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Lines! by Sid the Mouth

Psst! Wanna buy a derty video?

Six months late, I've finally got round to buying a copy of the DERT2000 video, from the rapper championships held at Greenwich in February. It's an excellent production - I'm guessing that this is related to the fact that a couple of members of Black Adder Rapper are in the television industry. It even flits between different camera angles without the music jumping, or anything. Demanding stuff for anyone, I think you'll agree.... you really have to marvel at the skill of these musicians.

My only disappointment was that the superbly innovative demonstration dance by East Saxon Sword is shown mainly from above, and it's difficult to pick out the detail. They did some rather clever things with those rappers. Anyone who's looking for new ideas can get the details from the DERT2000 website (I imagine). The vid will cost around 10.

On the pompous side, I'll say that the quite breathtaking standard of dancing is surely proof that competitions are a good thing, and it's a shame the Cotswold world, on the whole, doesn't embrace the Sidmouth jig contest more whole-heartedly. It too has raised standards, quite apart from helping to conceive at least one new team, and probably several.

For more out-or-this-world rapper, the next DERT will be taking place "somewhere" and is being slugged 2001: a d.e.r.t. odyssey.

And since I've had to revisit the Black Adder site to check my facts for this piece, I'll urge people once again to move their cursors in that direction. It has intriguing pictures and witty text, and I'm sure they'll be crediting the source of their DERT2000 review next time they do an update (The Donkey is flattered).

2001: a d.e.r.t. odyssey

Solo, and yet so young

Those who think of the Sidmouth jig competition as a relatively recent institution - something of a flash-in-the-pan, even - would do well to reflect on the fact that's just caused me to shudder.

When it began in 1988, current winner Hattie Vail would have been a mere two years old.

Doubtless split-capers before breakfast have been a part of the daily routine in the Vail household ever since.

Rules and trousers - they're all tight

The jig contest judges had to go into a deep huddle after the performance by Led and Weight - by far the funniest performance seen in the 13 competitions to date. Strictly, did a tight-trouser act by a couple of Led Zeppelin clones fall strictly within the rules of serious competition? The judges agonised, but possibly not as much as the performers themselves - those trousers were very tight.

(Given that one of the judges was Jameson Wooders, who astonished himself by winning in 1996 after posturing about the place in the costume of a gallant hussar who'd lost his bells, this conscientiousness may seem surprising).

It wasn't so much the suspicion that to get into the heightened state of awareness required for the dance, they'd had to inhale an airship. As compere Chris Rose said, they'd checked the theatre's no-smoking rule and found it only applied to tobacco.

The problem was the finicky insistence that the audience prize could not be given for a spoof jig, created for the amusement of fellow morris dancers, but had to be the sort of thing that might be performed on the street.

It turns out that "Led" has performed the jig enough times now that the costume hire shop was no longer willing to hire out the long blonde wig, and insisted on him buying it. Possibly they were growing suspicious about what he might be getting up to with it.

Fortunately, the judges decided that wigs and tight jeans ("the disturbing thing is that they didn't have to borrow them," said Chris Rose), may not be standard morris attire, but they were nonethless the normal kit for that particular dance.

As for it being danced on the street, an invitation for the pair to perform in public at a jigs weekend next year is already winging its way to the Zep hangar in Devon.

I'm sure they'll have no trouble, finding places on the streets to plug in their main amplification...

And the crowd were left reeling...

One of the most exciting things your bewildered correspondent witnessed at Sidmouth was the 16-man Lichfield hey executed by Ripley Morris Men. I have no idea how it worked.

This year a world record was set at Sidmouth, for the largest number of people dancing the Nottingham Swing at one time. I suggest that next year they try for the biggest-ever Lichfield hey. Come to think, Ripley had quite a few chaps standing idle even with sixteen up dancing.... I'm sure they could have sneaked into the set, and not even been noticed.

Little Fairies cast a powerful spell

Anyone who worries about the state of the morris obviously wasn't at the final night show in the arena theatre at Sidmouth 2000. Sure, there may be some duff teams around the country, but the Friday finale demonstrated that the best is as good as - or better than - it's ever been.

There wasn't a duff side on the stage (sadly, a Sidmouth booking is no guarantee of the highest standards), but it was Berkshire Bedlam's eerie performance of their Dance Of The Little Fairies that took my breath away. It sounds like a comic turn but it's nothing of the sort.

High Spen's rapper was as fabulous as ever (at a fighting pace, too) and deserved its slot as the penultimate turn; and you couldn't do anything but finish with the exuberance of the Bollywood Brass Band.

But the Bedlams gave us stunning music, wonderful poise, powerful restraint.... here, I thought, was a morris dance that would have been strong enough to stand as the final act of the night, against dances from anywhere in the world. Sidmouth producers, take note.

Now there's an idea we can rip off...

One of the big talking points of the show was Clann Na Gael, the team of distressingly young Irish dancers, who caused a stir by ripping off their skirts during the dancing and throwing them to the gasping crowds.

At their final performance, the jest was made that perhaps Berkshire Bedlam would be sewing velcro seams into their fencing breeches for future shows. Actually, several members of the team were gazing up from the floor in the front row at the Late Night Extra (very poor jaw control, they seemed to be showing) and could have grabbed a few of the skirts when they came flying off. Might have saved themselves a bit of money on kit.

Disturbingly, I can reveal that BBs had already joked about trying this very stunt. Given that the team already dances with coconuts, I wouldn't rule anything out.

But if you really want a dance that'll have the crowd swooning, I have the very thing. I'll rip off my trainers and throw them into the crowd. It'll knock 'em dead!

(Our irregular columnist Banbury Bill had a great time at Sidmouth, and can't be bothered to write anything).

2000 Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers

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