Ring of Cold Steel's
Winter Traditions Day of Dance

a day of Seasonal English Display Dance
Saturday, January 14, 2006,
San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf area

Come one, come all and join us in celebration of English Longsword, Molly, Border, and Northwest dances, some old, some new, all fun to watch and fun to do.

LATEST NEWS (January 2, 2006) - less than 2 weeks to go!

Bufflehead, RoCS, Stinging Nettles Emperor Norton's, Faultline, Mad Molly, Mayfield Sword
10:30a-11:30a The Cannery 10:30a-11:30a Victorian Park
12:00n-1:00p Pier39 (joint stand) 12:00n-1:00p Pier39 (joint stand)
1:15p-3:00p Lunch break 1:15p-3:00p Lunch break
3:15p-4:15p Victorian Park 3;15p-4:15p Ghiradelli Square
4:15p - We're done dancing, but some of us will be singing, drinking, and generally cavorting nearby.  Join us!



Bufflehead is a mixed-gender dance troupe performing traditional clog morris from the Northwest of England.   Their costumes are based on the style of Lancashire Morris teams, which were flamboyant and colorful.  Their shoes and dance implements come from the milling industry. The shoes, traditional Lancashire clogs, have wooden soles and leather uppers and were everyday footwear for the working class of the time. These clogs have iron or hard rubber "horseshoes" on the soles to add to the powerful sound of the dancing.   They twirl colorful slings or be-ribboned sticks, and provide an exciting visual display of precision stepping and dynamic teamwork. Bufflehead practice Monday nights in Belmont, CA.  For more information, see their website.

Emperor Norton's Fire Brigade and Hose Company #2 (Norton's Guard) is one of the oldest longsword teams in the Bay Area.  In addition to their English dance repertoire, they also perform other sword dances from the European continent.

Faultline Morris, based in Hayward (near the Hayward fault line - get it?) performs year-round with a mix of English Display Dance styles.  For this event, they will be showcasing dances taken from or inspired by the style of the Welsh Border.   They also perform dances in the Sherbourne tradition of the Cotswold region of England. 

Mad Molly, from Palo Alto, California, is a mixed team (men and women).  They wear a motley kit of brightly colored rag skirts, leggings, shirts, motley vests, and whatever hats seem right at the moment.  They paint their faces in a variety of striking shades.  If this doesn't scare you, wait'll you see their website.

Mayfield Morris and Sword is a women's Morris dancing team from Palo Alto, founded in 1985.  Mayfield's English Longsword team is comprised of 6 dancers who perform the stately, intricate patterns of this dance form with precision and grace.   Find out more at their website.

Ring of Cold Steel (RoCS), founded in 1998 or so, was created to perform Jocelyn Reynolds' re-working of the traditional longsword dance from the village of Ampleforth.  (This dance has its own mummer’s play, but Jocelyn gets stage fright when forced to say things in public, so they’ve never done it.  Also, it’s very long.)  Back in The Day, stealing people's dances and messing with them was the accepted modus operandi, and Jocelyn took full advantage of this fact, re-structuring the dance to make it more palatable to modern audiences.  Since then, ROCS has added and dropped a few dances from the repertoire.  Currently they are performing the Bampton Weavers Dance (resurrected by the Carlisle Morris Men from some very scanty notes which were allegedly found stuffed behind a brewer's vat somewhere) and Orion Longsword's interpretation of the dance from the village of Salton.  (Orion hails from Massachusetts and is an absolutely inspirational team.)  The collectors' notes on these dances are generally quite vague, so there’s lots of room for interpretation!

Stinging Nettle Longsword (the Nettles) is a San Francisco Bay Area longsword team.   They don't have a squire or other leader-type person; they make decisions by informal consensus, with different people taking leadership roles for different tasks and events (and no, they're not an anarcho-syndicalist collective!).  They are available for parties, rituals, weddings, bar mitzvahs, or any other event that just screams for dancing with longswords. And yes, they recruit!  In keeping with the great Bay Area tradition of being non-traditional, the Nettles enjoy putting their own spin on existing dances or creating entirely new dances of their own.  They dance at a wide range of events, including many that are outside of the traditional folk world.  (Very, very far outside in some cases).  "Read all about it" at their website.


More general misinformation of no importance whatsoever of the styles you'll see at this event.

Border dances were originally recorded from villages and towns in the Welsh border counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire, and Shropshire.  These were usually performed by gangs of men who would appear at the seasonals of Christmas-time or mid-summer, often in motley costume with assorted ribbons attached to their clothes, and equally often wearing clown suits or women's dresses.   Almost always they had blacked faces, and were accompanied by a musician and percussionists who might play drum, triangle, bones, or tambourine, while the dancers often added their own percussive stick clashing.  This dance assertive and lively dance style continues to evolve and develop (some say mutate) even today.

Longsword is a seasonal display dance form, performed in a linked ring, usually with from 5 to 8 dancers.  Musicians play squeeze boxes, pipes & tabors, fiddles, etc.  The implements that link the dancers are called swords, though they aren't sharp.  Any more.  Found all over Europe since A Long Time Ago, longsword was done in England primarily in the North East (Nowadays, it has spread all over the UK, and many North American teams have adopted it).  Each village’s dance was simply called by the village’s name.  The dances were most often performed around Christmas time, and often in conjunction with a mummer's play.  Longsword at its best is mesmerizing and fascinating - how DO they get the swords to do those things??

Molly is the most recently rediscovered tradition in the broad grouping of regional English seasonal performance dance forms that also includes morris and sword.  Springing from the country-dances of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent during the later years of Victoria's reign, it is also called East Anglian Morris.  The heyday of molly was the mid-1800s and when performed, it was done both in procession and in pubs in the current style of the times.  The team does a few old style dances, but also converts favorite Cotswold Morris dances to molly stepping, write new ones, and use tunes we heard in passing on NPR. They've also invented a molly stick-dance tradition borrowing mostly from Border Morris.  The stepping is bouncy with knees lifted high.

Northwest clog morris dances come from the industrial towns of Lancashire in the northwest of England.  These lively dances were performed in town carnivals and parades at the turn of the 19th century.  The tunes used to accompany our dancing included music hall or other popular melodies of the time.  Unlike other English traditional dance styles, Northwest Morris helps define its lively spirit with a large band.  Brass instruments, a strong drumbeat and the additional percussion of the dancers' clogs add to the loud, boisterous presentation.


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RoCS, an affiliate of the Bay Area Country Dance Society (BACDS), is proud to be hosting this event!

Last update January 03, 2006
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