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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
May Day - Morris Dancing
Woodlands Junior School is in the south-east corner of England

Introduction to May Day | Maypole Dancing | Morris Dancing

May Day in the Past | May Day Today | Well Dressing

A traditional dance seen throughout the month of May is Morris Dancing. It is a traditional English form of folkdancing, performed by groups of men or women.


Border Morris Dances

Morris Dancing has been danced for hundreds of years, and passed down through the generations in the villages of rural England. The dances are usually performed at festivals such as May Day, Whitsun and Christmas.

The Origins of Morris Dancing

There are several thoughts to the origins of Morris Dancing. The name may refer to the possibility of the form of dancing coming to England from the Moors of North Africa; or it may have been called 'Moor-ish' simply because the dancers sometimes painted their faces black, and people compared this to the dark-skinned Moors.

The Music

The dancing is very lively and accompanied by an accordion player, a melodeon or fiddle player (Cotswolds) or a noisy band with a drum (Border Morris or North West sides)


Accordians and a fiddle


Two accordians and on the right a concertina

drum
Drum

Costumes

Morris dancers wear different clothes depending on the part of the country in which they dance. They are often dressed in white with coloured baldrics (coloured belts) across their chests.

Morris dancerMorris Dancers


'BAKANALIA' are a Border Morris Dancing group from Leicester.

Border Morris Dancers generally wear 'tatter jackets' and black their faces - probably originating as a form of disguise.


Bethane Border Morris Dancers

The Dances

There are usually six or eight dancers arranged in two lines or in a circle facing each other. The dancers may carry white handkerchiefs that they shake, or short sticks that they bang against each other as they dance. Some dancers have bell-pads tied at their knees, which make a loud and cheerful rhythm as they dance.


Cotswold Morris

 


North West Morris

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See larger photographs and videos of Morris Dancers

Introduction to May Day | Maypole Dancing | Morris Dancing

May Day in the Past | May Day Today | Well Dressing

 

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Woodlands Junior School, Hunt Road Tonbridge Kent TN10 4BB UK