Tag Archives: english dance music

Singing and Dancing and Other Fun Stuff on May Day in China

photo courtesy Jeremy Carter-Gordon

photo courtesy Jeremy Carter-Gordon

As requested, three intrepid Morris dancers checking in from Shanghai, China where we have been having an interesting May Day celebration, both in the dancing sense and in the communist regime sense.

Our May Day celebrations began last night when we decided to do a bit of busking in the busy commercial district by the river overlooking the China Pearl (that crazy tower that sort of looks like the Seattle space needle). Jeremy was playing banjo, Tasha was singing, and Libby was fooling, dancing and being our caller on (in Chinese, no less!) We were only a few seconds into our first song when a crowd started gathering, taking pictures of us and with us and generally gawking at the strange instrument and crazy laowai who were performing traditional songs in English  We had a little tin mug that we had purchased earlier that day for too much in a Chinese market. However much we had overpaid for the mug, it was returned to us in spades as the money started flying in. People gave us money to take pictures with us and in between songs Libby got her introduction to public speaking in Chinese  There was some stretching of the exact meaning of some aspects as the movie “O brother where art thou” became “Where are you little brother??” Nevertheless, “I’ll fly away” was a crowd favorite. Libby grabbed some people from the crowd and flung them into a dance. After about 15 minutes we had made an astonishing 150 yuan and lots of new friends.

It was at that point when the Chinese police officer stormed into the center of the ring of people, blowing his whistle and talking on his radio. Jeremy and Tasha kept playing while Libby–the fool, cultural interpreter, and crowd control–went to find out what was going on. He actually refused to speak to us, in English or in Chinese, but Libby heard him say “There are foreigners here and they have a lot of money!” over the radio. We saw the reinforcements on their way. It was time to make a hasty exit. We grabbed our stuff, and started walking quickly off. The police officer followed. As we left, Libby started talking to an old man who told us that apparently it is illegal to sing in public in china if you are not singing the glories of the Chinese nation! Probably the money didn’t help.

We decided we really would rather not spend our holiday in a Chinese prison cell and made our best effort to disappear into the crowd. Unfortunately at 6’3″ (1.9 m) Jeremy towered above the population. We zigged, we zagged, we backtracked and after about 10 minutes lost our police trail. We hastily ducked into a subway station and made our escape. As we passed one CCTV after another, we realized that our faces are probably on some file somewhere in Beijing. If we don’t check in next May Day, come looking for us.

Now we are off to a park, washcloths and Qing dynasty temple bells in hand, to dance in the May. With any luck, we will get the old Chinese folks doing tai chi in the park to join us in a May pole and Sellinger’s Round.

Yours from China,

Jeremy Carter-Gordon (Pinewoods Morris Men, Newcastle Kingsmen)
Libby Chamberlin (Muddy River Morris, Maple Morris)
Tasha Carter-Gordon (Itinerant)

Our newest publication: 21 Easy English Country Dances

Our newest booklet is 21 Easy English Country Dances: Dances Selected from The Playford Ball with Music Selected from CDSS Archival Recordings.

There are two people who were especially important to the production of this booklet: Gary and Rowena Roodman.

Rowena is the CDSS Sales Assistant; as part of her job, she helps people find the right CD or book for their needs. Until now all she has had to offer people who are either beginning teachers, dancers or both, has been the cassette Juice of Barley: Simple English Country Dances (CDS9)–outmoded technology–and The Playford Ball (CDSS, 1994)–wonderful resource but daunting to the beginner.  Rowena remembers meeting an enthusiastic elementary school teacher at a CDSS week at Pinewoods Camp, who really wanted to teach English dance to her students — she needed music and she needed an introductory book of accessible dances. Rowena has also taken many calls at the office from folks who have seen the beautiful dancing in one of the recent “Jane Austen” films and want to be either Gwyneth Paltrow or Colin Firth (useful as it is, I really can’t say this booklet is going to help with that…).

Gary and Rowena at Pinewoods

Gary Roodman, Rowena’s husband and a well-known choreographer of English country dances, is a good friend to CDSS. Gary’s first encounter with English dance was at Pinewoods Camp. He and his family were vacationing on Cape Cod and had the opportunity to take part in CDSS Family Week. Gary told me about his first evening at camp: he was walking towards the main dance pavilion, C Sharp, and heard this sound! Gary remembers  standing on a bench and looking down on the dancers, moving gracefully on the floor. He felt he was seeing a vision of his future. Gary said, “Every time I hear the music on the CDSS recordings, I am reliving that experience; and all my early dancing is connected to this music.” When the CDSS recordings  started to come out in the late 1970s, it was the first opportunity to take that sound home.

Gary’s mission in helping with this booklet has been to preserve the music on the CDSS recordings (CDS 1-9). Gary took all the cuts from CDS 6-9 plus selected cuts from CDS 1 and Country Capers (Arabesque Records; Marshall Barron, guest artist) and created WAV files, for archival and re-publication purposes. Selections from this new archive are on the CD which accompanies the new booklet.

I’m happy to say that the new booklet has Rowena’s and Gary’s stamp of approval: it is easy to use, it is beautifully executed, and Rowena says it is all you need for your first two years of teaching and dancing. If you are able to do the 21 dances in the booklet, then you can move on to our next planned publication: Classic English Country Dances, with music on CD culled from CDSS recordings.

— Pat

Read the full description of 21 Easy English Country Dances and get one for yourself at the CDSS store.