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England dances its way to Shepherdstown

October 11, 1998

Morris dance teamBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Those who only glimpse at Shepherdstown at certain times of the year may wonder what country they're in.

In recent years, local residents have rekindled the tradition of Morris dancing, an English art form, performing in the spring and other parts of the year.

On Sunday, it was shades of England all over again when local Morris dancers and two groups from Sheffield, England, and Canada performed at the Bavarian Inn and Lodge.

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Dancers with colorful costumes and painted faces danced in rhythm, banging sticks together. They kicked their legs into the air, setting off rows of bells sewn to their legwear.

Some of the dancing was passed down by the English who lived near the border of Wales and England. The Welsh often wanted to come to England to farm, but the English fiercely protected their turf, often turning to Morris dancing to demonstrate their resistance, said Becky Lidgerding, a member of the Shepherdstown Northwest Morris dance grup.

Lidgerding's group traveled to England last year to perform and visit with Morris dancers. This week, the English dancers came to the United States, where they visited their Shepherdstown friends and performed around the region.

The dancers wanted someplace in Shepherdstown to perform, so they went to Erwin and Carol Asam, owners of the Bavarian.

It didn't take much arm-twisting to get the Asams to agree, especially since Carol Asam is from Sheffield.

The Asams joined about 80 of their friends and customers on the lawn outside the inn to watch the Morris dancers. Guests eating in the dining room inside were able to watch the performance below.

Anne Kerfoot said she has always been interested in live dance performances, and decided to come to the Bavarian to learn more about Morris dancing.

"Now I'm even more curious," said Kerfoot, who sat under picture-perfect skies to watch with her husband, Tom. "I've go to do some research now that I've done this," said Kerfoot, who teaches computer and information sciences at Shepherd College.

Although the tradition of Morris dancing is not as popular as it used to be, Carol Asam said she can remember the dances when she was growing up.

The dances were often held on the outskirts of Sheffield, and they were always in the streets, she said.

"It's been going on for years and years," she said.

Carol Asam left Sheffield in 1959 and joined the military. Carol Asam came to the United States in 1970 and married her husband in 1972.

They started the Bavarian Inn and Lodge together in 1977.

Although Carol Asam still has family members in Sheffield, "this is really my hometown more than anywhere."

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