Morris dance is an English traditional dance that was first documented about the 1400s. Since that time, Morris dance has expanded to various regions in England, developing unique styles within those regions. From those styles, the consciousness and daily ways of seeing the world as well as ways of making sense of the world can be deduced from the observation of Morris dancing. Within the development of Morris dancing, seven major styles have emerged overtime, with even greater diversity in substyles and specialty groups.
The seven major styles of Morris dancing present in England today are: Cotswold, North West, Border, Longsword, Rapper, Molly, and Ploughstots. Below, I describe distortive aspects of each dancing style, their regional significance, and their historical influence.
One of the most globally popular forms of Morris dance, Cotwold originates from the Oxfordshire region. This form utilizes handkerchiefs and sometimes sticks as accompanying props with teams of approximately eight dancers. This form also allows for single performances, couple performances, and breaking the team in two to display nuanced aspects of the dance. These types of breaks area aptly termed jigs.
2. North West
North West style is later and more recent development of Morris dancing that is traditionally militaristic and highly processional. Emerging in the later 19th century, this form of dancing hails from the North West region of England and signifies cultural productions around rivers mills.
Border is a style that is a mixture of English and Welsh influences and remains connected to the Moorish and Islamic influences of Morris dance. While the Moorish and Islamic influence seems to be less acknowledged and somewhat disputed, the cultural comparison of Morris dancing and Moorish-Moroccan and Spanish forms of dancing yields significant similarity. This dance utilizes blackface, no doubt to symbolize that the dance was first derived from Moorish influence in England and Wales. It is a simpler style more vigorous and spontaneous movement.
Longsword is another militaristic style originating in the South Durham region. This form utilizes swords and the traditional organization of six or eight dancers in processional formation.
Rapper is also a style that maintains an Islamic influence. This Northumberland region style utilizes short swords and smaller teams for five members. Within Moorish-Berber dance, these implements and types of movements can be seen in similarity as far as the old Ottoman Empire, which is now Turkey.
Molly originates in the Cambridge shire region. The dance is most unique as it is primarily a beggars dance utilized to commemorate Pough Monday Feast dances, where performers would dress as women and collect money in preparation for winter. There is some intra-diversity within this dance and it has been documented to have notable distinctions from village to the village within the region.
This form of Morris dancing owes its origin to the traditional English feast of Plough Monday. It is a harvest festival that has a seasonal and agrarian organ. This style is similar is structure and emphasis to the Cotswold and Border forms of Morris, yet often incorporates bagpipes, fusion jigs, and influences from the Eastern region of England.
These seven styles of Morris dance are importance in their historical and cultural significance. They yield much light into the ways of thinking, seeing, making sense, and cultural integration of the 14th through 17th century England in a manner that documents the cultural memory influences of Moorish-Berber ways of militaristic and colloquial expression of multiple levels of England society, most notably peasant and agrarian ways of seeing. This is of vital importance and shows how common persons cope with and integrate influences from radically different cultures in a way that it becomes a part of their tradition that is distinct and contributes to a sense of regional, national, and global identity.