Ten Years Performing as Teazer

It was on 26th June 2009, that I ventured into the streets of Penzance for my first Teazing performance under the tuition of Cassandra Latham Jones. I had previous experience of Morris dancing while performing at various folk festivals and mistakenly assumed that the role of Teazer could be something similar.
I received a telephone phone call during November 2008 from an acquaintance asking if I would be interested in training for the role of a Teazer. She briefly explained what the role entailed and I decided to try as it was also an opportunity to become involved in a community event after recently moving to Cornwall. I had visited the home of this particular acquaintance and partner on a few occasions while they were in the process of creating one of the new Penglaz ‘Osses after the retirement of the original one. They were extremely excited about this project and I witnessed the gradual development of its creation. It was the first time I had seen a horse’s skull and heard information about the folk tradition in which they were used. Cassandra contacted me soon after she heard about my interest and invited me to attend the 2008 Montol festival near the winter solstice, to observe her performance with the new Penglaz.

The acquaintance who was also the photographer for the event, suggested I wore a mask and dark clothing for the procession as the majority of people would be dressed in ‘mock formal’ attire.
On arrival I joined the back of the procession at St Johns Hall with my husband and son. When the procession began, I made my way to the front so that I could observe Cassandra’s performance. Penglaz the ‘Oss did not appear during the first procession so I concentrated on Cassandra’s movements as she marched at the front of the band in time to the music and waved to the people who lined the streets. On our arrival at the hill fort we stood around the large beacon to warm ourselves by the fire and then visited a pub with the photographer, her partner and another friend of theirs.

The crowd seemed to increase in numbers when we joined the second procession and once again I followed the procession at the back with my husband and son, then gradually moved to the front.
Cassandra and Penglaz appeared out of an adjacent entrance to a restaurant in Chapel street and were welcomed by the enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. The energy was wild and exciting.
When I had danced at festivals with my former Morris team I was one of many performers, but on this occasion I was a little concerned that Penglaz and the Teazer were the main characters and focus of the event. There would be greater pressure for a performance such as this and I voiced my concerns to the photographer who assured me it would work out and have a positive outcome.
During my interview with Cassandra on the 26th January 2009, I was informed there was also a second Penglaz and an ongoing disagreement between the other rider and Cassandra, but she assured me I would not become involved in this matter. Cassandra and I met regularly for practices at the yard of an engineer known to the photographer. My son and husband both rode Penglaz and each of them had their individual interpretation giving the ‘Oss a different personality during each performance.
My husband gave Penglaz a cheeky character, while my son being only seventeen years of age was unpredictable, mischievous andto this day, Cassandra says he has been the fastest ‘Oss rider she ever had!
Although I was an experienced dancer, I needed to develop a connection with a completely different type of energy to perform this role. Cassandra had sent me articles to read about the Bucca elemental (of the sea and storms) and the spirit that works through the ‘Oss and Teazer.
I modeled my Teazer kit on the one that Cassandra wore, as the Teazer ‘cross dresses’ to represent the ‘male and female’ aspect and the ‘topsy turvy’ Cornish energy. Cassandra attended a ‘guild meeting’ and presented the members with video footage of our practices, announcing that I would be her apprentice Teazer and I apparently had the guild members’ approval.
My first appearance was on Friday 26th June 2009 on Mazey Eve. My husband volunteered to ride Cassandra’s Penglaz and we were understandably a little nervous about our first appearance particularly within a community we were unfamiliar with. (On reflection I am sure that many were wondering who we were and why we had been placed into a ‘lead role’ within their community festival!) Just before the performance I was waiting for Cassandra outside a local inn as she was in there trying to locate someone. A local man approached me asking why I was there and when I explained, he replied that I would never be as good as Cassandra and went on to tell me how long he had known her and revealed some personal details about her life! What an encouraging start to the evening!
We prepared ourselves and Penglaz in a room at the Barbican and Cassandra stood at the open top window waving at the gathering crowd who were looking up at her. We eventually emerged from the large black doors to lively music from the Golowan Band and cheers from the crowd. Mazey Eve is a wild celebration and extremely crowded, so keeping near Penglaz and making one’s way through the crowd is quite a task!  I watched Cassandra closely and there were many occasions where our movements were identical which boded well for future development.
Cassandra imbued a confidence and connection with the ‘Oss during her seventeen years of Teazing and this was something that would also develop within me after years of experience. One’s reflexes need to be quick due to the unpredictable behaviour of the ‘Oss and also the crowd.

