There is a rhythmic stamping of the feet and dancers can use props such as wooden sticks, swords, handkerchiefs and bells attached to their shins that mark the rhythm. Morris dancing was first recorded in a document from the 15 th century, but its origins seem to be shrouded in mystery. Others think that crusaders brought it to England after the Moorish conquests. There is a lot of hogwash being circulated on the subject of the "origins" of morris dancing — especially by morris dancers (such as me). However, recent research has revealed the true origins of the Morris dance. According to the American Morris News (2005), "It is most commonly thought that the origin and function of blackface in Morris dancing lies in primitive disguise rather than an imitation of black men. The few solo Morris dances are called Morris jigs; an example is the Shepherds’ Hey. Comparable terms in other languages include German Moriskentanz (also from the 15th century), French morisques, Croatian moreška, and moresco, moresca or morisca in Italy and Spain. Fortunately, though, not everybody in England shares this feeling because there are many people who practice and love morris dance and have formed groups to continue this tradition. One of the reasons why this dance is connected to the word Moorish, maybe because of the fact that most dancers originally used to paint their faces in black (today only some still do and the tradition of blackening their faces may originate as a form of disguise for dancers or it could have been a reference to miners in later times). The above 3 people, augmented by others of a like mind, practised what Tony remembered of Morris dancing from his time with the Hartley & Blackheath M.M. It was imported from village festivities into popular entertainment after the invention of the court masque by Henry VIII. This was rare in most of the other forms of ritual custom. Nowadays, there are groups that are men only, women only or mixed genders. It is danced with wooden or metal swords. In one source the diligence of the writer in tracing the "earliest" known reference to Morris dancing is prodigious. I was impressed especially because in Italy most people have been distancing themselves from their own traditional dances, almost being ashamed of them. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. There are deep wells of folk music in UK and it’s lovely that you as a guest liked and respected it. comments powered by Disqus. The club burned to the ground in July 1933, but it reopened on the day before New Year's Eve in 1933. Morris dancing music Historically, the instruments used to accompany the Morris Dancing originated in the South Midlands in the form of the pipe and tabor and the whistle and the dub. I myself grew up watching Morris Dancers at many local events, especially at Christmas. What’s known about the earliest morris in Europe? The Music. Belly Dance Around the World by Caitlin E. McDonald – Book Review, How to Draw and Paint Dancers in Movement. There, the central figure, “Oss Oss,” is a witch doctor disguised as a horse and wearing a medicine mask. “The earliest reference to the morris dance?.” Folk Music Journal (2004): 513-515. “Some Notes on the Morris Dance.” The English Folk-Dance Society’s Journal (1914): 6-8. The dancers are attendants who sing the May Day song, beat drums, and in turn act the horse or dance in attendance. This dance procession includes six animal-men bearing deer antlers, three white and three black sets; a man-woman, or Maid Marian, and a fool, both carrying phallic symbols; a hobby horse; and a youth with a crossbow who shoots at the leading “stags” whenever possible. The modern revival of morris dancing started with the work of folklorists such as Cecil Sharp, Maud Karpeles and Mary Neal, who organized the first revival performance in London with a group of young women. It is also likened to a form of Italian court dance called the Moresca, which dates from the 12th century. The earliest written records are mainly through church accounts for entertainment provided by the parish after Mass on feasts and holy days. Enormous amounts of speculation based on little or no data, faulty assumptions, wishful thinking, and bad logic. Our style of dancing originated in the cotton mill towns and pit villages of the North West of England, where clogs were the usual type of working footwear and where the Morris tradition was performed by men, women and children. Some of the Australian dancers also perform the ‘ Mummer’s Play ‘. The Origins of Morris Dancing. “Dance and Cultural Memory: Interpreting Fin de Siècle Performances of’Olde England‘.” Dance Research 31.1 (2013): 29-66. I love traveling, experiencing different cultures and in particular watching local dance performances. The revival of Morris Dancing is usually attributed to the English folk song collector Cecil Sharp who, incidentally, lived in Adelaide, South Australia, for part of his youth. This dance genre is choreographed and it follows specific patterns. Border Morris is a collection of individual local dances from villages along the English side of the Wales–England border in the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire. Not long after, men groups also started and, since then, morris dancing experts have been disputing over whether morris dance should only be performed by men or by both genders. There were several barbecue areas, traditional British foods, locally made beers, a conkers competition, fancy dress, and the quite unusual and yet fascinating English folk dance. The dance is named after Mrs Clarke from Ranby near Retford who in an