Morris dancing nowadays has a variety of dance forms, from the traditional morris dancing of the English folk to the more recent mumming technique that is a prodigy of the theatre. This is all thanks to Cecil Sharp, a musicologist who recorded and documented various dance forms of the morris that were being done in the early 20th century in his book.
He was able to censor the sexual and apparently heathen aspects of the dance style and mainly concentrated on the Cotswold form of morris dancing (one of the reasons that it is widely popular nowadays).This was instrumental in ensuring the survival of the morris dance through the 20th century and probably the 21st century as well.
The first white populations of Australia were the English and they brought in this form of dance to the country. The first occurrence of morris dancing in Australia is documented as having happened in the 1930’s. However, widespread morris dancing happened in the 1970’s and included all forms of morris dancing as well as other forms of art. During this period, morris dancing became vibrant and many dance troupes were formed as a result of this.
The sides during that time were usually single-sex dominated and it took some time for there to be mixed sex dancers. The major dance styles that dominated were the Cotswold and North West clog morris dancing. Over time, many of these sides adopted the other forms of morris dancing and included such forms like border and molly dancing. Presently, you can find a side that can mix a number of morris dance styles (mainly Border and Cotswold) easily. However, preference is still made on one dance style by many sides.
The main distinguishing factor of the different styles of morris dancing is the manner in which the sides dress up and to some extent the gender of the sides performing. Many feminine sides usually dance the North West type of morris as they consider it more feminine and adaptive to their gender than other forms of morris dancing. However, male sides engage in all types of morris dancing (disclaimer: don’t confuse this to mean that the different types of morris are performed by different genders, all types of morris can be performed by any gender).
As with regards to the dressing, Cotswold morris requires that the side strap themselves with bells on their legs and dance using either hankies or sticks. On the other hand North West morris sides have bells, ribbons or flowers and clogs (a major feature of the North West style). The English folk in Australia have also been able to incorporate Australian folk tunes into morris dancing and their form is a lot faster compared to that of the UK.
For the past half a century, morris dancing in Australia has been on an increase with most of those enacting it seeing it as a tradition that needs to be safeguarded. It has also been able to attract non-English participants as well and has become a bond that unites the whole society.