The Teazer’s role is to attempt to control the crowd as well as keep an eye on Penglaz, making space for her to move around while protecting her from intoxicated people who step into her path or attempt to get too close which could result in injury. There were specific signals Cassandra used to bring out the personality of Penglaz, to laugh, dance and also stand still if needed. The stomping and snapping move of the ‘Oss is one that takes a considerable amount of practice as the timing of the snap of the jaw and stepping need coordination. My son Rhys accomplished this move quickly and it was impressive.

After my first performance, I received positive feedback, plus a few criticisms from one person who thought I ought to teaze the same way as Cassandra. It was only after years of experience that I could see what he meant, as he advised me to watch her feet and mine now move in the same way as the energy has grounded.  Another did not agree with two Teazers being on the street instead of one, but Cassandra explained that it was the best method for training. Whatever the viewpoints, I knew I had done a good first performance for someone who had no previous knowledge of ‘Oss Teazing.  My Teazing role with Cassandra and Penglaz in Penzance continued for two years and then we left the festival over political issues. (See Original Penglaz Reinstated) After leaving the Golowan festival we re-named our ‘Oss Penkevyll and our Guise team Boekka and I was relieved to be out of that situation as we then had freedom to perform in our own way.
Boekka has had three changes of colours, image, performers and riders throughout the years, however one aspect that stayed constant is that Cassandra and I remained together as Teazers. I performed alongside her for eight years and then she handed on the role of head Teazer to me.
My Teazer role has developed over the years and the strongest connection occurred at the All Hallows Gathering in 2016 after the release from a situation that was, on reflection, draining the energies. The Teazer role needs total focus and dividing my energy between Morris dancing and Teazing did not work well.
I now have two apprentice Teazers as well as new riders. All are doing extremely well and Boekka is going from strength to strength. This year is our 9th year of performance (as our team first formed while our ‘Oss was still Penglaz during 2010). I also have my own ‘Obby ‘Oss by the name of Morvargh (Cornish for Sea Horse).

I have learnt some valuable lessons and am not the same person who moved to Cornwall eleven years ago, however I also have some fond memories of those early days. I am also proud to say that I am the only Teazer that has been taught by Cassandra. It has certainly been an eventful but rewarding journey!
Read more about Boekka here

 

 

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Chepstow Wassail 2018 with Mari Lwyds

Our guise team Boekka had a wonderful time at our yearly visit to Chepstow meeting the fabulous Mari Lwyds and friends once again. This year the temperature was a little warmer without the frost of 2017.
We arrived on Friday and spent the evening in the atmospheric bar of the historic Greenman Backpackers Hostel. A warm welcome awaits and the staff made a concerted effort to ensure their customers were comfortable and content.

 

 

 

 

Mike who owns the hostel is also a member of the energetic Widders Morris and organizer of the Wassail event. This is an extremely busy weekend for him.

The programme for the day began earlier this year as the Maris met outside the Greenman Backpackers Hostel before processing to the castle. They performed their usual banter and song to gain entry to the hostel and participated in traditional song as their voices echoed with the marvelous acoustics in the basement of the ancient building.

My ‘Oss Morvargh’s debut was at this event, receiving a copious amount of attention and admiration. Our good friend Phil Larcher, rider of the Mari Lwyd complimented me on Morvargh’s decoration which is praise indeed from one who has a strong connection with the spirit of the Mari, her primitive energy and history.

The procession through the town was downhill, but with the weight of an ‘Oss, a slow and steady pace is needed for the riders when walking through the wet cobbled streets.
After the procession we gathered for the Wassail by the ancient castle. We had a little time for preparation to bring out the Lands End ‘Oss Penkevyll. Her rider this year was an extremely fit and muscular Welshman and his family were delighted to see this. He was a tall  man, so Penkevyll had the best view of the event above the crowd.

 

John Isaac

We enjoyed performances by Widders Morris and Styx of Stroud. Morvargh danced to the music and I had a wonderful ‘work out’!

John Isaac

During the Wassail at Chepstow castle, Penkevyll remained on higher ground as the ground was extremely muddy due to a copious amount of rain in the days leading up to the event.

