Blogitandscarpa on 1st May 2023
As we continue our 11th year of trading, and now that we consider you as part of the family here in Atlanta, we thought we’d let you in on some of the more obscure British traditions. It’s not all tea and biscuits, proper football and incredible bedroom prowess, and whilst we're not alone in doing incredibly stupid things (eg Johnson and Trump), there are 1 or 2 weird customs and traditions that make us quintessentially British.
Over the next couple of blogs, we’re going to lift the lid on some of these, and we’re going to start with Morris Dancing.
Morris Dancing is a traditional folk dance, involving men, dressed in white breeches with bells attached, waving handkerchiefs and skipping and prancing around to twee music. They appear in pubs and village fetes and they are usually drunk, and, strangely, straight. One of them is blacked up. They claim it’s because he represents the Moorish people, where the name Morris comes from, but you ain’t foolin no-one, white, middle-class, heterosexual men. The Moors were the people from Northern Africa and the Iberian Peninsula around Spain, Italy, Portugal and Malta, and they tried to show the white man how to dance. However, Morris Dancers can not dance in exactly the same way as they can not jump.
Because there wasn’t much internet in Medieval Britain, villagers entertained themselves by dancing, drinking and dying by the time they were in their late thirties. They would get drunk and dad dance, but it was a pretty unimpressive experience for the ladies, and the population dwindled. But, in one of the villages near Brighton, 1 chap had had enough. He’d been practising a bit of a routine, alone, in the secrecy of his wardrobe. He came out of his wardrobe, dressed in tassels and bells, and danced for his village. Oh how they all laughed and mocked him. Everyone that is, except the ladies, who blushed and drew risque pictures of themselves and slipped them under his wardrobe door. Seeing the ladies' reaction to the man with rhythm, the villagers begged to be taught the dance, and the population boomed.
During the Elizabethan period, there were close ties between England and Italy, and it is suggested that traditional Morris dance was heavily influenced by 16th century Italian dance. It’s a shame their fashion style, dental outlook and charm with the ladies didn’t catch on, but we were too busy throwing our toilet leftovers out of windows at the time to bother with such trivialities.
Wars, famines, fires and plagues dominated Fox news during the 17th and 18th centuries, but the dancing never stopped. Shakespeare probably wrote about Morris dancing, but everyone was too busy reaping the rewards of the dance to attend the theatre. Instead of dancing, drinking and dying, the population was drinking, dancing and sha….you get the picture.
In the 19yh century, as times and attitudes changed, women were allowed to participate. They washed and ironed the outfits, and then pointed out to the male dancers where they were going wrong. In response, the dancers said, ‘well if you think you can do better’....and so women started to get involved. The dances improved, attendances rocketed and generally everything was organised in a much more efficient way. They set up a governing body called the Morris Ring (not to be confused with the ‘Morris Ring’ which is the medical complaint from too much Morris Dancing. Cream is available). Today the Morris Ring has widened and there are currently groups in Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Canada, Sweden, Finland and 150 groups in the USA. The troupes are known as teams, and they perform at all sorts of functions, from fairs, to fetes and Bank Holiday events.
The Morris is alive and well, and with the advent of the internet, has become even more popular. The blackened character no longer exists, being replaced by a blue-faced character.
It doesn’t matter that you can’t dance. If you can drink and wear terrible outfits, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can enter the Ring.
Morris Dancing is not available at The Queens Pantry. Unless of course we set our own group up…..????