These are question we’re often asked when we’re out dancing. The answer to the first is fairly straightforward, but as to the second, well, there are many theories as to the origins of the dancing as there are dances. Ask any Morris dancer and you’ll get a slightly different answer every time!
This traditional form of English dance can be traced back to the 14th Century. Many forms existed and each area was influenced by local factors giving the rich and varied tradition of which we’re now part, and which is still evolving, as teams adapt dances and choreography new ones.
Morris in it’s various forms was a favourite entertainment on feast days and holiday for the working man and through the years evolved until by the end of the 19th Century, it had become the preserve of the rural labourers as well as all male and all female teams.
Dancing in its various forms takes place throughout the year , but generally there is a flurry of activity at the beginning of Spring with many teams dancing out at dawn on the 1st of May, heralding the start of the new season.
The various forms of Morris include Cotswold, Border (easily recognisable in tatter coats and blacked or coloured faces), Molly (traditionally from the Fenlands of East Anglia), Rapper Sword and Longsword, North-West Morris (usually danced in clogs), Garland and Stave dancing.
Associated with the Morris are Plough Boys, Mummers Plays, Hobby Horses, Betsies (a man dressed as a woman) and ‘animals’ (Lady Bay Revellers Morris have a very scary dragon which is known to make the odd appearance).