John Isaac

John Isaac

After the Wassail we made our way to the Chepstow Castle Inn where a Beauty Pageant had been arranged for the Maris. Penkevyll could not join us for this as she was too tall to enter the building.
Morvargh received a huge cheer from the audience on appearing and many journalists required information about her and how the ‘Oss connects with Cornish tradition. We informed them that owning an ‘Oss or a ‘beast’ has become a trend in recent years as many new ones have appeared in Cornwall. Penkevyll however was one of the first in West Cornwall after Penglaz in Penzance.

There were 21 Maris and ‘Osses in attendance this year, 10 more than last year. Even though the Beauty Pageant was arranged and each Mari or ‘Oss received a rosette they are so uniquely beautiful it would be too difficult to choose a winner. All of them were winners that day and a credit to their owners with the obvious hard work that had gone into their creation.
It was time for the meeting of the Welsh and English on the Old Wye Bridge by early evening. A projector screen was erected this year so that those who could not join us on the bridge were able to watch the ceremony. Boekka decided not to take our ‘Osses to the bridge as we took time out to enjoy this part without distraction. My apprentice Teazer had done a fabulous job assisting with Penkevyll and Morvargh during the day so we had earned the freedom to enjoy the atmosphere.

 

 

Scarlet certainly has the wild mischievous energy required for being a Teazer.
Our good friend Jason Semmens held our Cornish flag and did an impressive job of displaying it beside the Welsh and English flags.

After the bridge ceremony we arrived at Chepstow Museum for the Maris to once again sing their traditional Pwmco and gain entry. The handler of Mari Pontypwyl offered my apprentice Teazer the opportunity to guide her Mari into the Museum and I followed on as a guide. Earlier in the day Scarlet also had the opportunity to ride one of David Pitts smaller ‘Osses so it was an event full of new and delightful experiences for her.

The Chepstow Wassail event is a long and active day, but we enjoyed every minute. Team Boekka worked well together and I would like to thank Cassandra, Scarlet, our rider and John Isaac (who captured some fantastic images) for all their hard work.
Cheers to you all this Wassail season!

 

Boekka’s 7th Year

The Boekka Guise team has experienced many changes since it first began in 2010. A change in appearance meant the Teazers who wore face masks changed to face blacking for disguise as it is easier to wear and traditional for Guise performers.  Penkevyll has had two changes of tatter and ribbon colours and now wears the traditional Cornish colours of black, white and gold.
We attempted to combine a Morris side with Boekka’s ‘Oss and Teazers as my son (our first rider) was eager to teach a Morris team. We had however heard from an experienced Morris dancer that when a group number exceeds 7 members, the group dynamics change and problems can occur. We found this to be the case, especially when our recruits joined for reasons other than dancing abilities, so it was not surprising that they were not members for long. We discovered it is not easy to recruit Morris dancers in West Cornwall as most local musicians and dancers prefer to participate in Cornish traditional performance and for some reason Morris dancing is considered an ‘English’ pursuit.  Boekka then reverted to a Cornish ‘Oss and Teazer team only and this works well.
We have three riders for Penkevyll the ‘Oss, two are local and the other lives further away. The rider who lives the farthest attended Sidmouth festival with his Morris team and then continued his journey to Cornwall to visit us. It was an ideal opportunity to get two of our riders together to practice with Penkevyll and the rider with more experience gave the newer one advice on ways of moving the ‘Oss to give her personality and character.
We also took the opportunity to photograph Penkevyll (Cassandra’s ‘Oss) and Morvargh (my ‘Oss) together.

 

I also had time for Teazing practice with Penkevyll. The energy of the ‘Oss is fast and wild and the Teazer blends with this energy incorporating fast, wild and ‘earthed’ movements.  Slow movement with the ‘Oss can still have an edge but needs to be done in a certain way and Cassandra is the only Teazer who has accomplished this judging by other performances I have seen.

 

 

This practice coincided with Boekka’s 7th Birthday, so we had a celebration together with Prosecco and cake.

 

After practice we spent the evening in our local pub the St Buryan Inn for music, singing and dancing which the locals and tourists enjoyed. Some of them moved from the lounge bar to the public one to listen and join in with dancing and singing.

 

 

We had a wonderful afternoon and evening. It is good to now have three riders (as well as my son who rode in the past) who not only respect but understand the spirit of Penkevyll. Boekka is now a small but happy group with good energies. Long may it last.