A new season, a new word: Each year Brighton Morris find a new intriguing (or downright baffling) term to characterise our behaviour. The explanation, such as it is, can be found in our programme in a column entitled the Back Page Blurb. It is reproduced here for your education and enjoyment.
2016: Entropic Morris
Each May you, our blessed public, are subjected to the exhilarating spectacle of swarms of bearded blokes emerging from musty hovels to partake in the entropic activity of Morris Dancing. This annual infestation, akin to the emergence of daddy longlegs in autumn, can be traced back to the 15th Century.
Swarm behaviour is collective behaviour exhibited by entities, particularly animals of similar size which aggregate together, perhaps milling about the same spot or moving en masse in some direction, in our case generally towards a pub.
The study of swarm behaviour is a highly interdisciplinary topic, as is Morris Dancing. We teach our lads music, rhythm, geometry, physics, physiology and how to look good naked. Understanding entropic forces on gravity and the thermodynamic qualities of muscle performance are key to our success as dancers.
Entropic forces and swarm behaviour are also studied by ‘Active Matter Physicists’. These jolly academicians are concerned with understanding and describing a phenomenon which is not in thermodynamic equilibrium. Now if you observe the chaps before you, you will notice those not in thermodynamic equilibrium; they are the ones that sweat profusely, have yet to shed their youthful puppy fat, and struggle to manage two dances in a row.
From the perspective of the mathematical modeller, animal swarms generally follow three rules: move in the same direction, remain close to your neighbours, and avoid collisions. Similar rules are prescribed in the Morris dancing world, but, as you will observe, they are not necessarily followed slavishly by this anarchic bunch of numpties.
From swarm analysis the ‘Selfish Herd Theory’ emerged. This states that individuals within a population attempt to reduce their predation risk by putting conspecifics between themselves and the predators. We tend to send our less able, older, and thermodynamically compromised among you to collect coin. Now you may ask what predators, with a taste for uniformed, fashionably bearded, muscular chaps with comely calves, and all exhibiting a beguiling gaiety, could possibly exist in Brighton?
All we can say is that you ladies and gents out there know who you are!
2015: Sthenic Morris
Squirrels, sthenic creatures abounding in energy and physical strength, have, on the face of it, only one thing in common with Brighton Morris Men: most are grey. Yet take a closer look and you may be surprised at the commonality between the two species.
The word “squirrel” arrived in England in 1327 and comes from Anglo-Norman esquirel. Soon after, in a geological sense, the word “Morris” derived from the Spanish “Morisco” began to be used in England with the earliest known record of Morris dancing dated to 1448.
In terms of classification squirrels are members of the family Sciuridae, consisting of small or medium-size rodents. Most members of Brighton Morris can be categorised as small or medium sized, and some are, prime facie, rodents.
The public image of both creatures is similar in that they are seen as cute, cuddly and charismatic, quick to learn, highly intelligent with a capacity for acrobatics, beer and mischief. Physically Squirrels have slender bodies with bushy tails and large eyes. Brighton Morris Men similarly tend to have honed bodies, bushy beards, and pouting eyes.
Squirrel young are born naked and toothless and become sexually mature at the end of their first year. All of the chaps were born naked and toothless and for most sexual maturity came intriguingly early.
In general, ground-dwelling squirrels are social animals. Brighton Morris Men have similar traits enjoying convivial group grooming sessions and most aspire to owning a bungalow.
Squirrels cannot digest cellulose so they must rely on foods rich in protein, carbohydrates and fats. Interestingly Harveys Best Bitter, the BMM staple, is rich in carbohydrates, protein, and soluble fibre, but not fat; for that we eat cakes.
But can Squirrels dance? A search for dancing squirrels on YouTube gives 44,300 results but a search for squirrels that dance Cotswold Morris draws a blank. A review of the squirrel films indicate styles ranging from disco to hop, plop and flop, a style akin to that of Border Morris, which only goes to show that being sthenic doesn’t mean you’ve got rhythm!