Dave Stryker Send a Youth to England Memorial Scholarship
In memory of David McCauley Stryker 1958-2007
Established by Dave’s family, friends and fellow Morris dancers and musicians, this scholarship assists one young Morris dancer and/or musician per year with a cash award of up to $500 to travel to England with a Morris team for dancing and study. The purpose is to help someone get to England who might not be able to afford it otherwise.
• Plan travel with a Morris team to England June 15 – December 31.
• Demonstrated need for financial assistance
• Goal of studying one or more specific Morris styles
• Under 27 years old
• An American or Canadian dancer/musician with at least 3 years experience
• Two references from members of the Morris community
• Preference given to East Coast dancer/musician who studied with Dave and is on an established team
• Applications due by June 1. Award announced by June 15. If the trip has already occurred this year, scholarship may be awarded retroactively.
Download the application form (.pdf file)
Where did it all start? Well, assuming that nothing has an absolute beginning or end, I shall tell you where it started for me. My parents are both Morris dancers so I was carted around festivals and the like from day zero. Aged ten, I was allowed to “dance out” for the first time as the team would have been one person short of a set otherwise! Fast forward fifteen years and my Mum and I are having an animated debate about how to get a major festival to be able to take morris as seriously as it takes its main stage artists. Fast forward ten months to 7am on an August morning where 13 bleary-eyed twenty-somethings plus 8 equally coffee-starved musicians are standing in a park in East Devon looking at the dewy hulk of Sidmouth International Festival’s Arena Theatre stage.
This is a brand new venture (in choreography for me; in playing for morris for most of the musicians; and in dancing anything other than straight morris for all the dancers) and we’re a smidgen under-rehearsed to say the least. We’ve had three all-day rehearsals over the last 4 months (of which the whole company was present for no more than 3 hours) and spent 4-5 hours of last night sweating our way through the less-than-final details. We’ve got the stage to ourselves for two hours before another 150 dancers descend to top and tail “Flame”, the massive realisation of that heated discussion the previous autumn. Flame will involve around ten different groups and is to be an exploration of where morris came from and where it might go next. Other spectacular commissions for the event include Black Swan Rapper’s dance with flaming swords and Berkshire Bedlam’s recreation of the Matachin dance. My part in Flame is a commission to write two ten-minute dances exploring the potential of Cotswold Morris on a big stage. With only 10 hours to go and no rehearsal time left we’re all truly terrified.
So that was the starting point with “Big Morris” – a commission for Sidmouth International Festival in 2003. The festival directors were incredibly supportive and as a result the Arts Council, the PRS Foundation and EFDSS all contributed funds, meaning we could work with the best musicians, buy costumes and film the results. The questions I asked were: Can the intimate, subtle details of Cotswold Morris ever work on a large stage? How can the interaction and bond between dancers within the set be translated to something that is portrayed to the audience outside? How would it be if everyone in that 5000-seater arena could feel the excitement and power that you get when watching morris up close? In addition I order two giant puppets and asked how would morris change if we had giant beasts as huge and as beautifully crafted as those of Eastern or African cultures? Working in partnership with Rob Harbron and Chris Wood, musicians from the English Acoustic Collective, I begun to consider some answers and write the dances. There was a strict boundary in my head and nobody would be dancing anything that “wasn’t morris”. Whether all the spectators agreed with my definition is an ongoing topic! I sourced every decent young dancer I could find and they were all brilliant. There were plenty of glitches along the way (such as turning up to first rehearsal with well planned choreography but no idea what steps we’d be dancing!) but it was great fun.
Apparently the buzz radiating from the dancers that first night was simply electrifying. It was certainly a high to rival any other! It’s anyone’s guess whether we ever achieved the original aims; however the audience loved it and the group of outstanding individuals became a team the moment we walked off stage. Morris Offspring has gone on develop two full-length shows, commissioning more new music, costumes and dances along the way. We’ve toured arts centres and festivals and appeared on national television and radio. Apparently several teams describing themselves as “mediocre” have been inspired to “raise their game” and improve their own performances as a result. Not only that but we’ve reached out to both the general public and the “serious arts world” and changed a good few people’s minds about the huge artistic value of traditional dance.
Morris Offspring is a fantastic thing to be part of, whether rehearsing or performing and has offered me many opportunities to build on the ideas that founded it. I am delighted to be returning to Pinewoods this summer to try out some more ideas and lead classes, including “Big Morris” at July 4th Weekend.
Morris Offspring website
American Travelling Morrice: Annual summer tours, in the New England region. (This is not sponsored by CDS Boston Centre but is posted here for members and others who may be interested.)
DARTusa.org: Annual rapper tournament