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Remembering the Life and Work of Tony Barrand: The 2003 Interview [Part 4]

Four men wearing colorful jumpers face the camera. One carries a violin, one a concertina.

Nowell Sing We Clear was one of Tony Barrand’s most enduring groups, presenting concerts and recordings featuring holiday traditions for 40 years. In this picture, Tony sits in the front row; behind him are (l-r) Fred Breunig, Andy Davis, and John Roberts. This is a publicity photo by Robert McClintock, provided by Fred Breunig and used by permission of Nowell Sing We Clear.

In this post, we continue presenting Jennifer Cutting’s 2003 interview with Tony Barrand, a singer, dancer, academic, writer, teacher, historian, folklorist, curator, producer, and festival organizer, who died on January 29. Barrand donated the Anthony Grant Barrand Collection of Morris, Sword, and Clog Dancing (AFC 2003/005) to AFC in 2003. This post is the third in a series of four posts, each of which will present a portion of the interview. Find the series at this link. For more about Barrand himself, see the introduction to the first blog in this series. For more about the collection, see the introduction to the second post. In this post, Cutting and Barrand discuss the effect multiple sclerosis had on Barrand’s life and work, as well as his career from the mid 1980s until 2003 when the interview took place.

Jennifer Cutting: I’m curious if your experience having MS, and being a disabled person now, has changed or affected your attitude about physical athleticism and perfection and excellence.

A man wearing a dress rides a mobility scooter while several musicians play their instruments and several costumed dancer look on. The U.S. Capitol dome is behind them.

Tony Barrand rides his mobility scooter on the Neptune Plaza of the Library of Congress on May 1, 2003. Margaret Dale Barrand plays pipe and tabor, Cyd Shelby plays fiddle, and several members of the Foggy Bottom Morris Men look on. We believe the photo is by retired AFC editor Jim Hardin.

Tony Barrand: Nah. [laughter] Not at all. Unfortunately, I find teaching my own classes; my own English Ritual Dance and Drama class at Boston University, that I’m less able to intervene, because I can’t show… I mean, I always taught by showing. So there’s some things that I can’t show. But I do try and push them on the things that I can demonstrate… upper body things, in terms of how they move through…

Jennifer Cutting: But what are your thoughts on how it was “back then” in the heyday of Cotswold Morris in the 1850s… Who was it out there on May Day dancing when everyone could see them… Was it them putting out their best dancers who could leap the highest, who were the most athletic?  Or were there, as you say, duffers?

Tony Barrand: No, not on May Day; not in their own villages; I think at the lamb ales there would have been. At some of the Whitsun ales, where there were competitions, or the competitions that happened before the Whitsun ale, the winner had the right to go and sell rosettes at the ales… I think at those, they were desperate to try… I’ll bet they brought in ringers from some teams, in order to get them. And it’s very clear… and this became especially clear once I was able to get hold of all of Roy Dommett’s Morris notes that he had written. And in 1984, first edited together a set of 1,000 pages of Roy Dommett’s Morris notes, a huge chunk of which was history: roughly half of it was about Cotswold Morris and probably 300 pages of that was history and his observations and pulling together the history thing. Very clear that there were certain people in the Cotswolds; there one was one man called Harry Taylor in particular, who was known as The Generalissimo. And I really identified with Harry Taylor.

Jennifer Cutting: The upholder of the standards?

Tony Barrand: The upholder of the standards!  So it’s clear that some villages had those, and then there were a lot of people who just went out for the drink.

Jennifer Cutting: But who was dancing on May Day?

Tony Barrand: Whoever you could get.

Jennifer Cutting: So your people who were there for the drink were dancing right alongside The Generalissimo…

Tony Barrand: Oh, absolutely… what you tried to do was optimize it. It’s like, now I’m a church choir director as well, and you take anybody you can get in the choir, and you try and make the choir sing as well as you can. And you try and shape things, and you pick your repertoire appropriately.

Jennifer Cutting: Have you seen a change in American Morris since you became associated with it? And you became associated with it early on, when there were only really a handful of teams. As you look at the continuum of when it started, and how it is today, could you look at it and say, “Oh, yes, thus and so has changed.”

Tony Barrand: Yes, there’ve been several of those changes over time. I was just thinking about that the other day. And I’ve been thinking about that actually, over this last year, when I’ve been digitizing, and then editing it into separate dances, so I could get it compressed for putting up on the web.

