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Abbots Bromley: US fans perform the famous horn dance

By Uttoxeter Advertiser  |  Posted: August 20, 2014

By Jenny Moody

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US FANS of the medieval Abbots Bromley folk dance will again be performing their own interpretation of the ritual – more than 5,000 miles away in Oakland, California.

An amateur dramatic society, known as the California Revels, will this year be hosting their sixth annual 'Abbots Bromliad'.

Their website invites all 'Abbots Bromley and traditional English, Scottish, Contra, Morris, and other dance enthusiasts to join us in a day of good food, good music, good dancing and the largest celebration ever of the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance'.

Using their own replicas of the ancient antlers, they will be imitating the original dance, which involves a team of 12 members, six of whom parade 10 miles through the streets, farms and pubs with horns.

The characters include deer men, a fool, hobby horse, bowman and Maid Marian, a part invariably performed by a man sporting a full beard.

The American tribute will be dancing to the tune of 'The Wheelwright Robinson's Tune', originally transcribed by Cecil Sharp at the time he first documented the dance in 1857.

The date 1857 refers to the earliest specific date anyone in Sharp's time could remember it being played, but the tune is certainly older.

The dramatic society supply their own antlers to revellers, and also have their own hobby horses and fools hats.

They ask those attending to be creative with their outfits and makeshift antlers: "We've seen horns made from tree branches, coat hangers, and cardboard, paper fool hats, bows from a toy store and thrift-shop 'Maid Marion' dresses and parasols."

The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance is an English folk dance dating back to the Middle Ages, which takes place every September in the village.

After collecting the horns from the church at 8am on Wakes Monday, the Horn Dancers, comprising six deer-men, a fool, hobby horse, bowman and Maid Marian, perform their dance to music provided by a melodian player at various locations throughout the village and its surrounding farms and pubs.

The whole day involves a walk of about 10 miles – or 16 kilometres. At the end of an exhausting day, the horns are returned to the church.

Attractions during the day include exhibitions, craft stalls and, of course, the local pubs.

More information about the spectacle and how to join the festivities is online at www.abbotsbromley.com/horn_dance

This year the date of the dance falls on Monday, September 8.

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