Time Out blogger Samantha Baines shares her experience of having a go at morris dancing for the first time.
When Time Out asked me if I wanted to go morris dancing my first response was 'yeah, why not' because I am super cool and spontaneous like that. However, after agreeing to this most British of dancing rituals, I began to see nightmare visions of bells, sticks and ribbons at country fairs and I felt that perhaps I had bitten off more than I could jig. There was no getting out of it, so I had a couple of glasses of prosecco and made my husband come with me and actually it was quite fun. Here are a few things I learned from morris and from dancing.
1. Sticks make me feel powerful
On entering our morris dancing lesson we were presented with two sticks each. Well, presenting makes it sound grander than it was – they were on the floor and I picked them up. Morris dancing sticks have coloured tape around both ends and I think this was just for aesthetics (top morris dancing tip for beginners: buy coloured tape). The sticks were about an arm's length and as thick as the amount of spaghetti you'd cook for two people, so pretty substantial. I have to confess that waving and banging said sticks was my absolute favourite part. They made me feel powerful, loud and a bit like a ninja fighter in an action movie, although they rarely have bells (no bells were included in this class which was disappointing, but maybe that's the next level up).
2. Prosecco doesn't help
Morris dancing is harder than it looks– there are so many instructions and patterns to follow: you have to cross your partner on a certain side, and follow corner arrangements and do one thing with one stick and another thing with the other. As we are aware alcohol does not improve coordination I would not encourage drinking two glasses of prosecco for courage. On the plus side, it was nice to hop around in a bubbly haze.
3. They are not all called Morris
Yes, I have seen people in green and white at fairs and town centres shaking what their mothers gave them – sticks and bells. However, on first inspection of the name 'morris dancing' it could really all have originated from a lovely man called Morris doing his very own brand of moving to music. You could imagine Morris being a lively member of a local community with a love of music but an inability to get down and groovy like the other youngsters. Thus Morris created his own style of dancing with hopping and sticks – because what young chap doesn't enjoy playing with sticks! But apparently it's not that...
To be fair, no-one really knows where the name 'morris dancing' comes from although it's suggested that it comes from 'Moorish' as was the fashion in the fifteenth century. It's been around for a while but who knows, maybe there was a fifteenth-century Morris who started it all off!
4. I don't hop enough
At school we played hop scotch, sometimes there was that weird hopping race on sports day, there's that three-legged pub crawl you need to hop to get by but in general we just don't hop enough. Morris dancing is essentially a series of big hops (don't tell them I said that, it is quite a bit more complicated than that). I now know that spending some time hopping around a hall with some nice people to music was actually very enjoyable. Who needs both legs when one will do?
Watch the dancers in action:
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