Morris Dancing


Dancing in processional is an ancient Morris tradition, still practiced today. The dancers dance to, from, or between dancing locations, helping to attract spectators (who become potential contributors when the hat is passed--the Morris is a busking tradition). In former days dancers would often process between villages, making frequent stops at pubs to dance and drink. (Because of the rigors of the dance, a dancer can consume about 14 Imperial pints of ale on a dancing day on average.) Today at Kirtlington the annual Lamb-ale festival is preceded by a processional around the entire village by way of blessing. When leaving at the end of a performance, the dance is known as a recessional. While several village traditions have processionals or recessionals, the most commonly done processional is the Winster Processional; the most common recessional is the Bampton Nutting Girl (sometimes referred to as 'Nutting Off').

[The Traveling Morice] The Traveling Morice of England
(the alias for the Cambridge
University Morris Men when out of term)

A Processional at New Fane, CT. The dancers process into town for the big show. [Processional at New Fane, CT]

[The "Mayor-making" at Abingdon] The "Mayor-making" at Abingdon. The people of Ock Street in Abingdon, Berkshire, England elect the Mayor of what was once a separate village. The Mayor simultaneously becomes the "Squire" or head of the Morris team, one of the most ancient in England, and the only one whose Squire is chosen by non team members. After the election, the Mayor is carried in procession down Ock Street, stopping at each pub along the way.

["The Dixton Harvesters" closeup]A closeup of "The Dixton Harvesters" (circa 1725) showing a processional through fields and hedges.

North West Morris

North West Morris refers to the processional dance traditions of the northern counties, especially Lancashire and Yorkshire. These dances are done wearing clogs and often carrying and twirling ribbon-wrapped lengths of twisted cotton rope called mollies, and are done by long files of dancers in two columns. They are a development of the Industrial Revolution in the mill towns of the north. Included are Clog dancing, Molly dancing, and Garland dancing (done with large metal or wooden loops decked in greenery or flowers), all of which are similar. These processional dances are said to have been done to accompany the rush carts to the churches where the rushes would be strewn across the floor in August and September. As churches became floored over, the purpose of the dances changed, but they continued to be done as part of the seasonal festivities. North West Morris is usually done to the music of a small band which almost always includes a drum.

[North West Morris]
The Millbrook team at Stalybridge in 1902

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