WINDHAM COUNTY -- The Green Mountain Mummers, Windham County’s men’s sword dance troupe, will perform on Halloween weekend for the 38th consecutive year.
On Saturday and Sunday, the group will present its symbolic death-and-resurrection "street theater," rain or shine, in seven locations in Windham County.
The group of 12 men (mostly Windham County residents) is the oldest continuing sword dance and mumming troupe in the United States. Founded in 1975 and with only one of the original members still performing, the group has added many younger members over the last several years. However, it still operates in the manner of the traditional English morris and sword dancers from which the dances were originally collected: they meet to practice and perform only once a year. A favorite every year at election season is the group’s mummers play which has been characterized as a "live political cartoon," drawing on current events and providing social commentary through humor.
The Green Mountain Mummers sword dance was collected in northern England, but has developed its own Vermont character over the years. The six dancers are connected by holding long inflexible metal swords and, without breaking the ring, they weave and turn intricate figures. Each figure ends with the making of a "lock" of the swords in a progressively more complicated manner. The final lock of eight swords is the fateful one which traps an
Visiting customs have long been an important part of the human existence. Carolling at mid-winter, morris dancing in the spring and mumming are all related by this common thread of the need to reach out to one’s neighbors at significant times of the year. The audience for such performances is just as important as the performers and can participate in the ritual both during the mummers play and afterwards when the dancers "pass the hat." It is the exchange that brings luck and the promise of spring’s return.
The Green Mountain Mummers’ full schedule for Halloween weekend is:
* 11 a.m. -- Samuel Elliot Apts., Elliot Street, Brattleboro
* 11:45 a.m. -- Pliny Park, Main Street, Brattleboro
* 1 p.m. -- Brattleboro Common
* 2 p.m. -- Marlboro College Dining Hall, Marlboro
* 11 a.m. -- Williamsville town center
* Noon -- Dummerston Center, Common
* 1 p.m. -- Tavern Green, Main Street, Putney
For more information or directions to any of the performances, call 802-254-9019.