Morris dancing can now be found all over Britain. Its origins are vague; some believe the dances to to be derived from the French Moresque or Spanish Morisca dances of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; others believe the the dances to be the remains of fertility rites for soil and crops.
Distinctive styles of dancing developed associated with different parts of the country. Bare Bones dance in the tradition that comes from the Welsh English border counties where the style of dancing is brash and energetic with much clashing of wooden sticks.
JohnPeel was our first dance, to the tune of John Peel/Pats Panto. It’s a stick dance, involving 8, 6 or (if we’re desperate) 4 dancers.
Mrs.Hepplewhite (Hepple) is danced in a circle, by any even number of dancers. It involves a somewhat novel stick movement, generally referred to as ‘leaping over the broomstick’, and is always danced early in our programme, while we still have the energy to do it. The tune is Kafoozlum.
Bag’orth is our most traditional stick dance, based on Brimfield, to the tune of the Gloucester Hornpipe. It’s basically a 4 person dance. In winter, we sometimes do a less traditional version where sparklers are used at the end of the sticks.
Ceremonial Dance uses bright strips of fabric instead of sticks. The main instrument is the drum and the tune is Boggy Brays. Some resemblance to soft sword dancing may be seen.
Jiving Dance is probably the least traditional dance we do. Four people dance without sticks to a medley of tunes. We like the audience to sing along with the music – it keeps them on their toes as it switches tunes.
Peter’s Panic is named after Peter Hope, one of our erstwhile musician,, who thought the tune would be good to dance to. The enthusiastic 4 person stick dance gives no time for rest – hence the panic!
Skiddaw is the third highest mountain in the Lake District, with little to do with the Welsh Border, or Leicestershire. It was there that this 6 person stick dance was devised – with a bit of help from Red Stag, who invented the chorus. The tune is the Hertford College Hornpipe.
Windmills involves eight dancers in a set that keeps changing orientation. The reason for the name becomes apparent in the last verse. Danced to the Shipdham Hornpipe.
The Hathern Stick Dance has five dancers with eight sticks. The dance is regularly performed in Hathern, a small village just north of Loughborough. The tune is The White House Hornpipe.
Longbarrow can be danced by any even number of dancers with sticks, We learnt the dance at a workshop given by the side Longbarrow, immediately before their demise. We adapted the dance to our style, and the music to a hornpipe (The Cuckoo’s Nest Hornpipe), and now regularly teach it at our workshops.
The Bourne Caper was very loosely based on ideas from a workshop in Bourne. It is not a caper, but a stick dance for 6, with movements imitating several other Morris styles. The tune is The Chocolate Army Knife.
Eternal Triangles involves just 3 brave dancers, each with 2 sticks, danced to the tune 'Star Melody'. It was written when we were low on numbers, but has remained popular as it’s fun to dance, and lots of people get a rest. However.....
Nine Ladies was developed from Eternal Triangles when, one Christmas, BBC East Midlands Today asked to film us dancing at Nine Ladies stone circle in Derbyshire as part of a series on The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Much Trent Lock brings the tradition of Much Wenlock, where dancers used a mixture of sticks and instruments such as the tambourine, to the East Midlands. The dance takes the traditional tune Not For Joe.
The Processional Dance has evolved to move at different rates of progress in the various processions we take part in. However, the speed of the Gate to Southwell defeated us – a fast jogging verse and chorus may be added . There are any even number of dancers with sticks, a Signal(wo)man to indicate the next verse, and others to carry any baggage. All to the tune of Brook Meadows Hornpipe.
Swanage is a square dance for 8. Written after dancing at a particularly good Swanage Folk Festival, so may have been influenced by sun, sea, sand, good company and happy memories of childhood holidays. Dancers move in pairs to the tune 'Cuckold Come Out of the Amrey'.
May Dance. A circular dance for 6 with a sung chorus. The shape of the dance, basically a series of reels which resolve into a circle for each chorus, seemed to fit well with the traditional celebrations of Spring. 'Cambridgeshire May Song' fitted perfectly (originally from A L Lloyd's 'Folk Song of England).
Four Counties was the result of Bare Bones dancing at an event on four county boundaries hosted by Ryknyld Rabble. John wrote the tune and the dance was to have 4 verses, one each for Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Warwicks and Leics, with the set turning through 90 degrees for each verse. At the time we had dances for 3,4,5,6,8 and 9 dancers, so we needed one for 7! John also required the dance to end with 'Ey up me duck!' for Leics.
The Albion Special was started as a 'real border' - back to the roots - dance. Wendy picked a working tune (Click go the Shears) to give a rhythm and framework, and this time, John devised a tune to fit the evolved dance. Although it started life with very simple, traditional moves (reels/stars/cross-overs), it became more complex as it went along - particularly when the chorus was halved, and another verse demanded. Wendy always likes to incorporate clashes in verses, as she think it makes the dance more interesting to dance and to watch - and this was no exception. Our long standing link with the Albion, and its beer, brewed initially in Hathern, dictated the title.
Pat on yer Back