Jennifer Cutting: That really would have given you a wonderful panoramic…

A red book with a gold-stamped picture of Tony Barrand's "Mother" character--a man in a dress and shawl playing a drum, with a broom slung across his back. The cover includes the words "Six Fools and a Dancer" and "Anthony G. Barrand."

“Shelfie” of our copy of Tony Barrand’s book Six Fools and a Dancer, complete with a picture of Tony’s “Mother” character. Photo by Stephen Winick.

Tony Barrand: Unbelievable, to get to see it over that… and discovered new research questions, that I wouldn’t have even been contemplating. But one of the things is… minor things… there were fewer fools.

Jennifer Cutting: There are fewer fools now?

Tony Barrand: Yes. There was a period of time when it was being encouraged, but very typically, teams really don’t bother with fools a lot, now. I do notice that more and more teams focus on a single tradition; a single repertoire. We have some invented repertoires… completely invented repertoires… for example, a team from Minneapolis invented a whole repertoire that they do… and actually, a Boston team now does some of theirs. Teams tend to focus upon inventing dances and doing a single set of arm movements and leg movements and figures, rather than doing nine or ten traditions. There’s less of that that goes on.

Many more women. Interestingly enough, although yes, clearly there are plenty of mixed teams, there are plenty of all-women, and… I think more all-women than all-men… It’s easier to find women’s teams to invite to an Ale than it is to find men’s teams. Increasingly, that’s happening. That’s true in England, is that there are a lot more… That was always true. In the ‘70s, when I’d go somewhere to do a Morris dance workshop that would be advertised; 36 people would show up, 32 would be women.

Jennifer Cutting: Is that because women are joiners, do you think?

Tony Barrand: Well, women will go to a dance class… Men don’t like dance classes. Men will join a club; a social club.

Jennifer Cutting: Is that because they feel that being taught is something hierarchical?

Tony Barrand: That’s a good question. I always complain at B.U. that… Now, I have 35 people in my current Morris class… I have 5 men.  Some of that is, “Now look, I’m a guy, I’m a sort of model here… I do this kind of dancing… you know… where is everybody?”  And even when I was dancing very physically, being very present, it was the same balance. Men don’t show up… Dance is, for American men, and I think increasingly it’s also true for English men, dance isn’t a physical outlet. For women it’s still a very physical outlet doing dance.

Jennifer Cutting: How about the speed at which people dance? Has anything slowed down or sped up?

Tony Barrand: That’s a very good question. I was noticing, one of the things that, in 1979, was a tremendous impact was realizing, actually, how much slower one should dance. And there was a team in particular called Gloucester Old Spot that only lasted… let’s see, I filmed them in ’79 and they were gone by ’86. A lot of them ruined their knees. Because they had read somewhere, in Sharp’s field notes, that the dancers used to caper high enough… high as a desk, they’d say. You have to caper as high as a desk. And when you’d done one dance, you shouldn’t be able to do another one. You should be spent. And so, this team, Gloucester Old Spot, always set out only to dance that way. They would do one dance… the next dance would be the guys who weren’t dancing, would come out and do a jig; so the next dance would be a fresh guy doing a jig. They would never do two dances in a row. They put so much energy in… and, in order to jump higher, you have to slow down the music. Because if the music is going fast, you can’t jump high. So they slowed down the music, and were jumping, and that was a sensation, seeing that…was seeing how slowly they danced, and how much they were able to get… it was that much more physical. And that was very exciting.

A man in a blue vest and yellow hat holds the hands of a baby.

Tony Barrand with his daughter Olivia at a dance event circa 1980.

And, of course, that’s a big difference in terms of men’s and women’s, then: people who are five foot two or three, on average, tall, aren’t going to be able to necessarily to jump as people who are six feet, or five-ten on average, or something like that. So those became important sorts of issues with the tempos. But the tempos did slow down a lot.

Jennifer Cutting: After you came back and said…

Tony Barrand: Yes, “Look at this film… people are dancing more slowly; let’s dance more slowly.” And I liked it because one could articulate the stepping more clearly.You don’t have to [makes noise and gestures] getting the stepping that you… One, two, three, and you could really shimmer the bells and do things like that. So definitely… tempos slowed down.

