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. Implements such as
sticks, swords, handkerchiefs and bells may also be wielded by the
dancers. It's a living tradition,
linking pastoral communities of long ago with the cities, towns, and
extended communities we live in today.
The origins of the tradition are lost in ancient time,
but we know the dance is quite old, possibly derived from pre-Christian
rites, passed down from generation to generation. In the English village
of Bampton in Oxfordshire, the Morris has been performed at Whitsuntide
every year (except in time of war) for well over five hundred years.
No one really seems to know why it's called Morris, how old the
tradition is, where it originated, whether Druids were ever involved, or
if it really promotes fertility. But we do know it's old enough to have
been banned by Cromwell, and that Shakespeare mentioned the dance in
several of his works; one of his star actors, Will Kemp, was a known to
be a "Morrice Dauncer."
Traditionally, Morris dance was performed
exclusively by men (except when women danced, too). Nowadays, it is done
by groups ("teams" or "sides") of men and/or women all over the
English-speaking world. It's a living tradition that evolves and grows
over time. Enthusiasts are attracted to the dance by the challenge of
athletic performance, and to honor its roots as a community celebration.
How to Appreciate Morris Dancing
Morris is an athletic dance form, so watch for the height the Morris men leap.
Encourage the dancers with shouts of "Higher!" -- the more you get into it, the
more we do. A good audience will see great Morris dancing.
Look for formations in the dance, particularly patterns formed with
sticks or handkerchiefs when the music goes into the chorus.
Look for The Fool: the brightly-dressed troublemaker whom the dancers
are not allowed to notice.
Share in the Morris Luck by contributing generously
when the hat is passed to you. Not only will you receive a year of good
luck, but you will earn the gratitude of Thirsty
Thirsty Morris Men
One of our favorite libations after a vigorous display of dancing skill is Oranjeboom beer,
which reminds us of the dance Orange in Bloom, a Deer Creek favorite.
However, to be truthful, most of us are somewhat rather undiscriminating, and will generally
drink whatever is placed before us ("I'll have what the fellow on the floor was drinking...")
Tell Me More!
There are many other Morris teams
in the San Francisco area, and around the world. If you live in the Bay area, come see us!
If outside the Bay Area, check out the
other Morris sides around the world.