Morris Dancing is a living English tradition of performance dance and music which has survived for well over 500 years. Villagers in Bampton, Oxfordshire, say that Morris Dancing has been performed at Whitsuntide (a.k.a. Pentecost) every year, except for in times of war, for over eight hundred years. The truth is, we don't know how old Morris dancing is. It's origins have been lost in the mists of time with the dances being passed down from generation to generation.
Morris dances are usually performed by a set of six dancers. The dancers clash sticks or wave handkerchiefs as they perform the figures of the dance. Bells on their legs jingle as they move. The dances are often accompanied by traditional folk characters. The Fool romps around the set, harassing the dancers and amusing the audience. The Hobby Horse prances about, sometimes carrying a hat used to solicit money from the observers. The Betty, a man in women's clothing, is thought by some to be an ancient fertility symbol.
Music is an integral part of Morris dancing and is always performed live. The
traditional Morris instrument is the pipe and tabor: a single musician
simultaneously plays a three-holed pipe with the left hand and a small drum with
the right hand. During the twentieth century other instruments have come into
use, including (but certainly not limited to, the accordion, the melodion and
Historic References to Morris Dancing
Picture by Cherry Netter