The Foreman at the time was Ian Stewart. Ian was an excellent teacher with a great love of the Morris. We used to go on the NTMC coach trip to Oxford every Whit Monday and watch the Bampton dancers in their natural habitat, then on to Headington in the evening to see Headington dance. Ian studied these traditional sides intently and taught us all what he had learnt.
I was just starting my forty years with IBM and they kept sending me away so that I missed the Morris practices. By now I was so hooked that when I was in London, on seven-week training courses, I practised with Herga and, occasionally, with Hammersmith, then danced out with them both on their Belgian tour in 1972 (or was it 1973?).
You can see the Dolphin Morris Men dancing in those early days on YouTube (sorry, no sound on these videos).
In the mid 1970s IBM had me working in Birmingham, so I took the opportunity to go and practice with Green Man's Morris. Here I learnt the wonders of Lichfield! I was so inspired that I wanted to teach Dolphin what I had learnt. Dolphin has the concept of the "Tradition Foreman"; while the Foreman retains overall control, he delegates the teaching of a particular tradition to whoever wants to teach it. This works really well as it gives the dancers variety in the teachers, and gives the individual Tradition Foremen the incentive to study and develop a set of dances, thus improving both their dancing and teaching skills. I became Tradition Foreman for Lichfield and started teaching dance for the first time.
The three-beat Ilmington slows can be a challenge to fit to eight-bar tunes, but if you add a leapfrog at the end then it becomes a four-beat move and works with the music.
We practiced the dance a couple of times. Then, one Thursday evening, a visiting, experienced Morris dancer joined us for a practice. I called for a set for The Frog Dance and he joined in. I explained that we were just going to run though it quickly for those who knew it. He said that he had danced it before and it would all come back to him once we got started. We danced it with him in the set and afterwards he said, "Yes, I remember that dance." Interesting, since, at that time, it had never been danced outside our practice hall! I was delighted that I had written a dance that blended so well into the tradition that an experienced dancer believed that it was a traditional dance.
Partner Forehand, Right Diagonal Backhand, Left Diagonal Forehand, Partner Backhand - repeat in reverse:
Partner Backhand, Left Diagonal Forehand, Right Diagonal Backhand, Partner Forehand
The four clashes on the Capers are done at every opportunity, including in the Once To Yourself, facing down half way through the Foot Up & Down, at the end of the Half Heys, half way through the Rounds (remaking the set so that you can do it), and facing up at the end of the dance.
For reasons I don't remember, my notes say to use a modified version of the Bucknell Old Black Joe tune:
I taught various traditions to EKMM and in 2013 I became Foreman after the previous Foreman retired. In 2015 I was looking through my old Adderbury notes for some more hankie dances and found The Lollipop Man and The Bell. We added these to our repertoire. Later, when we had more dancers I re-choreographed The Bell for eight dancers. In 2017, at Tenterden Folk Festival, I saw Long Man Morris Men dancing The Redoubt and like the idea. I used the concept to create Stuck in the Middle in the Adderbury style.
Since the dance was to be named Chilham Square, my first thought was to do a Morris dance in a Square Dance formation. I have long been fascinated by the similarities between some of the 1650 dances and Morris dances. Many of the dances published by John Playford in his early books had three figures:
Another common figure was Hands Four, which means Circle Left, Circle Right.
A typical Morris Dance might have the figures:
Foot Up Twice
Into Line (Half Gyp)
These are exactly the same as the common Playford figures!
Add in a chorus with a few Heys and you have a dance that could have been either a Morris Dance or a Playford Country Dance, see Morrford for an example.
When it comes to the 17th century stepping there is a lot of uncertainty, but Anne Daye, of the Historical Dance Society, has done a lot of research into the subject. Two of the stepping sequences that she teaches for these figures are, basically, using Morris terminology:
Double (Courante): (hop on anacrusis) Single Step, Single Step, Double Step - for compound duple meter
Hopped Double: (hop on anacrusis) Single Step, Single Step, Spring and Feet Together - for duple meter
The style, using bent knees and pointy feet, would have been very different, but the similarity to Morris stepping is very apparent.
Anyway, the whole point of that digression was to justify using the old Playford concepts in a Morris Dance. The vast majority of Cotswold dances are Three Couples, Longways. But why not do a Square formation? The dance is about a square! There were numerous Square Dances in the 17th century books; Playford even called them "Square Dances".
