It would be fair to say that, although the Lady of the Hunt may have tried to maintain dignity during the Fox Dance, it had gone up in flames with the very first flare and she was as excited as a cub. Her Lord was no better, and was bouncing beside her to the music and doubtless both were wearing huge grins beneath their red and white masks.
Dignity wasn’t the only thing to have gone up in flames either. The mysterious Charles James Fox is exceedingly hot on fire safety and every item his dancers use is carefully fire-proofed. Not so the Lord’s white fur cloak… the stray spark had been efficiently dealt with by Lord Fox but it added to the primal, feral feeling of the night.
We adore the Foxes… you may have noticed… and we wanted to share the experience of the Fire Dance with our Companions and those we love. Charles James Fox had gracefully consented to attend our gathering with a number of his Vermin. What we had not realised at the time was that it would be St George’s Day and in England that means a plethora of folk festivals and dances across the land… and almost all of the Foxes were dancing or playing elsewhere. Some, unmasked and in other garb, would be doing two shows already that day… and would be many miles away.
Even so, said CJF, they would be there… And so they were.
Stuart and I have the privilege of having seen behind the masks and recognised…with so much gratitude… those we knew had been halfway across the country earlier that day… and yet they were here. To borrow a phrase from my son…how awesome is that?
But that wasn’t all.
Charles James Fox had planned the story of their dance to tie in with the theme of the weekend… and, in an unexpected move, had drawn the Lord and Lady into the procession and led them into their dancing ground… to a gorgeously decorated throne made especially for the evening.
By which time the Lady, at least, was fair bursting.
If you watch the video put together by Morgana West (and for which I am exceedingly grateful!) you might just see the Lord and Lady in their white and red masks and cloaks….bouncing…
We did wonder what the locals would make of the whole affair… and everyone was invited to come along and enjoy the dance…the Lord and Lady’s costumes, taken out of context, could well have been eyed askance…the symbolism could have looked a tad dodgy without knowing the background story of the drama. The locals, though, are probably used to seeing us turn up in strange garb and the ritual had been over before they arrived… they probably just thought us part of the show.
It is always a privilege to be present when the Foxes dance. There is something visceral, exciting and utterly primal about the crackling flames, the music and the dark shapes dancing an age-old tale. It is a fierce joy.
But to be inside the arena, a part of the dance in some small way… warmed by the flaming braziers, cloaked in the coloured fume of the flares… smelling the burning wood and brands.. and watching the dance through dancing flames… that is something else entirely and an honour and experience I will never forget.
By the morning, you would never had known they had been there… except that everyone was talking about them… and except for a memory that will not dissipate with the dawn…
To Charles James Fox, his right-paw Vixen and every one of the Vermin who travelled there to be with us…. Thank you.
That Saturday night, magic happened.
Photos and video of the Fox Dance by Morgana West