Monday, May 19, 2008

My Town Monday - Bank Holidays and Morris Dancing

Here in England we have public holidays known as Bank Holidays, they happen throughout the year but we have two in May. The one at the beginning celebrates May Day, and that happens on the first Monday in the month. This means that we get a long weekend. The banks don't open. The second is at the end of the month and that's Spring Bank Holiday that is the last Monday in the month, this year its the 26th of May.

The Spring Bank holiday is celebrated in some parts with public fairs and gatherings and an outing for the 'Morris Men'.

So Who are Morris Dancers?

Music, movement, colour! If you’ve ever watched a show of Morris dancing, it will have contained all of those elements – and a lot more too. You have witnessed the result of more than 500 years of the evolution of a dance. Morris dancing was known well before the Spanish Armada, the Gunpowder Plot and even the Wars of the Roses. Among the most frequently asked questions of any Morris dancer are: Why is it called Morris dancing? Where does it come from? How old is it? And someone always asks: ‘Which one’s Maurice?’

The term Morris probably developed from the French word morisque (meaning a dance, the dance), which became morisch in Flemish , and then the English moryssh, moris and finally Morris. The earliest confirmation of a performance of Morris dancing in England dates from London on 19 May 1448, when Moryssh daunsers were paid 7s (35p) for their services. By Elizabethan times it was already considered to be an ancient dance, and references appear to it in a number of early plays. Many called for a dance or a jig to be performed by the leading actor.

Throughout its history in England, Morris dancing has been through many manifestations. Five hundred years ago it was a dance for one or two; today it is for four or more. Accounts of Morris dancing can be found throughout England, making it a nationwide phenomenon. The History of Morris Dancing, 1458-1750 is John Forest’s scholarly description of early Morris, providing images of early dances, but the origins are ‘lost in the mists of time’.

From my personal view I think they are slightly odd looking, off the wall men looking for an outlet for their often middle aged energies and desire to wear flowery hats!! (think martial arts with bells and sticks!!) Good Clean fun!


debra said...

I saw Morris dancing at a festival once. It was wonderful! Have a great time off!

Travis Erwin said...

I would love to see a video of this.

Terrie Farley Moran said...


I love this. I had always heard of Morris Dancing but had no idea what it was.

I'm wiht Travis, I'd love to see a video. You Tube has to have one somewhere . . .

Thanks for a great MTM post.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Definitely need a video for the full effect. Saw it once in Wales, I think.

louise said...

thanks for your insightful guide to Morris dancing, which I am happy to say is alive and well out in the colonies with Morris dancing having been available as an elective at my highschool ( I know.... bizzare, more bizzarley it was an all girls school?!) and also Morris dancing appreciation clubs in most major cities. I Kid you not!

Debbielou said...

Malc had a secret desire once to do Morris dancing !!!

WordVixen said...

Terry Pratchett and Rowan Atkinson are always skewering morris dancers. So, naturally, I've developed an obsession with finding out what it is as I just know that I'll love it. :)

Thanks for the explaination!

WordVixen said...

Ok- just checked YouTube. If you search for "morris dancing" you'll get a lot of hits. However, I like this video ( ) because it's almost 10 minutes worth of severa separate dances (all morris). Lord Chancellor's something or other in Hackney. Hope that helps!