|Last Wednesday 2000pm: Every Girl's Nightmare|
second most traumatic moment of the week was emerging from An Hostelry in the
neighbouring Cotswold village to witness ten grown men waving sticks festooned
with bells and ribbons. Of all the faux inventions of the Edwardian English
Folklorists, Morris Dancing is the most
|Bharatantyam Dancers of South India|
If you are going to ‘reconstruct’ (i.e. fantasise) the rural
entertainments of your national ancestors, then you have an opportunity to
imagine them as sexy (Flamenco, Tango), combative (Georgian sword dance),
dazzlingly expressive and numinous (all seven classical dances of India), or ecstatic
and acrobatic (the Muchongoyo dance of Zimbabwe).
no. Morris dancing as invented circa 1903 involves skipping, silly hats, waving
hankies and half-hearted homoerotic gesturing with pathetic ithyphallic rhythm sticks.
The periphery of Wednesday’s performance featured just two embarrassed wives
dressed like extras from The Tudors,
but with absolutely nothing to do. They eyed my pint of Hook Norton enviously.
|David Getting On Down before Ark of the Covenant|
folklorists faced a problem. Western tradition held that men who danced for
aesthetic reasons, rather than to foster health or war-camaraderie, impugned their masculinity. The sole Judaeo/Greek/Roman exception is David, who danced
before the Ark of the Covenant. But since the text (Samuel II) tells us that he
was rebuked by his wife Michal for cavorting near-naked, even David’s heroic male dance has
proved controversial. Early Christians who objected to all dancing suggested
that his must have been a drill-like war dance and nothing to do with ‘lascivia’.
|Socrates at Dance Class (by Daumier)|
danced, but we are reassured by Xenophon that it was chaste and improved his
fitness. In the Iliad Priam rebuked
the sons he thought were not pulling their manly weight on the battlefield for being ‘heroes
only of the dance-floor’. Condemnation
of pleasure-oriented male dancing has always been supported by quoting Cicero’s
dictum that ‘hardly any man dances sober, unless he happens to be mad' (Pro
great male dancers of the twentieth century—Nijinsky, Astaire, Kelly, Jackson,
Nureyev, Brown—did much to correct the damage caused by the ancient male
dance artist missing from our cultural repertoire. Yet even some of them had to
grin through PR campaigns insisting that they were heterosexual as if dancing was alone enough to imply they weren’t.
|Romantic lead man can dance in a lumberjack shirt in industrial setting|
the third millennium, it has still been felt necessary to make the outstanding
dancer Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) in the High School Musical movies also a
star athlete (basket-ball player), with a particular penchant for noisy break-dancing in
masculine settings like used car dumps. Efron’s packaging as icon of the strongman dancer just proves
the sadly limiting ancient rule. But I would still rather watch him any day than the beribboned
Morris Men of Moreton-in-Marsh. I had to have another pint.