streets, for older children come to me, asking if I would teach the songs to them. So we have started a ' Guild of Folk Games,' and about forty children regularly come, they work hard, and are eager and ready. Many of the teachers here use the games, and the teachers of the senior classes are going to adopt the folk-songs instead of the ordinary school songs. I believe that very soon the games and songs will form part of the curriculum of the school. Once again, thank you for the enchantment and insight gained through studying the 'Esperanc* Morris Book.'"
By Holbrook Jackson. But we in England have also a dance movement of our own ably led by Miss Mary Neal and her Esperance Clubs and Guild of Morris Dancers, whose work goes on merrily at Crosby Hall and at 50 Cumberland Market. Miss Mary Neal is not absorbed in stage or theatrical dancing; what she wants is not a few incomparable show-dancers, but a nation of dancers. Miss Neal wants Merrie England. The English folk-dance movement is allied to the decorative arts; it is applied art, like the art of mural painting. The Ballet is art divorced from the common life, like a frame picture or a concert song. But even the folk-dance as revived to-day is a little foreign to our lives. It is of a necessity archaic, and that is both its strength and its weakness. Dancing in England has fallen upon evil days ; it has become a convention, and, therefore, lost spontaneity and the power of vital expression. By going back to the ancient folk-dances for inspiration, Miss Neal certainly allies her movement with an essential national tradition which at one time was able to
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