Jennifer Cutting: And once you slowed down, you were able to be more precise about the steps, or…

Tony Barrand: Yes. Real precision came in with the steps.

Jennifer Cutting: And the rest has remained the same?

Tony Barrand: No, no, no… I wanted to say something about costume. One of the things you’ll still see very much in England… I noticed in ’79 a lot… a lot of focus on Morris as an historical thing, where they will try and use historical costumes. Nineteenth century costumes in particular. And women, if they do any kind of Morris-type dancing, will dance in long skirts and often have aprons and sometimes bonnets, and things of that sort.

Jennifer Cutting: Who is doing this?

Tony Barrand: I don’t know whether they’re still doing it, but Knots of May, for example, who were Garland dancers, had long matched skirts and aprons that they would dance in.

Jennifer Cutting: Rock Creek used to wear… I joined when we wore skirts.

Tony Barrand: So clearly, women’s costumes got more functional, and I think it got more functional here first. Although Windsor Morris in England, who I filmed in ’79 and got to know very well, danced in basic white shirt, white pants, and a couple of rosettes; that was it.  And I remember them seeing the Marlboro kit and saying, this was a real compliment for them…very functional. But that wasn’t that widespread in England for English women’s Morris teams, and I think for English women’s street dancing… I still think there’s a penchant to want to do it in skirts.

Jennifer Cutting: In England?

Tony Barrand: Yes.

Jennifer Cutting: As opposed to here? Here is all about functional?

Tony Barrand: Oh, there are some occasional teams; there’s a team from Brasstown, North Carolina that does Garland dancing that dance in skirts… It’s less common.  And our Northwest Morris that we have in Brattleboro, actually, which we have “line of men, line of women,” (except there are more women, so there’s often women on the men’s line as well), actually dance in a skirt.

Margaret Dale Barrand: All the Northwest women dancers wear skirts…

Two men in vests and two women in dresses do a garland dance, with hoops covered in flowers.

Some American Morris teams include men dressed in trousers and waistcoats as well as women in dresses or skirts. Photo taken on May 23, 2009 at the Marlboro Morris Ale by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flicker with a Creative Commons License.

Tony Barrand: It’s true, all the Northwest women’s… But increasingly, American kit is much more functional and American; much more like what people wear now.

Jennifer Cutting: And Americans are famous for all the time being in jeans and trainers…

Tony Barrand: Exactly, and that’s true… that’s been a footwear change. Instead of black leather shoes, people wear trainers, sneakers. And that has changed the dancing, by the way.  The stepping has become much more a kind of running-in-place hop, rather than the way Sharp described it. And I always drilled it, when I was teaching in classes, was really… the kicking piece has become much more of a running thing. And the trainers, that’s what you’re designed to do with a trainer: rather than slip the foot out, you’re trained to [gestures]. And also, I think there’s a lot more heel going on the ground. The old dancers used to talk about putting chalk on the heels, so you didn’t… so you were fine if they left chalk on the floor, because you danced on the ball of your foot. It’s harder to stay on the ball of your foot in a sneaker, in some of these basketball shoes, because you’re…it’s trained just to go on your foot down flat. So that’s I think changed some… so that’s a change, I think.

A man in a mobility scooter with a camera in the background, framed by the feet of dancers leaping in the foreground.

Tony Barrand documents dancers from his mobility scooter on May 26, 2013 at the Marlboro Morris Ale. Note that the dancers wear sneakers–Tony mentions this as a major change in footwear since the Morris revival began in the 1970s. Photo by Stew Stryker. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Jennifer Cutting: But then some things will have remained the same about American Morris?

Tony Barrand: Since I started doing it? One of the things that I did do for a… there was a series of presentations at a sort of conference, of people coming and reading papers on contemporary Morris, that Tess Buckland organized.  And I’d go over to those, and often deliver papers. And one of the papers I delivered was on watching two teams… four teams in particular… both of whom are taught by… Like, Jim Morrison’s team from the Greenwich Morris Men, and then his team from Albemarle… and John Dexter’s team from Binghamton and then, from New York City, the Bowery Boys; of looking to see if there were common [elements].

