Seabright Morris and Sword
This is the new text for the 1998 leaflet.
The original text is here.
What Is Morris Dancing?
These are the things we really know about morris dancing:
- It is either 300 years old, 800 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 times, the general
opinion 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. Villagers in
secluded Bampton, Oxfordshire, say morris dancing has been performed
at Whitsuntide every year, except in time of war, for over eight
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 actors, Will Kemp, was a
No one really knows the origin or meaning of the word morris.
Some think the dance entered Europe with the Moorish
conquests. Others associate the word with the Latin moris,
meaning custom or tradition. Some of us savour the notion that the
morris 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 morris tradition
includes jingling bells, colourful ribbons, clashing sticks, and a
fondness for good company, good song, and good ale.
An Historical Note continued
In Tudor times the morris was widespread in England, enjoying
patronage of church and nobility. The Stuart monarchs encouraged the
morris in the face of Puritan opposition, and the Restoration of the
crown catalyzed a morris revival. Thereafter morris was one notable
sport at annual regional fests called ales, and morris sides from
different villages competed for favours. Alas, the tradition was
brought near extinction by the erosion of village folklife in the
Our dances are based on those recorded near the Cotswold Hills of
England around the turn of the 20th century by folklorists and
musicologists -- most notably Cecil Sharp. He uncovered the few
villages with remaining morris sides and sought pensioners who had
danced as youths in other villages. From their legacy this
Terpsichorean tradition has spread around the globe and to Santa Cruz,
where Seabright Morris and Sword sprang up.
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 and a day of good luck, fertility, and success for
you and yours.
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...