Morris dancing is a traditional English folk dance that has existed since medieval times. Morris dancers can be found in London where the seat of English folk dancing is based at Cecil Sharp House. However, the tradition most strongly continues in rural districts, festivals and the north and midlands areas of England. Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and other regions near the peak district offer an enthusiastic dance tradition set against the backdrop of country villages and beautiful misty peaks.
Village in the Peak District. Photo by Erin Connelly
Records conflict about the origins and meaning of Morris dance, but the modern rendition basically consists of a combination of step-dancing, circle-dancing and choreographed sword-fighting using sticks.The dance is usually performed by young men dressed in simple attire adorned with jingle bells, flowers, ribbons or other festive materials.
Morris dancers in traditional costumes. Photo by Erin Connelly
The dance is accompanied by musicians playing traditional music with recorders, accordions and drums. Other aspects of the dance include a dancing horse and jugs of ale. These parts of the dance, along with the symbolism of flowers, bells and ribbons, are thought to originate in medieval celebrations of spring and the revival of life after winter.
Morris dancing is performed throughout the year, but the most popular time is during the spring and summer months, particularly in celebration of May Day. Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are about 2 to 3 hours away from London and can be visited in a day. The more northern peaks into Yorkshire are best visited as a weekend excursion.
Morris dancing is organised by local troupes and it is best to visit the homepage of the area you're visiting to check performance schedules. A list of Midlands-based troupes and links to their homepages is available. Also, a website run by the Freaks in the Peaks Morris dancers provides updated information about events and performances.
I'm in Perth, Western Australia, where there are also Morris dancers to be found. Men, women, & mixed!
It's good fun & social. I've danced here & in UK, & in fact been to a Freaks in the Peaks fun but freezing cold weekend!
I just want to enlighten the readers that the collective noun for Morris dancers is a SIDE, not a Troupe! Though it has to be said that traditionally the side tend to troupe down to the pub after dancing! 🍺