Maroon Bells Morris Dancers Celebrate 20th Anniversary

The Maroon Bells Morris Dancers will celebrate their 20th anniversary on Saturday, June 15. The day will start with a 10:30 AM performance at the International Festival in downtown Boulder, followed by performances throughout the day at various locations in the Boulder area. An evening banquet will cap the day's festivities. All members, former members, and friends of Maroon Bells Morris are invited to take part.

The group was founded in the spring of 1982 by Sallie Sprague and Martha Wild. Most members were CU staff or students, and practices were held in a cement-floored room (hard on the legs!) in the CU stadium. Today, the group meets in a dance studio with a nice wood floor. The 18 members range in age from their 20's to 60's. Long-time members include Rodney Sauer (16 years), Carol Hall (17), Mary Carr (17), Dennis Barrett (18), Ryntha Johnson (18), Bill Hall (19), Nancy Sauer (19), and Steve Winograd (20). Co-founder Sallie Sprague, who moved away in the mid-1980's, has recently returned to Colorado and re-joined the group.

The Maroon Bells Morris Dancers have performed widely in the last twenty years. Sites have included the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Colorado Renaissance Festival, Longs Peak Highland Games, University of Wyoming Elizabethan Festival, Minnesota Renaissance Festival, and tours of England in 1989 and 2000. Each year, the group dances at the Midwest Morris Ale, a gathering of Morris dancers on Memorial Day weekend. The Ale came to Boulder in 1989 and 1998. This year's Ale is in Madison, Wisconsin.

Steve Winograd is the Squire, or administrative leader, and Nancy Sauer is the Foreman, or dance leader. The group meets on Wednesday evenings from 7:30 to 9:30 at North Metro Jazzercize, 11934 N. Washington, in Northglenn. Beginners are always welcome and can receive individualized instruction. There is no charge. For more information, please call Steve Winograd at 447-8578 or send E-mail to The group has a web site at, where the performance schedule is posted.

Morris dancing dates back hundreds of years in England. Its origins are unknown, and possibly related to seasonal observances intended to wake up the earth in spring and to ensure good crops and healthy animals.

Morris dances are usually performed by a set of six dancers. The dancers clash sticks or wave handkerchiefs as they perform the figures of the dance. Bells on their legs jingle as they move. The dances are often accompanied by traditional folk characters. The Fool romps around the set, harassing the dancers and amusing the audience. The Hobby Horse prances about, sometimes carrying a hat used to solicit money from the observers. The Betty, a man in women's clothing, is an ancient fertility symbol.

Music is an integral part of Morris dancing and is always performed live. The traditional Morris instrument is the pipe and tabor: a single musician simultaneously plays a three-holed pipe with the left hand and a small drum with the right hand. Other instruments have come into use in the twentieth century. Maroon Bells' musicians are Rodney Sauer (accordion), Norman Hughes (melodeon and concertina), and Carla McKenna and Steve Winograd (pipe and tabor).

10 May, 2002