Because Roy Dommett had made a comment at one point, watching my men’s team where we were still doing a little Headington from the early days; we were switching to Lichfield… of him saying, “Why do they look like you when they do Headington, and they look like Tim (who was my number one dancer at that point, because I was fooling), and they look like Tim when they’re doing Lichfield?” And it was like, whoa… this is interesting… that a team comes to look like its teacher… And, in this case, I’m their teacher, but I’m not dancing in the set. I’m fooling… and they’re actually modeling on Tim, who was the number one dancer. So there’s this very interesting phenomenon.

So I then tried to see, is there some aesthetic thing where, even though there were different repertoire, that you could see that Jim Morrison taught both those teams… or that John Dexter taught both those teams… and I set up this little observation experiment with clips from different things for people to do, and it was pretty good.  Anyway, at some point, that comment from Roy Dommett was very interesting. You can start to see those threads. So you can find some teams, such as Greenwich Morris Men, that still dance the way now that they did in ’76. That’s true with Ring O’Bells, even though they’ve been through several generations of dancers, and several different teachers as well, there’s a sort of team style.  Some of it is that the person who’s now the teacher learned within the team style, and that’s what they’re dancing… they say, this is what we do; we’ve always done it that way. So there are some teams that have been around 25, 26 years… 28 years now, actually… who actually dance pretty much the same way. They may have changed tempo a little, but some of that changes from day to day. You know, later in the day when you’re tired, you dance more quickly.

Jennifer Cutting: And depending on who the musician is that day, or whether the musician’s tired [laughter].

Tony Barrand: That’s it… or the weather.

Jennifer Cutting: What do you see as trends that might come the way of American Morris… the future of American Morris? Anything that you see beginning to happen?

Tony Barrand: The major change that I see happening that’s very encouraging: in the last three years at the Marlboro Morris Ale, there’ve been real sides of very good quality, energetic young people dancing. Not simply children’s teams…. there’ve been some of those… but teenagers.  And interestingly, the teenagers have not been doing Morris, but Sword. Particularly Rapper… it’s flashier, much flashier.

Five young people stand in a line. Two of them are in the middle of a backflip, three are standing upright.

In one of the flashier moves of the rapper sword dance tradition, two team members do a full backflip and land on their feet while still connected to their teammates by their rappers. Athletic moves like this one make rapper sword dance appealing to young people, and many of the teenagers Barrand talked about in 2003 are still doing it almost 20 years later. This photo was taken at the Half Moon Sword Ale in Brooklyn in 2011. Photo by Jeffrey Bary. Shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

Jennifer Cutting: So it’s attracting a lot of young people…

Tony Barrand: Sword is attracting young people, and there are some quite good children’s teams. So that there’s been a next generation piece. And some of it was, it’s now 29 years since I started dancing, and I have grown children who are in their twenties. So those children came through, and some of those are gonna start to be having children. So you’ve got some people who are seeing it realized in their children now, and are wanting to do that kind of thing, so are bringing children in. That generational change is beginning to happen. I’m a little worried that it’s not going to happen with Cotswold-style Morris, with the bells… It’s happening with the Sword. And there is definitely a lot of variety… but not as much as I’d have thought.  But Cotswold Morris is still basically the central piece. It’s still being taught at Pinewoods; but I think most of the dancing is now being learned within a club context rather than in classes. So I’m not sure what that means.

I did get in a couple things. Back three years ago now, John and I sang at a conference on A Hundred Years of the Folk Revival. It was held in New York City. And I did a paper on American Morris. I mapped American Morris teams, and what they danced. And it very clearly goes: It’s in California, it’s on the left coast; it comes into the Midwest around Minneapolis and Chicago and Ann Arbor, those big college-type places; it then come onto the East Coast, heavy in New England; then it goes down the East Coast. There’s nothing in the middle; there is nothing. This dancing has nothing to do with anybody in the Midwest… basically, it has no place. And clearly, California doesn’t have connections to England, so it’s not because it’s English. But there’s something about the nature of where the teachers are; but I think also something about the maybe historical links of festivals or fairs or particular ways of celebrating holidays that there are some links to. And clearly because that’s where, basically, you can map, I think, Country Dance and Song Society Centers, and they would almost lay over that same…

A man in a red vest and a yellow hat holds up two fingers.

Tony Barrand performs a hand gesture, probably at the Marlboro Morris Ale in Vermont. The photo was taken circa 1984, since Tony is wearing the ribbon commemorating 10 years of the Marlboro Morris and Sword dance team. This photo by an unknown photographer comes from a private album belonging to Tony Barrand. We use it courtesy of Olivia Barrand.

