Dance is an art form that transcends cultures, languages and national boundaries. With that in mind and a thousand years of history behind us, Mersey Morris Men crossed the English Channel armed with just a name and an email address to meet with Les Gastadours Lamballe, a Breton dance group. We were accompanied by members of Mockbeggar Morris.
After an introductory meeting with our hosts conducted in little bits of schoolboy French (although we weren’t able to get ‘my grandmother was run over by a steamroller’ into the conversation) we had an itinerary of sorts.
A welcome by our hosts with crepes and cidre followed by visit to Le Val Andre, a seaside resort. Then a MerseyMorris first, a paramedic helicopter landing in the middle of our set.
It started with boule and pallet, traditional French games followed by a typical Breton lunch of a mere 5 courses. Kir, pain du potage, a pork, sausage and beef stew served with cabbage, cheese, Far (Breton custard pie) all washed down with wine and/or cidre.
Then we went to an English festival in Moncontour, a beautiful fortified small city set on hill overlooking the beautiful Breton countryside. A representative of the mayor gave us a tour. Then the main event.
A display by Mersey in the town square to mix of curious locals and tourists. Amazingly they stayed to watch all afternoon. They were taught a simplified version of the Shepherds Hey jig and Greenbanks, a Mersey stick dance. Then we were joined by Les Gastadours Lamballe for a Danse Spectacleur. Finally, Bonny Green Garters was performed by all that were willing including an old school friend of the Squire, who was a member of Jockey Morris but had moved to Brittany 35 years ago.
The day was completed by a visit to an evening festival in a vineyard listening a variety of Celtic music groups and a Pink Floyd tribute act whilst eating Gallettes Saucisson (sausage pancakes) and the local wine.
A visit to a Bread and Threshing Fair at Pleuganast. Again we were fed with the local cuisine and performed 2 spots. This was made more interesting to locals by a gaggle of geese being herded through the set by a dog. There was also an impromptu session of dad dancing, enough said.
This was a day off performing, so we thought, with a visit to the medieval town of Diann as tourists. Then in the evening was a Conviviale. Another belly busting feast of local produce. Performances by both both sides including Breton social dancing, a massed jig including Alain, one of our hosts. He has been signed up as an overseas member. Finally an obligatory Scouse song, Lily the Pink.
We met through a name and an email address and parted as good friends. Some might say sending a bunch of Scousers onto mainland Europe would accelerate Brexit negotiations, but we have endeared ourselves to our hosts and their friends through the medium of dance and our ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ sense of fun. We are already planning to host out new friends next year.