Monday, 5 January 2009

On Morris Dancing

As a dyed-in-the-wool reactionary and confirmed laudator temporis acti, I ought to be saddened by the news that morris dancing could die out in 20 years' time. But I am not. Morris dancing as we know it - i.e. men in strange rustic motley (and, usually, beards and glasses) prancing about and hitting sticks together - is less than a century old. The real thing all but died of natural causes in the 19th century - until Cecil Sharp and his band of tweedy folk enthusiasts came along and managed to revive the moribund morris. Ever since the formation of the Morris Circle in the 1930s, it has attracted a certain type of man - one who, typically, combines 'Hail fellow well met' heartiness and 'Landlord a pint of your finest foaming ale' cod-archaism with an anal obsession with detail and procedure, and a total lack of embarrassment or shame. Young people are right not to wish to join in, though I suspect morris dancing will indeed survive among a strange and dwindling band of middle-aged enthusiasts for far more than 20 years, continuing periodically to inflict itself on punters trying to have a quiet drink outside a country pub.

7 comments:

  1. In a pub in Town Yetholm I once foolishly asked one of the jingling bell bearded people if the Rapper dancers were a splinter group. Oh boy, If he'd caught me in flagrante delicto with his missus he would have been less indignant. I was subjected to a 20 minute rant on the finer points of Morrising which according to him was as close to sacred as you could get. More boring than estate agents I thought.
    Apparently they were staying at the local caravan site where the regulars complained loudly the next morning about the jingling noises after midnight.
    Let it sink without trace.

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  2. Better Malty that it survives without trace surely, as the mad-eyed child molesters I remember from my Warwickshire youth were probably harmless. As an activity I always imagined that, like synchronised swimming and squash, it was more fun to do than to watch - how else could you explain that level of enthusiasm? Perhaps a clue lies in a 1904 tract from Essex man JP Shawcross 'one of the amusements of the lower orders in the 18th century'. My mum told me never to mix with those rough boys on the common, and I never did.

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  3. Joey Joe Joe Jr.5 January 2009 at 21:35

    Inventing your own history and odd cultural practices is not something I oppose of in itself. We should take a leaf out the Scots' book though - they do it so much better what with the kilts and tartan and bagpipes and all. Good old Rabbie Burns.

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  4. The thing about Rab, four jays, was his refinement of the art of shagging whilst reciting folksy poetry and scoffing porridge laced with haggis.
    I hope you spotted the correct spelling Brit.

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  5. I don't care if they do wear bells around their ankles. In my book, they're still yobs waving sticks.

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  6. Apparently, there’s now a thriving alternative morris dancing scene, populated by scary looking Goths and neopagans, all dressed up like something out of a Tim Burton movie. The sides are called things like Wolfs Head and Vixen and seem to be mostly young and quite often female -- not a beerbelly or hanky in sight.

    If that wasn’t enough, I recently came across a reference to morris-dancing rappers, which was just too mind-boggling to leave ungoogled (ah, these ancient English folk traditions, so versatile in adapting themselves to the winds of modern popular culture etc). Turns out that “rapping” is a type of sword dance – but the original idea won’t go away that easily, will it?

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  7. wolfshead and vixen originated from a border side called longbarrow and have beeen in their present form since 1995.wolfshead being the men and vixen the contrasting ladies side.They were the first side to wear the all black kit since this date.Vixen is a relatively small side with approx 7 members most of us are over the age of thirty!so not sure where the young girl thing came from!

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