A Morris dance is a form of folk dance There are records
mentioning the Morris Dance dating back to 1477, and it is mentioned in
Renaissance documents in France, Italy, and Spain. The term then was "moorish
dance" and "Moresco", which was gradually corrupted to "Morris Dance".
In the modern day, it is commonly thought of as a uniquely British activity, although there are around 150 Morris teams in North America. The dance is also still practiced in Barcelona, Spain, where it is performed by girls or women. The traditional Calusari dance of Romania resembles morris in many ways.
History in England
Before the English Civil War, the working peasantry often
took part in Morris dances, especially at Whitsun. The Puritan government of
Oliver Cromwell, however, suppressed Whitsun Ales and other such festivities.
When the crown was restored by Charles II the springtime festivals were restored.
In particular, Whitsun Ales came to be celebrated on Whitsunday, as the date
coincided with the birthday of Charles II.
Morris dancing continued in popularity until the industrial revolution and its accompanying drastic social change.
Today, there are three predominant styles of Morris
Dancing, and different traditions within each style named after their village of
origin. Traditions differ in the form of their steps and capers.
Cotswold Morris: dances from the English Cotswolds normally danced with handkerchiefs or sticks to embellish the hand movements
• North West Morris: more military in style and often processional. Clogs are a characteristic feature of this style of dance
Border Morris from the English-Welsh border: a free-flowing, informal style, normally danced with blackened faces and wearing rag coats
Lionel Bacon records morris traditions, most of which are in the Cotswold style, from these villages: Abingdon, Adderbury, Ascot-under-Wychwood, Badby, Bampton, Bidford, Bledington, Brackley, Brimfield, Bromsberrow Heath, Bucknell, Ducklington, Evesham, Eynsham, Headington, Hinton-in-the-Hedges, Ilmington, Kirtlington, Leafield ("Field Town"), Leominster, Lichfield, Longborough, Much Wenlock, Oddington, Pershore, Sherbourne, Stanton Harcourt, Steeple Claydon, Upton-on-Severn, Upton Snodsbury, Wheatley, White Ladies Aston, Winster.
Sometimes regarded as a form of Morris, although regarded
by many of the performers themselves as a form of traditional dance in its own
right is the sword dance tradition, which includes the rapper sword
and Long Sword traditions.
The English mummers play occasionally involves morris or sword dances either incorporated as part of the play or performed at the same event.
Other forms include Molly dance from Cambridgeshire, associated with Plough Monday. A parodic form danced in work boots and with at least one Molly man dressed as a woman.
There is also Hoodening which comes from East Kent, and the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance.