Morris dancing has for the longest time been considered as a preserve for males in the English society. More precisely, the elderly male dressed up in white shirts, a padded vest (with a belt across it holding bells), trousers and clogs (for North West morris dancing). Not forgetting the ribbons tied on the arms and the legs.
However, this traditional form of dance has been on a verge of change recently with more women taking it up as well. Even the most hard core morris associations that were hell bent on never allowing females to perform the morris dance are now taking a reverse turn on their decisions and allowing it. This may be attributed to the fact that the morris dance was almost on its deathbed and any form of resuscitation was rapidly needed in order to bring the beautiful dance back to life.
With the entry of females into morris dancing in the 20th and 21st century, statistics have been showing that given a few more years there is a high chance that more females than males will be performing the dance. They also indicated that most of the members in morris dance troupes were females taking up more than 61% of the 13,000 individuals in morris groups. Its resurgence has also been credited to the young population that has started to take a liking in the dance form. This is shown by the popularity of the dance with many troupes indicating that there are now being overwhelmed by the number of requests made.
The history of morris dancing is unclear but can be traced back to the 15th century. It gained popularity during the 15th-18th century and survived a number of attempts to put it down such as in the time of the Puritans who likened it to a pagan form of dance and had it prohibited. However, it always managed to bounce back to the public domain and in very many different forms.
The 19th century almost saw the whole demise of the folklore tradition with the onset of the industrial revolution. By then it was seen as an unfashionable dance and new forms of dance had started to crop up and gain popularity with the public. By the time the First World War came up, morris dancing was well on its death bed and Cecil Sharp, a musicologist, pretty much saved it from complete extinction when he wrote the “The Country Dance” book, this book detailed his experience with dance styles he had seen. Once again, morris dancing was saved from extinction.
In the 21st century, again the number of morris dance troupes started dwindling as a result of the dance being considered not fashionable for the generation (there it goes again). Morris associations all over addressed this issue by creating outreach projects to the youth in a bid to safeguard the culture; a ploy that worked and is attributed to the increase in people who are either interested or perform morris dancing.
This detailed evolution of morris dancing pretty much show that this form of dance is not about to die out any soon, not with the creativity (and ales) that is a common feature of the English folk.