Our Morris Dancers kicking off the start of Lyme folk week, even made the tv last night
Morris dance is a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers, usually wearing bell pads on their shins. Implements such as sticks, swords and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers. In a small number of dances for one or two men, steps are performed near and across a pair of clay tobacco pipes laid one across the other on the floor.
The earliest known and surviving English written mention of Morris dance is dated to 1448, and records the payment of seven shillings to morris dancers by the Goldsmiths’ Company in London.1 Further mentions of morris dancing occur in the late 15th century, and there are also early records such as visiting bishops’ “Visitation Articles” mention sword dancing, guising and other dancing activities, as well as mumming plays. Furthermore, the earliest records invariably mention “Morys” in a court setting, and a little later in the Lord Mayors’ Processions in London. The court records mention both men and women as dancing. It is only later that it was mentioned as something performed in the parishes. There is no known surviving evidence that it is a pre-Christian ritual, as is often claimed.
In the 21st century, it is commonly thought of as a mainly English activity, although there are around 150 morris sides (or teams) in the United States. British expatriates form a larger part of the morris tradition in Australia, Canada, New Zealand2 and Hong Kong. There are isolated groups in other countries, for example those in Utrecht and Helmond,3 Netherlands; the Arctic Morris Group of Helsinki,4 Finland and Stockholm, Sweden; as well as in Cyprus;5 and Alsace, France.