Seabright Morris and Sword
This is the old text for the leaflet, largely unchanged since 1993.
The new text for the 1998 leaflet is visible.
WHAT IS MORRIS DANCING?
These are the things we really know about Morris dancing:
- It is either 200 years old, 600 years old, or 3,000 years old
(or it's not).
- It originally developed in England (unless it didn't).
- It was a fertility rite danced in the springtime
(or just a festive dance, performed anytime).
- It was danced exclusively by men (except when women danced, too).
AN HISTORICAL NOTE
Morris dancing is a tradition of dance and music which survives as
the most living (and lively) part of a ritual designed to shake
off the dark and gloom of winter, and celebrate the coming of spring.
While the origins of the tradition are lost in ancient time, the general
opinion nowadays is that the dance is quite old, possibly derived from
pre-Christian rites, passed down by word of mouth (and jingle of bell)
from father to son, generation after generation. In one old English
village, Bampton in Oxfordshire, Morris dancing has been performed at
Whitsuntide every year (except in time of war) for well over five hundred
years. Even then, there are indications that Morris was a custom
``from time out of mind.'' Shakespeare mentions the dance in several
of his works; and one of his star dancers, Will Kemp, was a
No one really seems to know just what the word Morris means or is
derived from. Some think the dance was introduced into Europe by
Moorish conquest. Some scholars associate the term Morris
with the Latin mors or moris, meaning custom or tradition.
Some of us savour
the notion that Morris dancing has Druidic roots, connected perhaps
with fertility rituals to bless the land and ensure the year's bounty.
Some of us don't care a fig for the history, but enjoy Morris as the
expression of something elemental and timeless in the human spirit.
The tradition was brought near extinction by the erosion of village
folklife in the Industrial Revolution, and by the tremendous death
toll of the English men during the first World War. In some villages
during this time, the women took up dancing in place of their husbands,
sweethearts and kindred; and after the Great War, in order to prevent
the tradition from dying out completely, these same women continued
the dance until many of them were quite elderly. In the middle part of
the 19th century, the first "mixed sides" began to appear -- sets
composed of men and women dancing together -- and it is out of this
tradition that Seabright Morris & Sword has sprung up.
Our dances are based on those recorded in the Cotswold Hills of England
during the early part of this century by folklorists and musicologists
(most notably Cecil Sharp). The tradition includes jingling bells,
colourful ribbons, clashing sticks, and a fondness for good company,
good song, and (for most of us) good ale.
A FINE TRADITION
Your enjoyment of our performance makes you, in a very real way,
a participant -- for as we dance our energy out to you, so we receive the
energy you give us in return. And (on a more tangible note) a
contribution to ``the hat'' will help the dancers quench their thirst,
and ensure a year of and a day of good luck and optional fertility for you
We of Seabright Morris & Sword dance because we love it. We hope that
you have enjoyed the experience half as much as we have, and that you
have felt at least some small touch of the Morris magic. If you would
like to know more about Seabright or the Morris in general, please
talk to us when we are not dancing. We accept apprentice dancers
each fall, and we would like to remind you that we are available for hire.
Morris adds a splendid touch to weddings, parties, or public occasions.
For further information...