Westminster Day of Dance 2009
Mobs of jangling Morris dancers descend on Trafalgar Square
(Photos © urban75, 9th May 2009)
Morris troupes from all over the country mobbed Trafalgar Square for a mass morris-off - and we were there to capture the action!
According to the Westminster morris site, the following groups were in attendance:
East Suffolk Morris Men, Datchet Border Morris, Colchester Morris Men, Thaxted Morris Men, Whitchurch Morris Men, Chester City Morris Men, Westminster Morris Men, White Rose Morris Men, Ripley Morris Men, Aldbury Morris Men, Monkseaton Morris Men, Shakespeare Morris Men, Jockey Morris Men, Ravensbourne Morris Men, Winchester Morris Men, Exeter Morris Men and Dolphin Morris Men.
You'll notice the word 'men' appearing all the way through that list. Although some female morris dancers exist, I don't think I saw any all day.
Despite deathly warnings in some papers that the end could be nigh for morris dancers [Morris men face extinction - The Times], there was a healthy turn out on the day, with quite a few young 'uns joining the beardy, tankard-swilling old hands.
Like a badly served pint, the origins of morris dancing are cloudy, although they were first recorded in England as far back as the 15th century.
The name could be derived from the French word for 'dance,' 'morisque', although others believe it may have arrived from Morocco via Spain, gaining its name from the word, 'Moorish.'
However, other theories reckon that the dances come from ancient fertility rites or they developed from the dances of court jesters.
Crucial to the survival of morris dancing was folk archivist Cecil Sharp, who after seeing the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers performing on Boxing Day in 1899, set about recording the various morris traditions.
In 1911 he founded the English Folk Dance Society, which kickstarted the first revival, with other revivals taking place after the Second World War and in the 1970s.
Although Welsh, I rather like morris dancers, even if most English people seem a little bit embarrassed by them.
I find this a bit of a shame seeing as it's one of the few truly quintessential English traditions.
You'd think most English blokes would see the common ground they share: Morris dancers love to run around with sticks, wave things around, drink vast amounts of beer and bellow out tunes at the end of the night.
Sounds like most Saturday night pubs at throwing out time to me, to us, mixed in with a healthy dose of English eccentricity.
Here's the rest of my photos from the day
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