A Bit of Background to The Morris
In many cultures, traditional performance dancing is an important part of the national
heritage, and England is no exception. English Morris Dancing was rarely
written about in history so the roots have been lost but we do know that
one of William Shakespeare's actors, was a morris dancer and
Samuel Pepys writes about it in his diaries. It certainly dates back to the Middle Ages.
The Cotswold Morris, in which style we dance, may be recognised by the
dress or costume of the dancers. This is usually breeches and white
shirt with baldrics (crossed coloured bands worn on the chest and back),
a waistcoat, bell-pads worn just below the knee and a hat. The
various Morris "sides", as the groups are known, choose their own colour
schemes and embellishments to the basic "kit", in a heraldic tradition,
as did the knights of old. The dancers are often accompanied by a Fool.
The dances that we performed and their tunes originated or are inspired
by various Cotswold villages such as Adderbury, Bledington, Oddington and
Fieldtown (now known as Leafield) and also from surrounding areas such
as Lichfield, Moulton, and Upton-upon-Severn.
Each has its own tradition, which differs from the others in the style
of the steps, hand movements and figures, or shapes, of the dance.
Morris dances are usually for six men who dance
intricate steps and patterns, waving their handkerchiefs and
ringing their bells. Some dances are performed
with sticks; this practice is a relic of fighting with quarterstaves and
also of the use of ancient agricultural implements. In some traditions
the dances are for eight men, but all traditions have jigs for one or
two dancers to demonstrate their prowess.
The music comprises both traditional and more modern tunes associated
with a particular dance. The tunes were commonly played on the pipe and tabor (a
small drum); nowadays we have a melodeon or fiddle.