Jennifer Cutting: Ley lines [laughter]

Tony Barrand: They would, they’d be the same ley lines.  You don’t find a lot of English Country Dancers in Arkansas.

Jennifer Cutting: I feel like I want to move… briefly, because I don’t want to tire you out before your lecture, which starts at 6:30…

Tony Barrand: Oh, gosh, it’s quarter past.

Jennifer Cutting: Yeah… We are having fun… I know because I haven’t felt the passage of time here.  I just want to talk briefly about the collection that you’re giving to us tonight, ceremonially, and then the rest of it will come later. Technology-wise, the different formats that we’ve got… David wrote those down, didn’t he, when you talked about…

Tony Barrand: Yes, and they’re basically, I started with black and white reel-to-reel video; then it’s basically 8 millimeter film… a little bit of silent, and then mostly sound; then some Beta, which I used, film that I got in England was Beta; then a lot of VHS; then High-8, and now, mini DV.

Jennifer Cutting: And the Beta, had you copied it onto any other format?

Tony Barrand:  That was copied a long time ago onto VHS.

Jennifer Cutting: So, basically, everything in your collection, there is an original and a working copy of it?

Tony Barrand: Yes. And there are a lot of working copies on VHS of the stock of the old format…things of the reel to reel video, and of the Beta. And then, increasingly, a mini-DV copy.

Jennifer Cutting: How did you number the items in your collection?  Did you number your first field tape #1?

Tony Barrand: No, I strictly put a date; but I’ve now added a label. Basically, I think of my collection as being in four pieces: There is a set of English dancing… that’s either labeled EC (English Clog); ES (English Sword); EM (English Morris)… that’s strictly English stuff, and that mostly is from the early part of the collection, from ’76 to ’82.

Jennifer Cutting: That doesn’t mean taped in England?

Tony Barrand: Doesn’t mean taped in England… for example, the stuff here, filming Headington Quarry here, I’ve labeled as EM, because it was strictly Headington Quarry, even though it wasn’t really American Morris.

Jennifer Cutting: That’s Part One…

half-length portrait of a man and two women. The women hold books and videotapes in their hands.

At the event on April 30, 2003, members of the AFC staff formally receive the Anthony Grant Barrand Collection. Left to right are Tony Barrand, Jennifer Cutting, and Peggy Bulger. Photo by Jim Hardin for AFC.

Tony Barrand: Then there’s about a hundred hours, Part Two, is MM, which is Marlboro Morris Ale. Then there is quite a lot of film that is AM, which is film of American Morris. It’s either film of my own teams dancing locally; or film of other teams we were dancing with; or films that I had in some way or other acquired, or went to shoot, of other teams. And I think of, as part of that American Morris, even though it has a different label, there’s some that is LS, which is Local Sword, for the local sword teams, which I think matches with this American Morris piece, which is mostly my local dancing: some is with sword, and some is the Morris.    Then, really what I think of as the fourth part, is labeled MC, which is Marley Clog, which is my seven years’ worth of video, ‘89 to ‘76, with Anna Mae Marley. Which is a different kind of a thing; it’s not in individual units; it’s literally running a camera in the corner while Anna was giving me a lesson. There are a few performances in that including, more recently, the summer Anna died, it was in 2000, when I took a group called The New Dancing Marleys, which included Margaret Dale and my former student Kari Smith, and a couple of other friends that I trained… and did Anna’s dances down in Washington, so there are a few performances, but it’s all MC, Marley Clog.

Jennifer Cutting: So those are the main prefixes, what you’ve just gone over, for the different parts of the collection. Are there any anomalies in the collection?

Tony Barrand: Yeah… OC and OM.  Other Clog, which might include Irish step dancing, a film of a Welsh step dancer, some little bits of film that I got at festivals of the Black dancers doing Hambone. And then there’s other Morris, which is OM, you know… other weird bits.

Jennifer Cutting: Just anything that you can think of that would cause an archivist ten years, twenty years from now to say, “What did he mean by that?”

Tony Barrand: OK… there is one other piece: TM. Teaching Mix. Which are mixes that I’ve put together from my own collection that I’ve used for teaching.

Jennifer Cutting: So there’s nothing in Teaching Mix that doesn’t exist in its original somewhere else on an AM or an EM?

