So what's morris anyway?

The most frequently asked question of someone who likes a bit of morris dancing is “why?”. After that has been tackled people usually ask “so where does that come from then?” The answer to that question is that no one really knows for sure.

Recent popular belief is that the dance form originated in Spain in the 12 th century, invented by or depicting the Moors (hence Moorish dancing) arriving in English courts in 14 th century as entertainment for royalty. When this had played its course and fell out of fashion with the nobility, the practice continued in rural England.

Glimpses of what morris dancing once was exist in the odd painting, stained glass window and church records (the church seized opportunities to use morris dancing for fundraising), but the form as we now know it follows a period of collection and notation by amateur historians in the late 1800’s.

During the mid 19 th Century many villages were host to their own ‘tradition’, steps and patterns varying slightly from those of the villages next door. As this too declined in popularity early students of folk-lore set about visiting those villages to make notations of what they saw or to collect stories of what once was.
It was during this time of collection that it was popular to believe that morris dancing was connected to pre-Christian pagan religion (scaring evil spirits, fertility ritual, weather control and superstition) although there is no evidence to support this. Similarly at that same time it was believed that morris dancing was the preserve of men (as many things were), and although now firmly in the 21 st Century debate on this particular issue rages on. There is evidence that there were women dancing morris as early as the 16 th Century and since have played an important part in its future, particularly during the Great War when thousands of men left home for the front and didn’t return.
So where does Morris Offspring fit into all of this? Well the majority of the members of the team are sons or daughters of dancers who were involved in the folk revival of the 1970’s, the next generation of the next generation if you like. All members hail from morris teams across the UK, bringing influences from those traditions to dances masterminded by Laurel Swift. The dances she devises with Offspring take stepping, figures and music from the traditions we know and love to produce a new version of the form for the stage. With deep respect for the roots from which morris came, Morris Offspring is a continuation of this evolving tradition.
home | gallery | what is morris anyway | meet the team | shows | articles/reviews| shop | contact | book us | links