What’s a Morris Dance?

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Morris Dance is an English folk dance with a long history, originating in the 15th century. It involves strategic rhythm-based steps and the use of objects such as sticks, swords, and handkerchiefs. Morris dancing is popular worldwide, with variations such as Cotswold Morris, North West Morris, and Border Morris. It is enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and is likely to continue for many years.

As an example of an English folk dance with a long and illustrious history, Morris Dance remains a popular option in many places around the world. Here is some background on the development of Morris dancing, including some of the contemporary variations of Morris dancing.

Morris dances have their origins in 15th century England. While some argue that Morris dancing can be traced back to the 15th century, most historians believe that the folk dance actually originated in the latter part of the century. With a style that relies on strategic rhythm-based steps fused with the choreographed movement of groups of dancers, Morris dancing often includes the use of such visual aids. Objects such as sticks, swords, and even handkerchiefs are waved during the performance of this English folk dance.

There has been some difference of opinion regarding the origins of the name for English country dance. There are many who believe that the name Morris dancing may best be derived from the designation of the usual ground found around English villages. This would mean that Morris dancing got its name from essentially being a dance popular along the moors of the English countryside. Over time, changes in the language have led from the designation of Moorish dance to that of Morris dancing.

While Morris dancing is most closely identified with Great Britain, there are a number of places around the world that can boast the presence of Morris dancing enthusiasts. Devotees are found in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Several versions of Morris dancing are currently practiced. Among the variations is the Cotswold Morris, which is performed with the use of handkerchiefs and tends to be more freely choreographed. North West Morris is more formal in style, with an almost military feel and a high level of stiff choreography. The Border Morris is an example of a freer style approach; the Border is notable for the use of coloring on the faces of the performers.

Morris dancing has managed to survive when many other dances followed over the centuries. Part of the attraction is that Morris dancing, in all its incarnations, is essentially a dance that can be enjoyed by almost anyone. With the ability to transcend race, gender, and economic status, Morris dancing is sure to stay around for many years to come.

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