Tony Barrand: If you don’t want those, you don’t have to have them. But that’s what they are: they’re compilations that I’ve used for teaching.

Seven people dance on a small stage area. One is Tony Barrand, the rest are women

The New Dancing Marleys perform a complete program of clog dances (learned from American clog dancer Anna Mae Marley and documented on film by Tony Barrand from 1976 to 1989) at the 1995 Reading Clog Dance Festival in Reading, England. Left to right: Renee Camus, Margaret Keller, Tony Barrand, Margaret Dale Barrand, Meg Ryan, Kari Smith, and Laura Robertson. Back row: Paul Smith accompanies the dancers on button accordion. This photo, probably taken by Rhett Krause, comes from a private album belonging to Tony Barrand. We use it courtesy of Olivia Barrand.

Jennifer Cutting: And there’s nothing else that you can think of that we wouldn’t understand…

Tony Barrand: There is nothing else.

Jennifer Cutting: OK. And I must say, you’re delivering your collection to us in lovely shape.

Tony Barrand: Cataloged! Even down to the individual dances on the tapes!

Jennifer Cutting: Unbelievable. What a gift. I mean, it would have been an incredible gift anyway, but arriving in such good shape…

Tony Barrand: Well, one of the reasons is, it was very interesting, the possibility of being able to put this up, with the internet technology, being able to put it all up on the web. It’s like, it had to be done, and who else was gonna do it?  And I was shocked… shocked at how little of my collection was indexed. Most of the Morris Ale, I had kept notes, after the Morris Ales had gone through… but there were some years when I didn’t get around to it, so I had this whole tape of twenty different teams.

No, but it’s interesting, I would say… and certainly, all of the clog material, I’m now desperate about trying to catalog what it is that Anna’s teaching when, as well as transcribing all of it. But even just getting all the names of the dances… My plan here is, now that it’s… I have to find out the names of some of the dances that these teams that came to the Morris Ale invented. Because they don’t necessarily shout out clearly in the direction of the camera what the name of the dance was. And some years, I would go around and say, especially after I’d stopped dancing… I would go around and say “What was the name of that dance you did?” and I’d write it down. But there’s a lot of: “oh, they’ll be trackable down!”

Two men sit on a concrete bollard in front of a lake. one has a banjo, the other a mandolin.

A study in stripes. John Roberts (left, with banjo) and Tony Barrand (right, with mandolin), at a U.S. folk festival sometime in the 1970s. This photo by an unknown photographer comes from a private album belonging to Tony Barrand. We use it courtesy of Olivia Barrand.

Jennifer Cutting: What do you see as the main thing that researchers can learn from your collection?  You said you thought of some great research questions as you were going over your collection. What are those questions?

Tony Barrand: Simple… they’re the things we were talking about: Invention. What percentage of American dances filmed over this period of time are actually new dances?  What percentage is drawn from the tradition?  That’s the simple quantity piece. The qualitative piece is, for me, things like: What happens to a team over a period of time? Like this, over three decades now.  What happens to the team’s style when it changes bodies and teachers? Some of the teams that I can clearly see basically dance the same way. Some have changed repertoire, they’ve changed a teacher, and they don’t look like anything like… they changed their kit, they changed their repertoire; it’s the same team, but they don’t look anything like they used to, for example. And some teams simply change tempo and added some dances, but they’re clearly really still the same team. They’ve got older, they’ve slowed down a little bit, or speeded up a little bit, or something like that. So looking at what longevity, the piece that I think is… has the broadest purview of research questions outside of Morris, has to do with expressive gesture, and what happens to it over time.

[Pause while video tape is changed.]

Jennifer Cutting: So, what we were talking about before we changed the video tape was, the great research questions that occurred to you as you were preparing your collection for transfer to us; and one of the things that you were saying, was, “how a team has changed over time, or not?”

Brochure with a picture of two men and the words "John Roberts and Tony Barrand."

This brochure for John Roberts and Tony Barrand was donated to AFC by Michael Cooney in 1982. It lives in the subject file for John Roberts and Tony Barrand and can be viewed in the AFC Reading Room.

