Black Sheep ignore the rules to please the crowd
A large group of Bowen Islanders donned costumes and grabbed instruments to take part in Vancouver’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade last Sunday. The Bowen Island Black Sheep Morris Dancers and Black Lambs delighted the crowds with their routines. They even made a point of posing for photographs with bystanders, a practice that is frowned upon by parade organizers. Dwayne Matthews said that it was made an explicit rule two years ago not to do photo-ops but the practice is so much part of the Bowen Black Sheep performances that they decided to ignore the directive. “We may not be asked to come next year because we broke the rules,” said Matthews. “But this is just something we do.”
Matthews found the parade experience interesting. “There was a huge wall of people lining the route from Davie at Howe Street to Georgia at Granville Street,” he said. “We had seven lambs, 14 sheep plus three musicians and parents in costumes. We also want to say a huge thanks to our chauffeur, Peter King.” A video by one of the fans captured the general excitement at http://youtu.be/uoJ60Vr0I3w.
Matthews said that the groups alternated performing and sometimes even joined forces. “When we perform together, it can be very interesting because you can get someone tall like Gerald dancing with a seven-year-old girl,” Matthews said. “Even with the lambs, I like to pair up the bigger kids with the little ones.”
He explained that the lambs range in age from six to 12. “[The program] grew out of workshop with the Island Discovery Learning Community more than four years ago,” Matthews said. “The kids had an interest in the history of Morris Dancing. They did a costume-making workshop where they designed what is called the ‘kid.’ Then we did a dance session. We taught 20 kids and started the Black Lambs after that. Some of them have been dancing for four years, others joined last year.”
So far, none of the “lambs” have stayed on to become “sheep,” according to Matthews who chalks this up to the kids’ attention spans as well as their varying levels of comfort with “showmanship.”
“It takes a certain personality to love dressing up and performing,” he said. “Some people are naturals, others feel a bit more self conscious.” As one of the most dedicated young dancers, Matthews named Bjorn Vik, who makes a big effort to attend all the practices, often making his way across the island through rain and darkness. “Bjorn has been with the Sheep for three years, he joined when he was 15,” Matthews said.
The Bowen Black Sheep practice every Wednesday night at the Legion, the Lambs every other Sunday at the dance studio behind the youth centre. “People get hooked. Some of us have started to adjust our jobs to be able to make Wednesday night,” Matthews said, adding that when he used to commute, he took a later ferry on Thursday mornings.
To find out more about the Lambs, email: email@example.com, for the Sheep, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the excitement at www.facebook.com/groups/bowenblacksheep.
And what’s next? The Bowen Black Sheep are looking forward to a San Jose, California, event at the end of April when 13 groups from all over the groups will gather for a Morris Ale.