We had some spare time at the campsite so we started playing with some ideas. I choose simple Single Steps and Feet-Together-Jumps to keep that aspect of the dance simple, since we were going to be playing around with some complex figures.
First Figure - Heading Up:
But since we have a symmetrical set we can do it in all four directions, instead of just the two directions that Lichfield uses.
Second Figure - Grand Square:
An archetypal Square Dance figure which goes back to at least the first half of the 17th century, before Playford:
Old Hunsdon House (1648)!
Here is lots more about Grand Squares.
Third Figure - Devil's Elbow:
To contrast with the angular shapes of the Grand Square, I wanted a flowing, serpentine figure. We tried some Devilís Elbows with lots of interspersed Stars. A lovely figure used in many country dance genres, including Modern Western Square Dance where it is part of Spin Chain & Exchange the Gears!
We hadnít got any ideas about music yet. I asked Peter Stamp to play something on his whistle and he came out with Princess Royal. We did a bit of stick-banging and stick-throwing, then a big Clover Leaf since we had so much music in the B part.
That was about as far as we got that evening, I think. I got home and documented what we had created so far, then started writing down more ideas for further figures. We had a couple of practice sessions in August 2019 and started working on it.
I decided to call our new tradition Cantia; that was the name of East Kent the last time it was a kingdom in its own right - yes, quite a long time ago - around about the fifth century!
For music, Frances Hopkins suggested "The Maid and the Palmer or From Night 'til Morn". This only has an eight-bar B music, so I shortened the chorus.
Fourth Figure - Doubling Up:
I always liked the Lichfield Doubling Up, but we didn't do any Lichfield dances that use it... yet.... All our figures were double-length figures, so it would work well as the second half of a figure, but how would be get into the correct formation? I tried having everyone dance into the middle with one big eight-stick, circular strike, then back out into the correct places for the Doubling Up. It almost worked, but some of the side didnít like it. That was the version in the first printed draft in October 2019.
By the second printed draft, in December 2019, I had changed it to a Whole Gyp, during which the Sides went wide to end up behind the nearest Head person. That worked well, with a Left-Shoulder Whole Gyp back to place at the end of it.
Fifth Figure - Lock Chain Swing:
I though about a Grand Chain, but decided instead to try a variant: the Lock Chain Swing. In the Playford Square Dance Newcastle, the third figure starts, "Arms all with your we. and change places. Arms with the next and change places." (The instructions are directed to the men and "we." means women.) Although this is normally interpreted in completely different ways, to me this looks very much like: Arm Right once-and-a-half, with the next person Arm Left once-and-a-half. This sequence also exists in Appalachian Big Set (Kentucky Running Set) where it is known as a Lock Chain Swing. With forearm holds and sticks held wide, this looked great.
We had a dance and it was coming together nicely! We practiced all through the winter and were looking forward to dancing Chilham Square out in May 2020. Then, on March 26th 2020: COVID Lockdown!
In the autumn of 2021 we had lots of new recruits, so I needed to focus on teaching our basic repertoire; Cantia went on the back-burner. Once the recruits had made enough progress, we started bring the Cantia dances back into the practice sessions at the beginning of 2022. It was finally starting to look good!
On Saturday May 21st were at Offcumduns Day of Dance in Deal; at one point we found the pier entrance area empty so we had a go, as you can see in the video above.
June 1 2022: Three years later we finally danced Chilham Square in Chilham Square!
The figures are all based on the Chilham Square figures:
Heading Up in each direction
Squares - a Grand Square for one person
Clover Leaf - swirly like the Chilham Square chorus or the Devil's Elbow
The choruses are based on the Pluckley Square choruses. I tried to persuade everyone that we should start Pluckley Square with short sticks and then all throw them away when we got to the Sidestep chorus, but I got out-voted!
I was looking for a good tune and found "Two for Joy" written by Barry Parkes and played here by Mike Aylen. So the jig ended up being called "Two for Joy".
This spawned a whole series of dances. Solo country dances were popular during the pandemic, so that people could dance them on Zoom. This is me dancing "Solo Shapes", basically the same dance, but done in a country dance style:
And this is Karen and me dancing "Duo Shapes" - basically the same dance, but for two people: