Dawn on May 1st at Painswick Beacon in Gloucestershire; the sun is still a shine of gold through the cloud. A few coated locals gathered to watch the May 1 show. A Labrador on a leash watches a curious looking beast.
“Tiiiiiis temps,” Alex Merry calls out as Shepherd’s Hey knocks on the melodeon squeeze box. With a whip and a snap of their bandana print handkerchiefs, Boss Morris jump in the air.
Someone once dared to call Boss Morris’ footwork âpolishedâ. âOne of the most shocking criticisms we’ve faced,â Rhia Davenport told me the night before during a rehearsal. âWe are anything but. Politeness sounds so … conservative.
Conservative, perhaps it’s the number of people who see Morris dancing; it conjures up images of old world villages and older men carrying bells and drinking real ale. Until the early 1990s, many groups disapproved of the very idea of ââMorris dancers – claiming the Morris dancing was a male fertility ritual – and stories abound of Morris men refusing to perform on the same stage as the women.
Things have changed. The bosses are not only entirely feminine and young, but are known for their amazingly striking costumes. Today, they wear flowery headdresses, painted faces, and slacks adorned with symbols of their hometown, Stroud. âWhen people first saw pictures of Boss, they thought they were going to spend all their time making costumes,â explains their melodeon player, Mark Rogers, a veteran of the Morris scene. ” What we do ! The women ring the bell.