Tony Barrand: And that’s very interesting. One of the things I’ve always been interested in, for example, is what happened in a particular village, that they kept their own dancing. That was very clear if you go back… take a village like Ilmington. It was collected on three different occasions, when the dances were written down. They don’t sound anything like the same dances. In one of them, they’re doing single stepping and moving one arm at a time; in another, they’re doing galleys and complicated things; in another, they’re just doing double steps and turning, the way Sharp [described]. So it’s like, okay… what happened here?

And so it’s interesting to me that, here we have American examples of teams, now over 30 years (and it’ll keep going, as long as I’m alive, of adding to the collection of it) that they don’t change. That they change bodies, but they basically still look the same. You could actually look at them and say… you could actually see from a distance… that’s still Greenwich. And trying to understand that teaching process, and what happens because of the social and cultural dynamic within a team, is pretty interesting.

Some other easy quantitative kinds of things are, at the very first [Marlboro] Morris Ale there were only Cotswold Morris dances. When and what other sorts of Morris are being danced now that are being accepted? In terms of Northwest, I think Northwest has a hard row to hoe in this country. Sword, for example…there aren’t a lot of longsword teams. There are some longsword teams, but rapper is something that suddenly, in the ‘90s, has exploded. There are now several rapper teams coming out. That kind of thing…keeping track of when what trends in particular dance things emerged and arose.

Jennifer Cutting: If you were a researcher looking at your own collection, what might you do with it?

Tony Barrand: Well, it depends which piece we’re taking from. The Marley work is all work to be done; the piece that I want to look at from that. One of the things that is unique about the Marley clog project is, I don’t know of another example where one has someone, let’s call her a traditional performer (which she is), teaching somebody who’s wanting to learn that. When she comes out, she has one set of language and a whole particular aesthetic. And actually trying to learn how to communicate that to me, and me trying to learn how to understand what it is she’s saying, in order to put that into my body… there are these wonderful things happen, where she’s talking about a history thing, now she’s saying “the step goes such and such; it goes ya-ta-da, dee-ta-da-ta-da.  So it goes backwards and forwards between English and rhythms that she’s speaking… then we get “Oh, you mean,” and I dance it, so I don’t say it, and she’ll say, “No, it goes da-da-da-da-dee.”  So this very interesting teaching process that happens.

Then as you look at it over seven years, I’ve clearly started to acquire some motifs, some Marley motifs that I start to notice occurring in another routine… like there are ten, eleven different routines that she taught me, of different rhythms. So I start to be able to learn those faster… “Oh, you mean it’s like Robinson roll, it goes in this… You have a change in the rhythm and yeah, it’s a little different.” So that whole process of looking at how I went from being a total clod (someone that she probably told a cousin that I would never make a dancer) to just seven years later saying, basically, “This is yours.”  So that’s very interesting.  Whether you’re a dancer or not, if you’re not looking at it for dancing, looking at a teaching and learning process.

Headshot portrait of to men

This publicity headshot photo of Tony Barrand and John Roberts comes from the AFC Subject files.

In some ways, that’s to me one of the most exciting things… that you don’t need to be a dancer to come look at this; this is really interesting from the language of teaching and of moving; but teaching something that is not expressed in language, it is expressed in rhythm. And it goes from being danced to being said to being described, and that change of language… it goes in and out of those dimensions, it’s just amazing.

Jennifer Cutting: Is that the only teaching portion of the collection, or are there others?

Tony Barrand: No. Because I got so interested in that, I’ve actually filmed quite a few really genuinely traditional English clog dance teachers teaching workshops.  Some of them (one being Pat Tracey, one being Alex Woodcock, one being the famous Sam Sherry) and I’ve got quite a lot of film of them teaching; some of them over an extended period, like over a week; you know… six hours of teaching a particular routine.

Jennifer Cutting: So, in some cases in your collection, would you say that you have maybe the only footage there is of certain individuals teaching?

Tony Barrand: Yes. Without any doubt. Certainly of Anna… and I think it may well be… Because he taught up until quite recently, that may well be true of… There may be some other of Sam Sherry, but of several of these dance teachers, I think they may well be the only examples. It’s a different thing, though, than just performing. It’s watching the language of how they talk about things, and the structure of how they structure it, to teach it.  Whether you’re interested in Morris dancing or not… and my colleagues in anthropology that I talk to… that, increasingly, in anthropology, there is interest in expressive gesture, in culture… of how one moves and does things express who one is, is a part of culture. They’re finally getting around to that. And there it is, laid out… Here are these people that you can watch over a period of time doing these strange things, and both in terms of how they gather and how they organize themselves, those bits; that’s incredibly valuable, having that over a chronological period of time. It doesn’t exist in any other way.

