Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Biology professor to celebrate spring with dawn dance

Associate Professor Dennis Barrett will move away from his scientific roots May 1, as he participates in a May Day dance to awaken the earth and celebrate the coming of spring.

Barrett, a developmental biologist, has been a member of the Boulder-based Maroon Bells Morris Dancers since 1984, which since 1986 has come to DU for six May Morning dances. Barrett anticipates a dozen dancers joining in the festivities, 5:55 a.m.–6:45 a.m. on the circle in front of University Hall.

Morris dancing originated in England around the Middle Ages as a way to assure good fortune to the land and its people. It typically includes sets of four or six dancers moving through complex circles and processions.

Morris troupes include musicians, a fool and an animal. Half of the dances are performed with sticks used to “wake up” the earth and for the rest handkerchiefs are employed to drive out bad spirits. Bells attached to dancers shins help dispel winter.

The troupe has danced as far away as Britain but usually performs in Colorado, bringing dances from the Cotswolds villages near Oxford to audiences at the Colorado Renaissance Festival, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Morris Ales event in the Midwest.

Barrett, who officially retired last May, still teaches in the biological sciences department. He enjoys the rhythm, togetherness and the workout that Morris dancing provides. He can lose himself in the music and the dances’ complicated steps and leaps, performing a “half gyp” with flair and aplomb and only occasionally turning a “hey” in the wrong direction.

“The dancing involves counting in sets of six and takes an orderly mind,” Barrett says, noting that even a scientist enjoys the fantasy of dancing up the sun.

Comments are closed.