Midwest Morris Ale 2000 Report

Friday, May 26, 2000 - Finally! We're on the road to Minneapolis once again (hasn't happened since the 1995 Midwest Morris Ale). Our intrepid travellers included myself (Colleen), Jeannie (co-squire, supplier of vehicle and driver for today *grin*), Virginia (our musician) and Jean.

We had no trouble crossing the border and soon were driving through North Dakota. After a picnic lunch in Fargo, ND. we continued on our way. Unfortunately, it was my turn to drive just as we came upon the ever dreaded road construction. I guess Minnesota has the same two seasons as Manitoba. (*sigh* Winter and Construction.) I barely lasted three hours without becoming completely hypnotized by those orange safety post thingies dividing the highway traffic. Ack!!

At around St. Cloud I let Virginia take over as she knew the area somewhat better than I did. As we approached Minneapolis we turned and headed north of the city to Camp Ojekita, where we would be staying for the weekend.

We found the place with no trouble at all. Coincidentally, the first person we saw was Judy, our former squire! Hugs and news were exchanged and we were introduced to the rest of Squash Beetle Morris, which included Judy's husband (and WMM alumnus) Andy.

Registration was over quickly and we soon settled into our cabin (appropriately titled Sugar Maple). They were sparse but had electric lights and bunk beds and even closet space! A fifth person, Anna Smith from Bells of the North, stayed with us. It was a pleasure to be able to talk to a fellow Morris woman!

After supper the massed dance practice was held in the main dining hall. Much laughter and silliness ensued as people frantically tried to learn dances from traditions they were not familiar with. Fortunately I had danced every one of the dances at one Ale or another so it was more of a question of trying to remember how they went. Our first injury was a result of carelessness on my part: I clunked Jeannie on the head during South Australia. Luckily it was not serious, though I suspect I will not live this one down for a while. [Colleen slinks into a corner and puts a paper bag over her head.]

At about midnight we decided we had had enough. I went for a shower and we all retired for the night.

Saturday, May 27, 2000 - I really, really hate getting up at 7am on a Saturday....Since the squire's meeting was at 8am and the first Massed Dance was to be held at 8:30am in a nearby field, there really was no other option.

The massed Dance was the first opprtunity for each team to do a show dance to, well, show off. Interspersed between show dances were the Massed Dances where dances were called "for as many who will". Ah, just imagine: morris dancing with 150 of your closest friends. Jeannie was having trouble with her ankle so she went back to ice it. As we had a show dance scheduled for sometime after five this was a little disconcerting. I was stiff but still in danceable condition (so far).

The dancers went back to the dining hall to pick up their lunches and headed for the school buses which would carry us on our respective dance tours. We were travelling with Minnesota Traditional Morris and Commonwealth Morris from Boston, Mass. We were also joined by members of Northern Lights, a children's Morris group based in the Minneapolis area, who were travelling with their parents who happened to be in MTM.

Northern Lights performs at the Library with Derek of MTM.

In typical Morris Ale tradition it started to rain shortly before we left, so that by the time we reached Minneapolis dancing outside was no longer an option. at least not without shelter. To further complicate things, three of the scheduled rain locations had cancelled earlier that week so finding places to dance was an exercise in ingenuity. It also meant that my Minneapolis friends had no luck at all finding us! Oh well....

We ended up doing our first set in front of the Minneapolis Public Library. Crowds were small to non-existent thanks to the rain. Undaunted, we set up and danced several dances in front of the library. Jeannie's ankle was still bothering her so we were very limited as to what we could do. WMM was down to two dancers so we frantically started polling the others, asking them what dances they knew that we also were familiar with. One of the guys from MTM knew the Ockington stick dance and was willing to do our version. We walked it briefly and then performed it, with Jeannie walking through it gingerly. It still worked out well. As the tour progressed we managed to sneak into several other sets of dances and seemed to acquit ourselves well.

Our tour continued with a brief dance out under the Washington Street Bridge and another on a covered pedestrian walkway over the Mississippi River. Again there were no crowds, but we really didn't care. We all were having too much fun!

Members of Commonwealth Morris (in white) and WMM (in black and red) perform The Bedmaking.

After a brief pub stop at Gluek's we met the other tours at the Tapestry Dance Center where the second massed dance of the day was held. We were second on the list after Ramsay's Braggarts. Jeannie said that her ankle was strong enough to dance on so we walked on and did the jig Princess Royal (Bledington) for two. Success! No major flubs and no turned ankles! Much relieved, we relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the show dances and joined in the massed dances.

The ride home on the bus was much quieter as the early morning was catching up to all of us. It was only when we arrived at the camp for supper did we realise how late it was: 7pm! We quickly ate supper and then cleaned ourselves up for the contra dance that evening.

I was a little nervous because I had never been to a contra dance before, and wasn't sure if I would catch on at all. Anna was gracious enough to be my partner for the first dance, and with her help I muddled along as best as I could. One thing I learned was that I am definitely not in good enough shape to dance contra for a whole evening! Sheesh, at least Morris dances end after two and a half minutes.

I only lasted two contra dances. By the end of the second one I had developed a nasty blood blister on the bottom of one foot, so I immmediately stopped dancing and gave my regrets to the others. Instead, I went over to the cabin which was hosting the singing and stayed there until 2am. The fact that I hardly knew any of the songs didn't stop me. Most had chorusses that anyone could join in on. I even got up my nerve to do one song (Lament of the Irish Immigrant) which was gratifyingly well received.

Finally I hobbled to bed (last of all) just as the rain was stopping. Figures....

Sunday, May 28, 2000 - The next morning we attended various workshops. Jeannie went to the Molly Dance workshop, while I attended the Uptown-on-Calhoun workshop hosted by Tom Baxter and various members of the Uptown-on-Calhoun side. Jean and Virginia went to the Dunstew workshop.

Despite the poor attendance I had a lot of fun and was amazed by the fact that this was a new tradition constantly being added to and refined. I felt a bit of a slacker for not having created even one Winnipeg-at-the-Forks dance! Maybe next year....

With much angst and disappointment we finished our packing immediately after the workshops and, saying our rather inadequite good-byes, walked to the van and started our long trip back home. Thankfully the construction on the highway was gone so I didn't have to spend any time being mesmerized by orange construction cones.

Well, another year, another Ale. A wonderful time was had by all, even despite the rain and the early departure. Next year the Midwest Morris Ale will once again be in Minneapolis so we'll definitely be going back! And THIS time I'm going to try to stay for skit night!

Second Massed Dance on Saturday afternoon at the Tapestry Dance Centre.