Accordion music drifted over the reflecting pool as police wrapped up their press conference about the horrific shooting hours earlier on the West Front of the Capitol. Washington, D.C.’s Morris Dance Cherry Blossom Day of Dance would not be denied.
Saturday was a beautiful day in Washington. It was 70 degrees and sunny. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom. The Capitals clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the NHL playoffs. And the Morris Dancers headed to Capitol Hill for their annual spring revelry and celebration of a folk dance that dates to 15th century England. “You’re happy. We’re happy. We’re dancing. You’re watching. It’s a win-win situation!” they proclaimed in a flyer. Then at about 1:05 p.m., a man shot himself on the West Front near the fountain, locking down the campus, scrambling police — and presenting the Albemarle Morris Men, the Rock Creek Morris Women and the Foggy Bottom Morris Men with a crime scene that was supposed to be the second stop of their lower-leg-bell, fiddle-heavy, white-laundry-arm-flapping court dancing.
But the Morris dancers improvised. “Some of our number had already arrived,” at the West Front when the suspect shot himself, said Joe Shelby of the Foggy Bottom Morris Men. The dancers regrouped, heading to Lower Senate Park to strut their stuff. “This is one of the few times we’ve hit peak week,” Shelby said.
Their first stop had been earlier at Union Station’s Columbus Plaza. After the detour to Lower Senate Park, they headed toward the taverns of Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast. “We drank and sang at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove,” Shelby said. Then they headed to Port City Java at Eastern Market, and lastly to the Capitol Reflecting Pool.
Others pursuing cultural pursuits were not so lucky. A DC Ducks tour was turned away by police tape from its berth through the West Front of the Capitol. Bicyclists had to divert to Constitution or Independence avenues. Selfies were crowded with ambulances and police vehicles. But the Morris Men danced.
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