The manner in which Medup dances have been developed has changed slightly over the past few years. In the early years of the development the foreman would usually introduce an idea to the team. It would often be a complete dance, such as “Nottingham Lil” or “Little Boney”, which would be presented as a whole to the club. Over the past four years, however, we have changed this style of development and the following two methods have emerged:
- Brainstorming; that is six to eight people trying out ideas on each other.
- One person introducing a particular central idea and everyone chipping in to transform that idea into a chorus for the dance.
The overriding principle of these two ways of developing Medup has been that the fine details have been hammered out by the whole club; no one member has claimed to have a dance step perfect when first presented to the team. However, this state of affairs can present the foreman with difficulties. He may have his own ideas, and yet he may find himself simply adjudicating over different views of how to perform a particular chorus.
Since the figures of our Medup style have been standardised at five – Cast, Angles, Three Top, Half-rounds and Circle – the creation of new dances takes place primarily in the chorus. While this may sound simple, it must be viewed in the light of the problems inherent in practice sessions, as well as the demands of the performance context. New members have to be trained in our three styles: Bampton, Upton, Medup. Also, we often have to concentrate our efforts preparing for big bookings, such as national folk festivals and trips abroad. We are therefore left with little time for actually developing Medup.
Besides the logistical requirement of time, we need several other conditions in order to create dances within the Medup style:
- A good tune. This has become increasingly prerequisite as we need to keep up the interest of our musicians as well as our musical standards.
- Dancers with ideas, experience, and patience.
- One or more committed and patient musicians to help us marry tunes to ideas.
As a club, we know when a movement seems contrived, but we also collectively know when something feels right. However, even when certain movements have been agreed upon, there are often differing interpretations and in the end the foreman must be the final arbiter. Dropping the Bledington dances halved our repertoire, but we have managed to gradually fill that void with Medup dances. We have Medup hankie dances, Medup stick dances, Medup leapfrog, and Medup corner dances. These have been added at the rate of about one per year-seven in all so far with one currently in the making.
The Medup tradition is not limited to dancing, however. It also extends into our music, as mentioned above in the adaptation of the tune “Lillibulero”, as well as into our involvement in mumming, the resurrection of the Green Man, and the creation of our eccentric Dancing Horse. Some activities have been peripheral, others more central, but all have helped to create the identity of Sheffield City Morris.
To return to the dancing, then, I see three ways forward:
- Resurrecting the dead Medup dances, ones which fell by the wayside during brainstorming. For example, set-change dances, the napping dance, and various eight man dances.
- Expansion of present repertoire, i.e. set figures with varying choruses.
- Jigs, double-jigs or other, unusual one-off dances.
Why do we go through all this hassle to produce a new dance tradition? Surely it would be easier to go back to the “Black Book” and root out some other tradition. But these traditions belong to others; Medup belongs to us. It is ours-the sole property of Sheffield City Morris Men. Once we have stated that principle and are committed to it, we have to develop the repertoire. Yet, in whatever manner we go forward, it will be decided by the club as a whole, observing, listening, experimenting, and above all, enjoying. If we didn’t enjoy it, we would have packed up years ago.
Figure 1. Upton Set-Change (Adapted from L. Bacon, p.303)
Figure 2. “Nottingham Lil”
|Figure 1. Upton Set-Change (Adapted from L. Bacon, p.303)|
|Figure 2. “Nottingham Lil”|
|Repertoire of Medup dances as of March 1988|
|Upton-on-Severn Stick Dance||Three Jolly Fishermen||S|
|Upton-on-Severn Handkerchief Dance||Oats and Beans and Barley||H|
|Nottingham Lil||Nottingham Ale/Lillibulero||H|
|Furze Field||Furze Field||S|
|Little Boney||Little Boney||H|
|Strike the Bell||Strike the Bell||S|
|Hazelwood||Don’t Stop the Cavalry||S|
|Joseph Baker*||Joseph Baker||H|
|[N.B. It should be noted that since the dances rarely fit the tune exactly, the above tunes are generally heavily adapted.]|
|Notes1. It may be of interest to explain why we call our style of dancing “Medup”. It comes from the Sheffield expression “medupbeeuzzsenz” meaning “made up by ourselves”.2. Lionel Bacon, A Handbook of Morns Dancing (The Morris Ring, 1974), pp.302-303.3. Tape-recorded interview with Bob Hazelwood, March 1988.4. Bacon, ibid., p.i.|