Soldier O Processional

by Edward L. Stern, Minnesota Traditional Morris.

Originally published in American Morris Newsletter 4(4):3-5 (1981)
© American Morris Newsletter; released under a Creative Commons ShareAlike license.

as danced in the village of Minneapolis-on-Mississippi

“Oh, Soldier, Soldier will you marry me,
With your musket, fife and drum?”
“Oh, how can I marry such a pretty lass as ye,
When I've got no pants to put on?”


T:Soldier O
D|G2G GAB|A2G E2D|(GGG) Bcd|d2c A2d|
e2d B2G|A2G E2E|D2D DEF|G3 G2|]
D|GGG E2D|GGG E2D|G2G B2d|d2c A2d|
e2d B2G|A2G E2E|D2D DEF|G3 G2:|

I choreographed the Soldier O. Processional (double file version) in 1969 for the Chicago Morris Dancers, a group which existed until 1971. It was originally known as “The Chicago Processional”, and was danced to the tune “Bobbing Joe” from Bampton. The present tune (above) came into being during the summer of 1972, when many cf the Chicago dancers had a reunion at the University of the Pacific Folk Dance Camp (Stockton, CA.). I thought that an American tune, and decided to adapt the the song quoted above for the purpose.

The second version (single file) was devised in 1976. Presently, the Minnesota Traditional Morris dancers use the single file variant almost exclusively, except for the purpose of teaching the dance to newcomers: The dance is much more quickly understood in double files, then easily altered to single file.

Steps and Arm Movements

Double Morris Step (Sometimes referred to as “4-step” or “4/3 Step” or “6/3 step”) is the basic 1-2-3-hop with a leg shake on the hop. Arm movement is a low “down-&-up” swing with a small, subdued wrist flick on the last count (do not allow hands to rise above nipple height).

Plain Capers are accompanied by horizontal circles slightly above and in front of the head. R hand clockwise, L hand counterclockwise. In the dance, one actually performs 3 circles (on the first three capers) and a “large circle” on the fourth caper, bringing arms down by sides preparatory to an up-beat flick (with hop) at end of last measure.

Side step is open. The foot closest your partner has its toe directed toward them, and you are looking at them, while your other foot is perpendicular to and placed behind the first. The side step consists of seven foot-falls and a final hop; it is not stationary, but moves along the line of travel so that the procession is continued, albeit more slowly. Arm Movement is four vertical counter-twists at waist height by the hand closest to your partner (“twist” implying more wrist than forearm action), with a forward swing of both arms on the final hop.

Music: A(ABB)nA

Once to yourself during the first A music: on the last beat of the phrase all hop (odds on R foot, evens on L foot) while swinging arms forward as described under Double Morris Step.

Continue with the Long and Short Processionals as described below. Always end with the Long Processional (leader yells out “CAPERS!” during measure A7 to indicate end of the dance). If the single file version is used, dance may end in a circle.

I. Double File (Original) Version

Pairs of dancers line up facing the top of the set (Fig. 1).

Figure 1

meas.           Pattern
A. ~ Long Processional
1-6 Dance forward 6 Double Morris Steps.
7-8 Four Plain Capers in place.
B. ~ Short Processional
1-2 Cross to other side of dance using 2 Double Morris Steps, one position forward, with evens going in front of partners (Fig. 2a).
3-4 Side Step (visually relating to partner)
5-6 Repeat meas. B 1-2, odds crossing in front (Fig. 2b).
7-8 Side Step (relating to partner).
B.1-8 Repeat meas. B 1-8.
Repeat dance from beginning.

Figure 2a Figure 2b

II. Single File Version (useful for fewer dancers)

Dancers line up as in Fig. 3.

Figure 3

meas.           Pattern
A.1-8 Same as meas. A 1-8 above
B.1-2 Odds move to R side diagonally forward, evens to L side using 2 Double Morris Step.(Fig. 4a).
3-4 Side Step (visually relating to audience beyond opposite line of dancers) (Fig. 4b).
5-6 Return to single line using 2 Double Morris Steps.
7-8 Side Step (relating to audience on the other side) (Fig. 4c.)
B.1-8 Repeat meas. B 1-8.
Repeat dance from beginning.

Figure 4a

Figure 4b

Figure 4c