Fools, squires, and bagmen

first_imgMiranda Kaufmann discovers that there is more to Morris Dancing in Oxford than just old bearded gentlemen with bells onInstantly recognisable by their white outfits and strange accoutrements, all Morris dancing groups have their own identifying quirks.“The Ancient Men” is a fairly appropriate moniker for the Oxford University Morris Men, reflecting the average age of participants. Some dancers are female, easily spotted by their lack of beards. Purple waistcoats and breeches are exclusive to the Maids of the Ducklington Morris.In the unlikely event you spy a group of beardless Morris men, they may be the 18-30 group on a dancing weekend. If accompanied by a hobby-horse, they may be linked to Banbury (of nursery rhyme fame). You may also see props such as lobsters or sheeps’ skulls on sticks. No group is complete without a Fool. The leaders of the Morris dancers have suitably antique names, such as Squire and Bagman.The Morris is an ancient tradition, possibly of “Moorish” origin. Dancers used to perform in black makeup. While we might find this politically incorrect, our Puritan forebears were more worried by the sacrilegeous implications: “They strike up the Devil’s dance withall: then martch this heathen company towards the church and churchyards, their pypers pyping, the drummers thundering, their stumpes dancing, their belles jyngling, their handkercheefes fluttering about their heads like madde men.” (Philip Stubbes ‘Anatomie of Abuses’ 1583) This was the sort of dancing that Cromwell did away with.Morris dancing was revived in the early 20th Century by the Tabs. Yes, it was our cousins in the Fens who are responsible for all this mirth. Joseph Needham, Squire of the Cambridge Morris, initiated the formation of the Morris Ring, the national federation of Morris dancers, in 1934. The commitment of these early enthusiasts is unquestionable. Walter Abson fell asleep in an initial meeting and awoke to find himself appointed Bagman. The onerous bag-dragging duties were presumably unlikely to be accepted while conscious.On the weekend of 21-22 May, you could go along to Kidlington Lamb Ale, a revival of an age-old village festival. Here, in 1679, the custom was: “On Monday after Whitsun week there is a fat live lamb provided, and the maids of the town, having their thumbs tied behind them, run after it attended with music and a Morisco dance of men, where the rest of the day is spent in dancing, mirth and merry glee.” The glee was no doubt enhanced by copious consumption of Real Ale, still the Morris dancers’ favourite tipple. This year’s event will conclude with a barn dance.If this sounds rather too lively, Morris dancers can be observed communing with nature at the annual Ducklington Fritillary. Here, the dancers adorn their sleeves with purple and yellow ribbons, the colours of a rare local flower, the snake’s head fritillary. If you can’t make it to Ducklington, the flower can also be found in the grounds of Madgalen College.If, inspired by these traditions, you are keen to try Morris dancing for yourself, you could join one of twenty different groups found in Oxford and its environs. The Oxford University Morris Men practise weekly, as do the Rogue Morris, a women’s group.ARCHIVE: 0th week TT 2005last_img read more

Trojans’ woes continue in loss to Gauchos

first_imgThe USC men’s volleyball team might be out of the playoff picture, but it certainly is not backing down as the season comes to a close.Down and out · 2013 has been a disastrous season for the USC men’s volleyball team, as Wednesday’s loss to UC Santa Barbara brings the team’s record to 6-16, a far cry from 2012’s national runner-up campaign. – Ralf Cheung | Daily TrojanThe young players were hungry for a taste of the postseason experience as they headed out on the road for their final two games, both against playoff-bound teams. Their first stop was in Santa Barbara on Wednesday, where they took on No. 7 UCSB.But despite their enthusiasm, the Trojans (6-17) were defeated by a more experienced squad by a score of 25-23, 25-19, 21-25, 25-17.The Gauchos (15-14, 11-12 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) recently clinched a spot in the MPSF playoffs, but a recent stretch of losses had them clamoring for momentum as they entered Wednesday’s match against USC. Despite being one of the top defensive teams in the nation, UCSB had dropped consecutive matches to BYU and Cal Baptist, but the team was able to regain its stride against USC.The Trojans had a number of opportunities to take control of Wednesday’s match early on, but they tapered off near the end of the first two sets. Both teams hit poorly at the start of the match, but six crucial aces from the Gauchos gave them the advantage they needed in sets one and two.“Our hitting percentage wasn’t very good but we were making stops and we held them to a pretty low percentage as well,” USC head coach Bill Ferguson said. “Defensively, we did a nice job, but we made too many service errors and just dug ourselves too big of a hole.”Though the Trojans were able to contain the Gaucho’s best player, Dylan Davis, they had a difficult time overcoming the duo of outside hitter Austin Kingi and middle blocker Evan Licht. The two combined for seven aces and 18 digs and gave UCSB a significant advantage in the match.“Their team usually goes as Dylan Davis goes,” Ferguson said. “And we held Davis to .200 [hitting percentage], which is great, but we couldn’t stop their other outside hitters.”But the USC squad showed some signs of life in third set. Despite falling behind early, the Trojans surged, riding a wave of strong hitting to an 11-5 run and a sizable lead. The Gauchos put up a strong fight and evened the score four times, but the Trojans pulled through and were able to take the set.It looked as though the Trojans success would continue into the fourth set when they jumped out to an early lead, but this time the Gauchos responded. The combination of strong serving by UCSB and atrocious hitting from USC gave the Gauchos all they needed to win the set and the match.“In the third set, we did a great job of bouncing back,” Ferguson said. “It was the best execution I saw throughout the match, but in the fourth we just fell behind and made too many attack errors.”Once again, the Trojans were victims of their own poor night at the net. They hit a dismal .135 and were overpowered by the Gauchos strong defense. Though the Trojans were able to keep pace on digs, they were out-blocked by ten and out-served by six aces. UCSB simply outplayed the Trojans en route to their 15th win of the season.Though the rest of the team appeared somber after another loss, Ferguson was happy to see some of his younger players step up to the challenge. Freshman middle blocker Josh Kirchner put forth an especially encouraging showing, along with some other Trojan youngsters.“Josh Kirchner had a fantastic night tonight, he hit great and he served really well,” Ferguson said. “[Robert] Feathers was okay, [Austin] Rysyk came in and sparked us pretty good off the bench and J.B. Green had some good digs for us. So I was happy with those performances.”The Trojans might not be headed to the playoffs, the younger players’ performances against the Gauchos provide some hope for the future. As one of the youngest teams in the NCAA, the USC men’s volleyball team seems to be poised for a few impressive seasons down the road.The Trojans close out the season tomorrow with a rivalry matchup against UCLA. The match will be played at the Bruins’ newly refurbished Pauley Pavilion starting at 7 p.m.last_img read more