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Rose Moresk workshop

This was another of Herts Early Dance's successful workshops, held at the British Legion Club in Harpenden with more than 20 people attending.

Steve Rowley and Andy Richards described how Rose Moresk are attempting to recreate the courtly moresk of around 1500. Their reconstructions are based on both pictorial and written evidence, and in particular on the dances in the Gresley manuscript. They produced many fascinating images for us. One common feature is the pattern of six dancers in a circle competing for the favours of a"lady", who holds some symbolic token, such as a ring or an apple, to be awarded to the winner (who is often the fool). The pictorial sources also show the grotesque gestures and arm movements used by the dancers. The written evidence, often from household accounts, gives us some clue to the elaborate costumes worn by the dancers, including large numbers of bells.

The Gresley manuscript, discovered about 10 years ago in the Derbyshire Records Office and dated around 1500 is probably the earliest known English source of dance notations (J.Nevile, Historical Dance vol. 3, no.6, 1999). There is much uncertainty about how these dances should be interpreted and reconstructed, and Rose Moresk have taken the interesting, if controversial, view that they were in fact moresk dances, citing for example the fact that the dance notations refer only to men, and include much leaping.

Steve then went on to teach us two of the dances, to the accompaniment of Andy's pipe and tabor. Prenes a Gard is a leaping dance, where the dancers show off in front of a lady, and followed the Gresley notations fairly closely. Pernes in Gre was interpreted rather more freely, as a "grappling" dance, with some competitive wrestling. Both were great fun to learn and perform. Altogether, it was a most enjoyable day.