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The TradFolk Rachallenge: An Update

Tradfolk Rachel updates us on the progress of her Tradfolk Rachallenge: learning to dance a Morris jig in a single month, to perform at Ely Cathedral on May Morning.

We are one third of the way through the first TradFolk Rachallenge. It must be time for a quick update. Here’s the headline:

My legs are tired

Not just my legs, either. I’ve discovered muscles in the region above my legs and below my back that I didn’t know about before last week. However, I think it’s safe to say that progress has been made. Others have verified this – I promise it’s not just me leaping around on my own thinking it looks marvellous. (That too, of course.)

Work began in earnest in my living room on April 1st with a Youtube tutorial (linked here so you can have a go, too). In the process of attempting just the first section of the dance, which lasted for about six seconds, I kicked the sofa, the chair and the coffee table, while my hankies scattered birthday cards across the room. Learning was swiftly relocated to outside…

Structured practice has been mostly garden-based, where there’s more space for weaving together a frankly baffling pattern of short choruses, long choruses, slows, hockle backs, shuffle backs, galleys and capers into a sequence that ends at the same time as the music. Elsewhere, I hope some Ely residents have been at least a little intrigued by the person in the bright yellow coat who has been one-two-three-hopping along the river path with her arms intermittently waving in the air. As you can imagine, I cut quite the figure.

The best bits so far

I was persuaded into a couple of quick run-throughs at Morris practice on Thursday. Let’s be honest, it was mostly them dancing and me fitting in the bits I could remember. Thanks to Bryan, who very patiently explained that the Beetle Crusher slows are like Donkey Kong jumping over the barrels, I left feeling like I might actually be able to do this!

My favourite thing, though, was the first practice with my May Day musician, Chris, who has been nothing but encouraging in the face of my inexperience. He’s already got us from the beginning of the dance to the end with only a few moments of random hopping-and-arm-flailing (mine, not his!) I’m super grateful that he’s volunteered to attempt to follow my uncoordinated leaping but I’ve bought some snazzy new shoes for him to watch on May morning, just in case. You can’t say I’m not a team player.

Tradfolk Rachel is learning to dance a Morris jig in one month flat. Going from beginner to performer at lightning speed, she’ll be dancing outside Ely Cathedral on May Morning. For more info, head to our Morris dancing directory. You can also keep up with her progress on her Instagram page, or by reading her updates here.