[The Seabright Logo] 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:

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 ``Morrice Dauncer.''

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 Industrial Revolution.

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.

And Furthermore

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...