Morris Dance – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Dance Styles Glossary

What is Morris Dance?

Morris dance is a traditional form of English folk dance that dates back to at least the 15th century. It is a lively and energetic dance that is often performed in groups, known as sides, at festivals, fairs, and other community events. Morris dance is characterized by its rhythmic footwork, intricate choreography, and use of props such as sticks, handkerchiefs, and bells. The dance is typically accompanied by live music, usually played on traditional instruments such as the accordion, fiddle, and drum.

History of Morris Dance

The exact origins of Morris dance are unclear, but it is believed to have originated as a pagan ritual dance performed to celebrate the changing seasons and ensure a good harvest. Over time, Morris dance evolved into a form of entertainment that was performed at weddings, fairs, and other social gatherings. In the 19th century, Morris dance experienced a revival as part of the English folk music and dance movement, and it has since become a popular tradition that is still performed by enthusiasts around the world.

Morris dance is characterized by its lively and energetic movements, which often involve intricate footwork, jumps, and spins. The dance is typically performed in groups of six to eight dancers, known as a side, who move in formation and perform synchronized steps. Morris dance is also known for its use of props, such as sticks, handkerchiefs, and bells, which are used to add rhythm and visual interest to the performance. The dance is usually accompanied by live music, played on traditional instruments such as the accordion, fiddle, and drum.

Types of Morris Dance

There are several different styles of Morris dance, each with its own unique choreography, music, and costumes. The most common styles of Morris dance include Cotswold Morris, which originated in the Cotswold region of England and is characterized by its lively footwork and use of handkerchiefs; Border Morris, which is a more energetic and aggressive style of dance that originated in the border regions of England and Wales; and North West Morris, which is a more processional style of dance that is often performed in parades and other public events.

Costumes and Props in Morris Dance

Morris dancers typically wear traditional costumes that vary depending on the style of dance being performed. Common elements of Morris dance costumes include white shirts, breeches, and waistcoats for men, and long skirts or dresses for women. Dancers often wear bells on their legs or shoes, which jingle as they move, adding to the rhythmic accompaniment of the dance. In addition to costumes, Morris dancers also use props such as sticks, handkerchiefs, and swords, which are used to create visual interest and add to the overall spectacle of the performance.

Music and Instruments used in Morris Dance

Live music is an essential part of Morris dance, and the dance is typically accompanied by traditional folk tunes played on instruments such as the accordion, fiddle, and drum. The music is usually lively and upbeat, with a strong rhythmic pulse that complements the energetic movements of the dancers. In addition to live music, Morris dance is also sometimes accompanied by recorded music or even acapella singing. The music used in Morris dance is often passed down through generations of dancers and musicians, helping to preserve the tradition and keep it alive for future generations.