Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Morris dancing

click photo to enlarge
"When he is dancing the true morris-man is serious of countenance, yet gay of heart; vigorous, yet restrained; a strong man rejoicing in his strength; yet graceful, controlled, and perfectly dignified withal."
Cecil Sharp (1859-1924), English folklore and folksong revivalist

Cecil Sharp had very clear and serious views on the revival of traditional English folk dance and song: the quotation above underlines this. What then would he have made of the morris dancing that I experienced at the Old Brewery, Greenwich recently. There were some serious countenances among the assembled morris men and women - mainly from the bandsmen - but in the main there was delight and enjoyment on the faces of the dancers in doing what they did.

Last year I watched some morris dancing in Pershore, Worcestershire, and reflected in the blog post that accompanied my photographs on Thomas Hardy's views about such performances. He distinguished between survivalists and revivalists, noting that the former who carry on the tradition through obligation do not show the same enthusiasm and enjoyment as those who take it up voluntarily in order to to re-kindle an ancient tradition. If Hardy is to be believed - and I think he probably over-stated his case - the Rose and Castle Morris depicted in today's images must count as revivalists because the delight they took in their performance was palpable.

One thing that I found interesting about this particular morris is the fact that, though they come from Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire, in the English Midlands, they dance in clogs following the tradition of Lancashire and Cheshire in north-west England.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

Main Photo
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 105mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 160
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On