essay she wrote about her childhood for a competition described morris dancers from her village dancing at Christmas time in the eighteen nineties. Earliest References. Molly dancing is a style that comes from Cambridgeshire. So first, the present and latter part of the 20th century. Rattlejag use sticks with bells and long ribbons attached. Throughout history, the Morris seems to have been common. John Forrest has carefully analysed the wealth of evidence to show that morris dancing does not in fact have pagan or ancient origins. Traditional scholarship on this custom has been based on the assumption that morris dancing is one of the pagan calendar rituals, a preconception held by many folklorists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, colours and styles really do vary between different groups and traditions. Folk dancing at the time was not common in northern Europe, and the fact that the north embraced the dances and copied them right down to the blackface is the antithesis of racism, even to this day. Often the dancers wear white clothes and dance with bells fastened to the legs or body. It is probable the term morris developed from the French word morisque (meaning a dance, the dance), which became morisch in Flemish, and then the English moryssh, moris and finally morris. It is thought that the dances originated with the Moors (hence, Moorish). Careful, detailed, and encyclopedic, The History of Morris Dancing, 1458-1750 is an essential reference work for specialists in English drama and social historians of the period. This is a great chance to see the funloving and quite eccentric side of British culture (a far cry from the stiff upper lip stereotype that some people outside the UK associate with being British). The term entered English via Flemish mooriske danse. 'as with many folk customs, the origins are hidden in the mists of time and coloured by later perceptions, which may or may not have been correct', Alun Howkins. Cotswold Morris, mostly from Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. “The Abram Morris Dance.” Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (1932): 55-59. Gallop, Rodney. Others think that crusaders brought it to England after the Moorish conquests. There is little historical information about the origins of Morris Dancing. Still. You’ve obviously done a lot of research instead of just quoting a few casual remarks. North West Morris is more military and professional in style. Occasionally the Morris is a solo jig which is danced in and out among two crossed pipes, however, in surviving dances, especially in Britain and Australia, it is more likely to be found as a formation of several dancers and musicians. After Prohibition was repealed that year, the county agreed to grant it a license to serve only beer. The 1600s were turbulent times for England and for the Morris. Get your information from multiple sources, ask what the evidence is, draw your own conclusions, and above all, beware. I’ve danced morris and country dances, played in pubs and bands, sung and taught in towns and villages across England. The name Morris is also associated with groups of mummers who act, rather than dance, the death-and-survival rite at the turn of the year. Within Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, Morris Dancing is a widely known and much-respected tradition. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. The English Folk Dance and Song Society no longer engages with blackface Morris troupes. Welsh Border Morris – Group of Men performing Welsh border style. “The Morris Dance in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire.” Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (1963): 197-212. Our dancers perform steps collected from across … Home » Dance » Tourism | Traditional Dance » Morris Dance – Traditional English Folk Dance and Heritage. Today and for several decades, Morris Dancing is flourishing. I have never tried Morris dancing but I have tried local forms of step dancing in England, such as Dartmoor step dancing. Dawney, Michael. Usually the Morris is a longways dance performed by six men with accompanying traditional characters (as in the Cotswold Morris), or by ten (Lancashire Morris). Hence, many Italian traditional dances have been lost (this trend though has hopefully started to change and the revival of pizzica, a dance genre from the region of Puglia, seems to be an example of this changing trend). This is not to say that some scholars have not attempted to answer the questions. Longsword dancing is from Yorkshire and South Durham. However, this is not definitely the case. Dancers would blacken their faces with soot so they would not be recognised by the local priest, and would resemble "Moors". Morris dancing, one of the more peculiar of the English folk customs, has been greatly misunderstood. Subject: Origins: Staines Morris From: alanww Date: 24 Jun 03 - 09:41 AM I like to sing traditional songs and one I have just learnt is Staines Morris.Now I know that its tune is included in John Playford's book The English Dancing Master, published in 1651.Also, as I am a morris man myself, I know that the tune has been used for a morris dance from the village of Longborough in Gloucestershire. There is little historical information about the origins of Morris Dancing. “Two Notes on the Processional and the Morris Dance.” The English Folk-Dance Society’s Journal (1915): 38-44. Being originally from Italy, this festival was a real cultural experience for me and even if you are British, it is still a sight and festival that has to be seen and experienced. (Maybe because