Monday, September 12, 2011

Realities of performance art

This spectacular photograph taken by Bill Pusztai captures so much of the time between dances, and from my perspective many aspects of Bowen Island Blacksheep Morris. I'll take you through the photo, left to right, and describe what I see from my perspective as a dancer, performer and friend to many in the picture. My thoughts may not be correct for others, but these are my perceptions.
  • Banjo Jim (far left, holding the banjo) - his smile comes from a deep satisfaction. Davie Days is becoming one of our favorite venues to perform, it is one of the places where the audience is as colorful as our dance kits. Jim loves to perform live and the positive energy from the audience is reflected in Jim's smile. This is one of the main reasons we perform, the joy of entertainment, the deep satisfaction which comes from performance art, sharing oneself with your smaller and larger community and the amazing friendships and camaraderie.
  • Gerald - I suspect Gerald is checking his hand for blisters. He always gives 200% during these performances and is most often to perform while injured. Which happens often when performing with sticks bashed by fellows at least 6 foot tall and over 200 lbs. Yes folks, Morris dancing takes some work. We practice (almost) weekly, we work on new dances most of the time and come up with (or learn) a new dance twice a year.
  • Squire Bob - Melodian player extraordinaire. Bob is always playing to the crowd, so no surprise his back is to the photographer as he is turned toward the audience. He provides the musical heart and fills the role of our Squire like no other. Without Bob there would be no Blacksheep Morris. Bob also incarnates the tradition of Morris... he has been performing Morris for more than 35 years and there is no corner of this tradition he is not familiar.
  • Peter - dancer, musician and fool... and master of none! (well, maybe the fool). Morris is as much about the music as it is the dance. And in either capacity I believe we all feel we could improve. The unique part of Morris dance is the relationship between the dance and the music and which takes the lead. For without one, you could not have the other... which one sets the tempo? which captures the most attention? From afar it is the music, it draws you in. Once engaged the visuals, and rhythm, of the dance take over. In the end, the music has to lead. This can be difficult when the dancers also use percussion instruments.
  • Graham - dancer, founder and drill sergeant. Without Graham we would likely have no discipline. The Blacksheep are about as disorganized as you can get when it comes to pulling off any kind of performance. Graham keeps us focused during our practices and works really hard at this in the hopes to bring some rigor to our performances... but, then of course it is very very hard to herd sheep. And Graham is no sheep dog.
  • Brian (far right, holding the drum)- mainland sheep, occasional sheep, wise sheep. I am always very excited when Brian joins us in either practice or performance. In fact, if any of the off island sheep show up I am excited. The sheep welcome all who choose to join and participate (regardless of gender, we are a mixed side). And many of those from off island bring a knowledge of music, morris and dance that makes us stronger.
  • All other sheep (not shown and too many to list here. You know who you are!) - if Squire Bob is the Heart of the Blacksheep then the whole herd is the Soul. It's amazingly eclectic mix of individuals, and those words were carefully chosen. We like that we have no theme within our outfits, many border morris sides have a chosen colour scheme, we have none. Individual freedom to create is desired. Eclectic mix, just get to know us. You may be surprised that such a diversity of backgrounds can so deeply enjoy each others company. 

So there you have it. What is it that happens between performances. Even though Morris dancing takes some work we do it for the deep satisfaction, camaraderie, love, friendship and connection to community. The music fills our hearts and grounds us into the tradition of Morris dancing. This perfomance art is as much about the music as it is the dance; amazingly, this eclectic mix of individuals finds the balance between discipline and disorganization to actually perform. We pride ourselves on being a mixed side where the Soul of our performances lies within every member of the side.

Thank-you Sheep... for the love and friendship, you all deepen and enrich my life!