Morris Dance is a style of Folk dance that has been around for centuries. It is known to have been around at least since the 15th century in the time of Henry the 7th. It is thought that Morris Dance was part of the entertainment that was provided to the court. It then spread to the villages and village celebrations as well as seasonal festivals. A Morris Dance Group or team is called a side. There a few types of Morris sides. There is the Men only sides, the women only and the mixed ( which has both men and women in the side). Morris sides are rich in tradition. There are various styles that each has their own style of clothes and objects used.
One of the most popular styles of Morris dance is the Morris Cotswold style. In this style there are six dancers, a musician and either a fool or an animal character. Various villages created their own steps and dances and those traditions were carried down by generations. Some of the sides use sticks and some handkerchiefs as part of their dancing. Usually there is some type of bell worn on their pants that add to the music. Some of the music is played by the bag pipe or a fiddle. Another style is the Welsh Border Morris dancing. This is from the Welsh border counties like Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire. They often perform at Christmas. This style is a variant of the older style of Morris. They have sides that are either four, six or twelve men. They wear more lively costumes then the Cotswold Morris. They have brighter colors and use many instruments such as the drums, whistles, concertina, tambourines, fiddle, accordion and melodeon. Molly Morris is another style that comes from the Eastern Counties of England. Agricultural workers in the 19th centuries began the tradition by having a winter-time street performance known as Molly dancing. They disguised themselves with blackened faces and women’s clothing. They were known for being disrespectful and destructive. Jolly dancing went extinct by 1940, but there are small Molly dance groups that are a little tamer than they used to be.
Morris Dance was written about in 1899 and that helped save the traditions. There was a revival of Morris Dance in the 1960’s and 1970’s that helped spread it’s popularity and style of dance around the world. Morris Dance can now be found in England, Europe, The United States, and Australia among others. It is something that you can learn to do and the groups are always encouraging new members to join. Throughout this blog I will discuss the various ways to learn how to Morris Dance, where there are Morris sides you can join or just watch and the history of this great tradition. Morris Dance is something that is for people of all ages. Kids 8 and up participate and members perform well into their 80’s. It is a great way to stay connected with tradition as well as get great exercise and have fun.