they’ve had to defend those traditions against generations of English put-downs — though still doesn’t explain English bashfulness.) Border morris dances I have known; Morris dancing in Syracuse, New York; Morris dancing origins and history. "Some have sought the origin of the morris in the Pyrrhica saltatio of the ancients, a military dance which seems to have been invented by the Greeks, and was afterwards adopted by the Salii or priests of Mars. Some like to believe that it has evolved from Druidic springtime rites. A comparable surviving animal custom is the May Day procession of a man-horse, notably at Padstow, Cornwall. Traditional scholarship on this custom has been based on the assumption that morris dancing is one of the pagan calendar rituals, a preconception held by many folklorists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is also the simplest and most violent, involving loud yells and beating the hell out of each other with stout sticks. They were dressed in black and their faces were also painted in black. Its performers usually blacken their faces. The Morris world encompasses several different types of performance style, which are recognised mostly from their geographic origin, such as the Cotswolds, the North West, the Welsh borders (i.e. Morris danceis a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. Lucy Neal investigates . The first is an inventory at Caistor Castle, Norfolk which mentions a tapestry (no longer in existence) depicting a “morysk Daunce”. Finn is … However, with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, we can no longer permit the use of casual blackface in Morris Dancing. It is now accepted that Border Morris, which comes from the English counties along the border between England and Wales, is in fact the oldest form. These are typically morris dancers from the “border morris” tradition – a style which came from the counties lining the English-Welsh border: Herefordshire, Worcestershire … Buckland, Theresa Jill. The music that the dance comes with is very lively and instruments often used are accordions, drums and fiddles. Updates? In some cases, he may dominate the rite; in others—as in many English Morris dances—the young men in the corps d’élite may dominate, with the animal-man and other dramatic characters either relegated to the subsidiary role of comics or omitted. The name Morris dance is sometimes loosely applied to sword dances in which a group of men weave their swords into intricate patterns. The Harrison House, which is located at 1001 F. Street, is shown Wednesday, March 12, 2014, in Las Vegas. By looking at the pictures I have and comparing them with information, photos and videos I found online (please see the resources section further down the page for more details on the sources that I accessed), it seems that the group was performing the style from the English-Welsh border. Rapper, from Northumberland and County Durham, is danced with short swords. Subject: Origins: Staines Morris From: alanww Date: 24 Jun 03 - 09:41 AM I like to sing traditional songs and one I have just learnt is Staines Morris.Now I know that its tune is included in John Playford's book The English Dancing Master, published in 1651.Also, as I am a morris man myself, I know that the tune has been used for a morris dance from the village of Longborough in … So, when I spoke to my colleagues, I was saddened to find out that most of them were dismissive of morris dance and almost embarrassed by it (men in particular). Finn is the side’s secretary and unofficial photographer. Last year I went to see the World Conker Championships (held annually each October) in a quaint countryside location, near Market Harborough (England, UK) and was introduced to the very British tradition of Morris Dancing. Certainly in the very late middle ages, Morris dancers were sometimes referred to as morisco dancers, but it is pretty certain that, whatever the origin … The Origins of Morris Dancing. I have included links to the morris dance associations and local groups (only a handful of the many that exist), a list of academic articles and Facebook pages dedicated to this type of dance. The earliest known and surviving English written mention of Morris dancing is dated to 1448, and records the payment of seven shillings to Morris dancers by the Goldsmiths' Company in London. It was the first time I saw any kind of British folkloric dance and I was impressed. According to some, morris dance is connected to dance traditions from druidic times, for others it comes from court dances which were first performed in Italy and were then embraced in English courts. “Some notes on the history of the Betley window.” Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (1953): 59-67. Lucy Neal investigates Alternatively, some have suggested that Morris Dancing has its origins in 16th century European courts. History and the Morris Dance: A Look at Morris Dancing from Its Earliest Days Until 1850, Don't Panic! eISBN: 978-1-4426-8145-3. It was (and is) most frequently practiced through the midlands and in the counties along the Welsh border, but it has connections to folk dances throughout Western Europe. Flanders in the fifteenth century was an innovative cultural centre, and strongly influenced European culture in general. Among specific Morris dances are Bean Setting, Leap Frog, and Laudnum Bunches. Morris dance, also spelled Moresgue, Morrice, Morisque, or Morrisk, ritual folk dance performed in rural England by groups of specially chosen and trained men; less specifically, a variety of related customs, such as mumming, as well as some popular