My parents forced me to go to a folk dance class when I was 13. I resisted mightily . . . for a week or two. But I took to it pretty quickly after that.

I enjoyed performing, liked being made to hold a girl's hand and place an arm around her waist, and kick up my heels and fling her about. What wasn't to like?

So for six years I performed Scandinavian folk dances (with the occasional Bavarian Laendler or Austrian Dreistreyer) with the Runeberg Dancers until I had finished high school.


August 1973, on the verge of eighth grade. I'm dancing at Simpson Park with Ronda Nelson, and from the looks of it, we're doing the Swedish Hambo Waltz.


On the main platform at the annual Junction City Scandinavian Festival, July 1976 -- almost a high school senior. That's Jane Monsebroten to my right.

When I got to college, I checked out the Swedish Folk Dance Club of Boston, but they were all much older than I, and though the women had plenty of pep, the other men were low on energy. I tried Scottish folk dancing, which was interesting but didn't stick.

One Christmas (I think it was 1979), an alternative weekly paper called The Boston Phoenix had a feature story about morris dancers -- I believe the Newtowne Morris Men were featured -- and the photos of men leaping around and flourishing handkerchiefs or brandishing staffs looked intriguing, so I cut the article out of the paper and saved it. The following summer, I had an internship at the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill (in the office of Lt. Gov. Thomas P. O'Neill III -- U.S. Speaker of the House "Tip" O'Neill's son), so I decided to investigate morris.

I called the Newtowne men, and they said they normally didn't take new dancers until the fall, "but you might call Howard Lasnik of the Jokers" and they gave me his number. I called Howard and he said, "Sure, come on over." So I became a morris dancer without ever having seen it.

Go to "The Black Jokers"




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