Jennifer Cutting: That’s why we’re very grateful, and very excited about getting it.

Tony Barrand: Well, and I’m thrilled to have it there. And what’s fascinated me… at first I thought, somebody like me who desperately wanted to learn Morris dancing, what a great treasure trove to come and do this. But I’m thinking, how do we let people know what’s in here that know beans about Morris dancing, and how you would search. That’s the piece that I’m most fascinated about now, is what computer systems people call “the front page;” is how you let them know what’s in there when they don’t really care about Morris dancing.

Jennifer Cutting: Well, why don’t we proceed to our evening of celebrating acquiring your collection…which is the first of two great events that you’re here in Washington for: tonight we’ll have a lecture where you’ll show some footage from your collection, and take questions from the audience; I understand a lot of Morris dancers are coming…

Half-length portrait of a man with 10 women.

Tony Barrand poses with members of the Rock Creek Morris Women at the Library of Congress on April 30, 2003. We believe the photo is by retired AFC editor Jim Hardin.

Tony Barrand: …And I’m gonna sing.

Jennifer Cutting: …And you’ll sing as well. And then tomorrow, if the rain holds off, we’re going to have a Morris Ale right out there on the Neptune Plaza, in the shadow of the Capitol dome. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and we’re going to use your great abilities as an emcee.

Tony Barrand: And I’ll dress up as Mother.

Jennifer Cutting: Absolutely… The participant observer, for which you’re justly famous. So thank you, this is Jennifer Cutting interviewing Tony Barrand on May Eve, April 30, 2003, in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

Remembering the Life and Work of Tony Barrand: The 2003 Interview [Part 3]

In this post, we continue presenting Jennifer Cutting’s 2003 interview with Tony Barrand, a singer, dancer, academic, writer, teacher, historian, folklorist, curator, producer, and festival organizer, who died on January 29. Barrand donated the Anthony Grant Barrand Collection of Morris, Sword, and Clog Dancing (AFC 2003/005) to AFC in 2003. This post is the third in a series of four posts, each of which will present a portion of the interview. In this post, Barrand discusses the development of Morris dancing in America since he founded the Marlboro Morris Ale, a dance festival in Vermont, in 1976. To show how influential Tony’s event has become, we’ve illustrated this post with many photos of the Marlboro Morris Ale over the years.

Remembering the Life and Work of Tony Barrand: The 2003 Interview [Part 2]

The American Folklife Center mourns the passing of Anthony Grant “Tony” Barrand, a singer, dancer, teacher, and folklorist who donated the Anthony Grant Barrand Collection of Morris, Sword, and Clog Dancing (AFC 2003/005) to AFC in 2003. In addition to making this collection, Barrand has been a proponent of English folk traditions in America for more than 50 years. He was a longtime dancer as well as a singer and musician with the John Roberts and Tony Barrand duo, and with the quartet Nowell Sing We Clear. Barrand, who was born in Lincolnshire and continued growing up in Buckinghamshire, England, died on January 29, 2022 at age 76 in his adopted home of Marlboro, Vermont.

The interview was recorded to audio and video tape and is in the AFC archive. This post is the second in a series of posts, each of which will present a portion of the interview in transcribed form.

Remembering the Life and Work of Tony Barrand: The 2003 Interview [Part 1]

The American Folklife Center mourns the passing of Anthony Grant “Tony” Barrand, a singer, dancer, teacher, and folklorist who donated the Anthony Grant Barrand Collection of Morris, Sword, and Clog Dancing (AFC 2003/005) to AFC in 2003. In addition to making this collection, Barrand has been a proponent of English folk traditions in America for more than 50 years. He was a longtime dancer as well as a singer and musician with the John Roberts and Tony Barrand duo, and with the quartet Nowell Sing We Clear. Barrand, who was born in Lincolnshire and continued growing up in Buckinghamshire, England, died on January 29, 2022 at age 76 in his adopted home of Marlboro, Vermont.

The interview was recorded to audio and video tape and is in the AFC archive. This post is the first in a series of posts, each of which will present a portion of the interview in transcribed form.