entertainments derived from them. Morris dancing is one of the more individual of English folk customs and one that has been greatly misunderstood. Or do they? Your email address will not be published. Morris dancing is a surviving tradition associated with seasonal displays, usually part of celebrations designed to celebrate the coming of spring, or the turn of the year in the depths of the gloomy winter. Required fields are marked *. the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire), sword dancing from Yorkshire or the North East, as well as winter time traditions such as Molly dancing from the Fens and Mumming plays. It can also be linked with ancient trance dances in… The Exeter Morris Men performing a Morris dance, Wells, England. Without the blackface still used by Morris dancers today the very origins of the dance may have gone missing. Morris dancing was first recorded in a document from the 15th century, but its origins seem to be shrouded in mystery. Morris dance is characterized by energetic stepping and skipping, as well as the use of bells, handkerchiefs, sticks, swords, and the occasional beast. The rain, which I have become accustomed to since moving to England, held off and this certainly helped given that the brave organizers had planned most activities out in the open air. The Harrison House is a historic landmark that served as a … The wide distribution of such dances suggests an ancient Indo-European origin. Learn more. (Page of tag Morris Dancing) The Morris dance (probably Moorish in origin; from Spanish morisco), famed in England but also performed in medieval continental Europe, was strongly mimetic and had dramatic elements in its use of the fool or clown character. The picture shows Morris Dancers beside the Thames at Richmond from a picture now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge. The name may refer to the possibility of the form of dancing coming to England from the Moors of North Africa; or it may have been called 'Moor-ish' simply because the dancers sometimes painted their faces black, and people compared this to the dark-skinned Moors. Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Although many sides, including the Ledbury-based Silurian Morris, The Morris. Corrections? Similar customs are widespread throughout Europe and extend to the Middle East, India, and parts of Central and South America. Morris dance is often performed by groups of six or eight people, but occasionally, depending on the style, there are solos or duets. An ancient tradition is ending next year in the town of Shrewsbury, in Shropshire, England, after political pressure forced local folk festival organizers to stop booking an act that a social justice group considers racist. In January 1933, the county granted Morris' Red Rooster what it called a dance hall license. A feeling that the dances have magic power or bring luck persists wherever they are traditionally performed. A common feature of many of them is that of a group of dancing men attendant on a pagan god who celebrates his revival after death. In the 1840s, the fiddle was introduced, becoming the main instrument. Some like to believe that it has evolved from Druidic springtime rites. Learn how your comment data is processed. Enormous amounts of speculation based on little or no data, faulty assumptions, wishful thinking, and… Ploughstots style from Yorkshire, which is danced during Plough Monday and dancers usually hold flags. I am always very happy to see people enjoy local dance traditions that bring people together. The name Morris is also associated with the horn dance held each year at Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire, Eng. Garry, Jane. “Dance, authenticity and cultural memory: The politics of embodiment.” Yearbook for traditional music (2001): 1-16. I too don’t understand why so many English people find this rich folk tradition embarrassing, and likewise the folk dances that many people enjoy at community events: my Scottish, Irish and Welsh friends are keen on theirs. Those few who favour the idea of North African origins to Morris suggest that face blacking may have been a crude attempt to simply imitate the skin colour of the Saracen foe. This dance was danced with ‘flags'. The modern spelling Morris-dance first appears in the 17th century. Morris dances. Omissions? The Finns are part of Foxs Morris, a mixed group (or side) of dancers founded in 1999 in the Worcestershire village of Cookley. The English folk tradition of Morris dancing dates back centuries. Implements such as sticks, swords and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. It is possible that the word Morris is derived from the word ‘Moorish' or ‘morisco' (a derogatory term meaning ‘little Moors'). The History of Morris Dancing, 1438-1750 (eBook) : Forrest, John : Univ of Toronto PrCareful, detailed, and encyclopedic, The History of Morris Dancing, 1458-1750 is an essential reference work for specialists in English drama and social historians of the period.Morris dancing, one of the more peculiar of the English folk customs, has been greatly misunderstood. over the ensuing months. Seen as a descendant of pagan folk ritual, the tradition of morris dancing has been based on calendar customs and distorted by preconceptions imposed on it by the folklorists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Morris dancing. Border Morris, from the English-Welsh border, is a style that is vigorous and looser comparing to others. Around 1620, a hundred years ago it was the first Monday after 6 have questions! 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