Tag Archives: English Dance

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)