IS MORRIS dancing making a comeback?
At times they were ridiculed as unfashionable, with a dwindling band of ageing followers. Its demise was predicted within the next 15 years. But break out the handkerchiefs, sticks and bells Morris Dancing is on the way back – not only on the country roads but even within the pharmacy industry.
Long associated with bearded men – of a certain age, Jonathan Buisson seems like the unlikely fit into this ancient folk dance, but once he is out in his garb and painted face, swirling sticks along with his troop the passion and love for the dance is evident.
After graduating from the School of Pharmacy, University of Strathclyde in 1988, he worked his way up to Walgreens Boots Alliance, but in 2006 he joined the Hook Eagle Morris Men and from then on, Jonathan Buisson became known as “Ninja”.
Talking about his journey he said: “I first danced out in public in February 2007. In Morris circles, I go under the name of “Ninja”. I am now Squire (ie, chairman or leader) of Hook Eagle Morris Men, a men’s Morris side based in Hook, north Hampshire. We dance in the Border Morris tradition, with painted faces and wearing blue and yellow tatter jackets, top hats with feathers in, dark workmen’s clothes and Doc Martin boots — an impressive sight in full flow.”
“Work needs to be for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to allow you to do things for yourself, like hobbies, sports and other passions.”
From then to now Buisson has come a long way. Wherein the first dance at a school fete in Hawley was “nervewracking” as he only knew three dances and that too “not terribly well”. Today he knows the “full range of about 15 dances”. He added, “I frequently lead the dancing, calling out the figures for the other dancers. This is tricky as you have to think and shout before you finish the previous figure to give the others enough time to remember what they are supposed to do next.”
Buisson’s journey as Ninja has been nothing short than memorable. Talking about some of his fond performances he said: “We’ve had lots of great performances during my time with Hook Eagle. We danced for, and were presented to, Prince Edward when he came to open the rebuilt village hall in Hook in 2008. We’ve performed in twin towns linked to neighbouring villages, such as Malle, near Antwerp in Belgium, and St Savin, near Poitiers in France. We’ve also had some great times at folk and dance festivals at places like Chepstow, Oxford and Rochester, amusing and bemusing locals and tourists alike.”
Morris steps to try:
Here are the three main traditions of Morris -
- Border (dark clothes and painted faces, drawn from the English counties bordering on Wales)
- Cotswold (white clothes, bells and hankies, drawn from the south of England)
- North West (clog dancing from the former mill towns)
Working as a pharmacist allows him to follow both his passions – his love for pharmacy and dancing. “Dancing and work are quite separate for me. Being office based means I don’t normally work weekends, which is when most of our dancing occurs. Our practices are held on Friday nights in the autumn and winter. For me, practices are a great way to end the week, working off any stress with some vigorous exercise followed by a pint or two of real ale at the Crooked Billet pub in Hook, our side’s spiritual home,” he said.
Delving further into how the dances fulfil his creative and business mind, he said: “For me, they are completely different, which is what I like about it. When I’m in my Morris kit, as my alter-ego “Ninja” and out dancing with friends, it’s just about entertaining the crowds in interesting and unusual places, having a good time and drinking beer. I don’t have to think about work at all.
We’ve had lots of great performances during my time with Hook Eagle. We danced for, and were presented to, Prince Edward when he came to open the rebuilt village hall in Hook in 2008. We’ve performed in twin towns linked to neighbouring villages, such as Malle, near Antwerp in Belgium, and St Savin, near Poitiers in France. We’ve also had some great times at folk and dance festivals at places like Chepstow, Oxford and Rochester, amusing and bemusing locals and tourists alike.
“Really, it’s great fun and a complete break from all the stresses and strains of work. It gets you out and about, gives you a bit of a workout and there never seems to be any shortage of beer wherever the Morris Dancers go!”
Besides Morris dancing he has even tried his hand at Scottish Country Dancing, a legacy of his education in Scotland. “Many of the figures are similar to Morris Dancing but the style is very different. These days, my other passions are photography, especially of Hook Eagle Morris Men and the other sides we dance with, and also model railways,” he explains.
To all his pharmacy colleagues, even if not Morris dancing, he feels everyone should have a passion they can fulfil. He signs off with the remark:
“Work needs to be for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to allow you to do things for yourself, like hobbies, sports and other passions. Work should never be an end in itself. Everyone should have something to enjoy when they’re not at work”
Pharmacist Work & Lifestyle
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