zaterdag 14 oktober 2017

Morris Dancers


We knew this weekend was the Beer and Buses weekend. Vintage buses take you all around the Isle of Wight to all the pubs who are into the celebration. It's a great way to taste some local ale without having to drive your car while doing some sightseeing in lovely antiques vehicles.
A lot better than a pub crawl!


While walking on the Esplanade in Ryde we were pleasantly surprised by an unexpected spectacle: Morris Dancers. I had seen this a few times on tv, in programs about local things of interest.

Why they did it over here, near the base of the hovercraft, I don't know. They had drawn some spectators. The scene made me think a bit of National Lampoon Holiday in which Chevy Chase gets involved in a dance, a bit like this. They keep hitting him, like it is a part of the dance until he gets enough of it and it all results in a big fight. Luckily the Morris Dancers are not like that at all. It appeared to be very professional.



Of course I could not resist to search for the history behind this. The first mentioning of this is in 1448, so it is a very old tradition.
They used to be named Moorish Dancers, what eventually evolved in Morris Dancers.
The tradition almost disappeared in the 19th century, but was picked up again in 1899. Most mining communities were forming their own groups and there were competitions among them.


Another form of Morris Dancers were groups with blackened faces, or wearing scarfs to disguise themselves. The origin of this is the start of unions for miners and other workers. Unions were forbidden and when people attended meetings or rallies they risked being arrested.
The dances of these black groups are quite loud and (almost) threatening. You can imagine the sound of these must have been ominous for the owners of mines and factories.

Nowadays Morris Dancers can be found not only in England, but even in countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
Nice to encounter some history on the street!
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