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What is Morris dancing?
A traditional form of British folk dance, the exact origins of which aren’t fully known. Various theories exist as to the origins of “the Morris”, including a development of Moorish dancing (supported by similarities with folk dance in the Basque region of Spain), and even it being a relic of weapons practice of Moorish soldiers that somehow made its way via the Crusades to become a dance form in England. It seems to have been a favoured form of Royal Court entertainment in the 15th century, spreading to the aristocracy, and the great unwashed as it became more and more popular. After virtually disappearing in the 19th Century, it was resurrected in the early years of the 20th Century, and is today danced around the world, notably in the USA, and in Commonwealth countries, including Australia and Canada.
What style of Morris do you dance?
Pilgrim dances Cotswold Morris, from mainly the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. We dance the traditions from (mainly) the villages of Adderbury, Ducklington, Bampton, and occasionally Bledington and Field Town.
It keeps you fit, doesn’t it?
Pretty much, yes. Although the benefit is somewhat offset by the beer that we’ve been known to consume to slake our thirsts.
It’s energetic, aerobic exercise, and as we dance on the balls of our feet,we build up calf muscles like traffic wardens’, according to sports therapist Adrian Jenkinson (http://adrianjenkinson.co.uk/) who’s designed warm-up and cool-down sequences for us.
Why do you do it?
It’s fun; gets you fit; helps keep an age-old tradition alive; has a great social life; and is a damn good excuse to beat people senseless with big sticks. It is also perfect for ex rugby players – lots of exercise closely followed by a light ale.
Perhaps you think that you can’t dance. Well, any remotely able-bodied male can learn to Morris dance with us. All you have to do is turn up to our practices over the winter. We will tell you all you need to know. Maybe more, if you’re lucky…
It’s not for women, is it?
Actually it is. It’s just that from choice we are composed of only male dancers. We have female musicians, and back in 1978 the wives and girlfriends of the side formed Mayflower Morris (www.mayflowermorris.org.uk). Other local sides that are mixed or all female are listed with our links.
Why’s the secretary called a Bagman?
It’s not, as Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bagman) might lead you to believe, because he’s dishonest. In fact, because Morris dancing is older than America, it’s just possible that “the mob” adopted the name for their money carriers because that’s what the Bagman used to do for Morris sides.
Our other officers are the Squire and Treasurer. The Squire is our elected leader who rules by means of a democratic dictatorship – if we like his decisions, then we’ll do it! The Treasurer is the money carrier these days, so that the Bagman can concentrate on the task of sorting out our diary. It also means that the committee has three members to ensure that there is always a decision when put to the vote.