Kickass Welsh Morris Dancing in Moscow

Hugh Gatenby

Never let it be said that this wide and disparate country (11 time zones, 35 official languages – according to Mr Google) does not embrace diversity. But Welsh Morris Dancing? Morris Dancing in general, with its stereotypical bells and handkerchief-waving, can attract a few sneers even in the home country – and is unlikely, one would have thought, to find favour amongst the Russians.

Well, I’ve found a Welsh Border Morris group here. Or rather, they found me. A group of young enthusiasts dedicated to celebrating Welsh music and folk dance culture – in Russia. And there’s nothing genteel or hanky-waving about this lot. They are blacked-up, stomping, club-thwacking and, in a word, kickass. Happy Kelpie”, they’re called. I’d have chosen a different, maybe more alliterative epithet myself – like ‘Half-crazed’. They’re not Welsh; I’m not even sure if any of them has ever been to Wales. They hail from that other noted bastion of Welsh culture, St Petersburg. I was greeted warmly by one of the groups key members, Milada, a slight, cheerful twenty-something – before she summoned her troops and they launched into a furious dance routine.

Being Russian, they added their own touches to a totally electrifying performance. Demented dervishes that they are, they stomped and clunked, and engaged in some terrifying stick-play, at Moscow’s ‘Vermel’ folk club. Glitter-balls and disco lights are not normally the staple of traditional Morris dances, but it provided an interesting Russian variation. Russo-Welsh folk culture may be steeped in its Celtic past – but clearly nods to the techno-future. And in the best Morris tradition, once the stomping was over, they retired to an ale-swilling sing-song in the bar. Bravo, Happy Kelpie! The next time that I’m in St Petersburg…

Божечки! Эта огромная и чудесная страна меня никогда не перестает поражать! Речь конечно в хорошем смысле идёт. Дело в том, что валлииские народные танцы, по стилю “Моррис” не очень популярны у нас, даже не в Уэльсе насколько я знаю, но вот я нашёл такую группу в России.

Это Питерский коллектив, и скорее, они меня нашли! Короче, эти энергичные ребята (да, очень, они пользуются батарейками “Энержайзер”, думаю) просто прекрасно танцевали, играли, пели в московском клубе “Вермеле”.