Category Archives: Frontboxes

Programme: June and July 2022

Here is our updated (3-6-22) programme for the next couple of months. Details for each event will appear on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/morrisdancers/ and possibly on here.

June 1 Primrose Hill, pub tour

June 8 Baker Street, pub tour CANCELLED.

June 11 Thaxted Ring Meeting. http://www.thaxtedmorris.org/weekendofdance.html

June 15 City, pub tour.

June 22 Euston, pub tour

June 29 Belgravia, pub tour

July 6 South Bank, pub tour

July 13 Pimlico, pub tour

July 15/17 Letchworth Ring Meeting for their Centenary. https://www.letchworthmorris.org.uk/centenary-ring-meeting-2022/

July 20 Sloane Square

What’s Morris Dancing?

cotswoldsMorris Dancing is a traditional English dance, with different varieties across the country.  Westminster Morris perform dances from the Cotswolds region, which crosses Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, and a few other areas.  Once performed by the men in the villages, the dances were specific to a particular town.  As such, the dance traditions are named for the village they come from, for example Longborough, Adderbury, Brackley, Bampton, Headington Quarry, Sherborne, and soforth.  Each tradition has distinctive movements and figures, although the overall structure and shape of dances are very similar.

Cotswold morris is not the only style of dancing referred to as morris dancing – the term is broadly applied also to the North West Clog style dances, the longsword and “rapper” sword dances from the North East, and the rambunctious dances from the Welsh Borders.

Origin

The exact origin of morris dancing remains shrouded in mystery – the earliest records found date from the rule of Henry VI in the 15th century, however it is believed that the dance predates these written accounts.  Some believe it to be a harvest dance, others claim it is a fertility rite.  Some say morris dancing is simply a custom or folk dance.

Revival & popularisation

Very much a localised tradition, morris dancing was seldom heard of or seen outside of the village where it was performed.  During the late 1800s with the coming of industrialisation the dances were thought to be disappearing, so in keeping with the mood of cultural preservation at the time, “collectors” went out into the villages to note down the dances and songs so that they might endure.  Most enthusiastic of these was Cecil Sharp, who had his first encounter with morris dancing during the Christmas of 1899 in the village of Headington Quarry, near Oxford.

In 1907 Sharp published a book of the dances he had collected, and in 1911 a society was formed to celebrate and protect this part of cultural heritage – in present day this is known as the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

Some morris dancing sides that exist today have traceable lineage back to the Traditional village teams of the 1800s.

Folk revival

In the 1950s and 1960s the UK saw a great takeoff of interest in its folk customs, and many new teams were formed – bolstering the numbers after the loss of many dancers during the two wars.

Present day

At the turn of the millenium there were over 800 morris dancing clubs in the UK, and as people travel so too does the custom: there are also sides in Europe, Australia, the USA, New Zealand, and more besides.

In the UK there are 3 supervising bodies representing morris dancing – Westminster Morris are members of The Morris Ring, which is the federation of mens’ morris dancing clubs (no longer exclusively male!).  The Morris Federation and the Open Morris represent womens’ teams and mixed teams, and the three organisations work together to promote and preserve the dance form.

Further information

This page is by no means exhaustive: there are many more in-depth resources on the web.  Some useful starting points are:

Join in – “just the right amount of daft”

wmm_groupMorris dancing is a great way to learn a new skill, get a bit of exercise, meet some interesting people, as well as learning about England’s culture and history.  It also gets you out & about around London, and to far-flung villages & towns across the country that you wouldn’t normally think of visiting.

Women are welcome. We’ve had female dancers in the team for a good while now. They have danced out with us and nothing bad happened!

Westminster Morris are always looking for new dancers (and musicians!) to join the team – if you’ve danced in the past and fancy getting back into it, or have just seen dancing somewhere and would like to give it a try (it’s not necessarily as difficult as it looks) then why not use the form below to get in touch with us, and we can get you along to practice to get started!

We practice at our hall (in Westminster) from September through to May, on Wednesday nights (except for over Christmas/New Year).  No dancing experience required.