Maple Morris

Bringing Our Roots to the Stage

Sometimes the title felt like the hardest part. There were days where we sat together in silent consideration, except for the occasional title suggestion which was immediately and soundly rejected by everyone else. We found ourselves with a list of what felt like a hundred names, words we thought were attractive, themes we wanted to touch on, and assorted sillinesses (considered at one point was “Lord Jumpington’s Transatlantic Morris Dancetacular”).

The name we chose wasn’t on that list. As these things sometimes go, it arrived a mere day before we had to make the decision. We liked the several meanings it invoked: that we are bound to our roots, that we are leaping upwards from them, that we are bound for a place where we can still feel them anchoring us. And then there’s the literal meaning of the word: when a plant is rootbound, it has grown so deep and strong under the soil that it must be transplanted to new earth, so that its roots may grow deeper and the plant stretch higher.

More than anything else, Maple Morris has been about passing the knowledge and tradition of Morris dance from one person to another. From the first weekend in Montreal in 2005, our idea was that we could get together with our peers in the dance world, trading dances, swapping songs, and sharing our own experiences in the world of Morris.

We often talk about Maple as a “second-generation” team, which for most of us means quite literally that we have received the tradition from our parents, and have grown up never knowing a world in which it didn't exist. From the genesis of this project, we knew that we wanted to do a show that could acknowledge Morris as a North American tradition, to thank the teams we learned from and the people who inspired us, and to meditate on what we might have to offer the next generation of dancers.

So, like Maple, Rootbound is about passing knowledge onwards. You will see a wise old Fool, rooted in the earth but burning with creation. And you will see a Child, ebullient with curiosity, ready to discover this world and eager to make it her own.

The name might have been hard at first, but many things were not. We knew that we wanted to say to our communities in New England and Canada that we feel our roots every time we dance. We knew that we didn’t want ourselves elevated up on a stage, removed from the audience; we wanted the audience around us and close to us, where we could interact with them more like traditional street dancing.

This show will mark the end of the once-in-a-lifetime Maple/Offspring collaborative project that Stefan Read, Laurel Swift and I conceived at Pinewoods in 2009, but I can’t imagine that the creatively restless members of these two teams will go very long before embarking on something we haven’t even thought of yet. Whatever it is, it will be inspired by the deep roots of tradition with which we have had the privilege of growing up.

Justin Morrison
Artistic Director, Rootbound