The 500 year tradition was given another lease of life by Cecil Sharp who documented his experience with the dance in his book. He however gave more information on Cotswold dancing and left out how the other dance styles are usually performed. Morris dancing is more of a show dance and not a social one. A troupe, usually referred to as a side, performs in front of an audience. You can decide to join a side from you home area and begin engaging in this folklore tradition.
Here is a guide of how the different forms of morris dancing are performed:
Cotswold Morris dance
Cotswold dancing is the most common type of morris dancing and it usually incorporates the use of sticks, handkerchiefs and bells. The dancers usually wear a white shirt with a vest and a belt across it together with trousers and shoes. The trousers are usually pulled up to the knee where a bell is strapped to and the socks (usually white) pulled up to the knee. For the sticks dance, the dancers make two lines and rhythmically dance while striking each other’s stick. Don’t you worry, with a single training session you will get all the moves right and– NO your partner’s stick can’t harm you.
North West Morris dance
The North West Morris dance incorporates the use of a stick ribbon, bells in some instances, garlands and clogs. Its main feature is in the clogs. Unlike the Cotswold where the rhythm of the dance is as a result of the clinging bells strapped on the vest and legs, in North West Morris the clogs make all the noise. As a result, North West Morris is usually performed on concrete areas where the steps can be heard from the jumping and the stepping.
Here the morris dance is done using implements that resemble swords. There are generally two types of swords that are used, the longsword and the rapper. It is enacted more like Cotswold morris but with the rapper dances being faster than the longsword. Again, you will not get hurt with this dance style.
How to dance morris
Having chosen the type of morris that you want to dance, you will now need to know the steps with which you can dance (and avoid tripping yourself);
- The first step is to stand on your right leg with the left foot to your side (and off the ground). Hold out your arms wide enough and dangle the hankies from them.
- Next, bring your left leg 90oto your waist and then rotate clockwise on your right leg with your arms in the same position.
- Whilst in the same position, rotate through another 90o gradually lowering your left leg to the ground (and ensuring that you keep stable).
- Finally, leap off the ground with both your legs with your arms moving upwards (like wings).
Repeat the steps again and to a rhythmic tune.