John Dexter—morris dancer, musician, teacher, fearless leader and guiding light of New York City’s Bouwerie Boys—passed quietly from this world in May 2023, leaving behind a 50 year legacy of incalculable breadth. Thank you, John! Thank you for the legacy of your years of dancing, playing, and teaching, and for your generous legacy gift, which will help CDSS to flourish this year and well into the future.
I have just finished the somewhat surreal task of planning for my eventual demise by establishing a process by which a portion of my estate will be given to CDSS.
As do others during this process, I evaluated all the possible people and organizations to whom I might give this sort of gift. And I concluded that CDSS is the organization I feel most strongly about.
The reasons are at once myriad and simple.
In my life, I play music professionally and I dance and play for dancing, mostly the morris. The music playing had its beginnings when I was a young child. But the dancing started for me when I first traveled from Iowa to attend a CDSS week at Pinewoods in 1965 when I was 19. I went to Early Music Week to study the gamba with Martha Blackman, a master musician and player. I quickly realized how lucky I was. She was extraordinary in a staff of extraordinary musicians, and I was the beneficiary of that.
But what REALLY happened to me that week was that I discovered English dancing—morris dancing, sword dancing, and English country dancing. And it quite literally changed my life.
I returned to camp every year thereafter until 1981 when work prevented me. I was on staff as a morris teacher from around 1975 through 1980. This was the critical time when morris team dancing was just getting going in the States. The morris atmosphere was highly charged, young people like me were crazy for the morris, and the classes were electric! I had joined the Pinewoods Morris Men in 1966. I had been a member of the Village Morris Men with Eric Leber as our teacher. I had gone to England in June of 1973 with a subset of the Pinewoods Men, the first American team ever to dance in England. And when I returned a changed young man, I started the Binghamton Morris Men in the winter of 1973.
I was given the gift of dancing by CDSS. And that gift has actively influenced my life every day since 1965. I am SO grateful for this, and I was SO lucky to have been given it.
Whatever this gift of mine to CDSS ends up being, making the gift is the very least I can do to acknowledge everything CDSS has given me over the years. And I say Thank You not only to the organization at large, but also to all the people involved in keeping the thing going! Your work is difficult in that regard, and you should know that people like me would be dramatically different people were it not for CDSS and its lasting influence in my life. So, THANK YOU, CDSS! Thank you for everything you do and have done over the years.
As we used to say in the Morris, may you continue to flourish!