Monday, 11 June 2012
Gog Magog Molly Dances Forth
Who are this strange bunch of people making their way beneath last week's Jubilee bunting towards St Neots Market Square to join the Morris dancing teams that I showed you in yesterday's post.......?
GOG MAGOG MOLLY DANCERS......that's who!
Prancing and dancing....jumping and stomping....leaping and laughing...and generally having a good time...
....a more colourful spectacle is hard to imagine. "Like an explosion in a tie-dye factory!" and with their own eccentric band of musicians too...
The tunes sound traditional but surely that dancing can not be anything to do with the gentle English countryside....
Think again. When Morris dancing first became known to folklorists and musical historians at the beginning of the twentieth century - somehow it had been going on under their cultured noses for centuries without being noticed - they also mentioned other traditions such as Border Morris and Molly Dancing.
However it appeared wild and primitive to their rather refined taste and they dismissed it as "a rather degenerate and worthless form of dancing". All the attention centred on the Cotswold Morris.
A few people remembered the old Molly dancers. Men, outlandishly dressed and with blacked-up faces, went from house to house on Plough Monday in early January, begging for money and, if none was given, ploughing up the land in front of the house.
Remnants of the tradition survived in the Fens and in villages near Cambridge and dances were collected from old men who remembered the steps and patterns.
The style of dancing is energetic and almost violent with raised knees, clenched fists and heavy stepping. The picture above gives some idea of the action involved. The Gog Magog Molly emphasise the stomping nature of the dances by wearing colourful workboots...
But surely those outfits they are wearing are not traditional...
Well, no, but the general idea was to appear outlandish and odd. Sides from different villages developed their own fashions and it seems appropriate the this side, composed of mainly young people, should dress in this way.
The dances, however, are genuine enough though because of the paucity of information they've been interpreted and added to out of necessity - and sheer enthusiasm! Some dances end like this....
....and with a loud shout! Everyone, both the general public and the dancers from elsewhere seemed to thoroughly enjoy the lively, extrovert performance. Catch them if you can. They're nice people!
Here's a link to a YouTube video where you can enjoy a fine performance from this year's Whitby Festival.