Morris dancing originated from England but the who and when of its origin remains a mystery. It has been there for centuries and even Shakespeare cared to give it some publicity in his plays. Morris dance is usually for shows and not a social dance; and as a result it is usually performed before an audience. Over the years the dance style has evolved into many different forms, each with its own distinct movements and hailing from different parts of the world. A controversial part of the performance is that the dance troupe usually covers up it faces in black (nowadays different colours are used as well). This can either be a strip of black right across the face or colouring your beard. Here are some of the different styles of Morris dancing and how they are usually performed;
This form of Morris dancing is a collection of different dances originated from the villages on the Welsh borders. It is a more raucous form of dancing and involves a lot of yelling, hooting, skipping and grunting from the dancers. The dance is performed by a lot of sticks and the outfits are rougher looking as well.
This dance style has its origins rooted in the Cotswold regions of England (just as the name suggests). Typically anyone who knows what Morris dancing is knows Cotswold morris as it is one of the most common types of morris danced presently. It involves the use of sticks as well but also bells and handkerchiefs. It is usually performed by a set of around 6-8 dancers.
Just as the name suggests, sword dancing is a form of morris dancing that includes the use of swords. There are generally two types of swords that are used, a ‘longsword’ and a ‘rapper’. A longsword is a straight sword with a wooden handle whereas a rapper is much shorter and has a wooden handle as well. It is good to know that the swords are rather just implements and not real swords (so you can breathe a sigh of relief now). It is usually performed by a set of 5-8 dancers.
North West Morris Dance
Originated from the North West region of England, the North West dance involves dancers with clogs and bass drums. It is more choreographed and highly rehearsed, with some dance troupes taking all year long to rehearse the dance. The dancers usually go round in intricate patterns, weaving against each other as they step hard on their clogs in a rhythmic manner.
Rooted deep in Cambridgeshire and East Anglia, Molly dancing is a more subtle form of Cotswold dancing. It is believed to have originated from plough boys who were seeking employment and hence went round offering a dance to be remunerated in money. It was strictly a male dance but one of the troupe members is dressed up as a woman and is usually referred to as the molly.
Now you know the various forms of molly dancing and there are others that have evolved with time and are more of a combination of these 5 basic types.