Give the public what they want

Nothing brings visitors here like a reference to Morris dancing. Which is borderline weird given (a) that I get mercilessly mocked (even by other blog contributors) for loving Morris dancing and (b) that I know very little about it and rarely get a chance to even see any.

One thing I do know about Morris dancing is that the old idea that it came from Morocco and/ or Spain (i.e “Moorish”) is widely agreed to be a fiction.

I’ve never been wholly convinced by the “fiction” viewpoint. Ok, the past is always fictionalised. But, people always moved around the accessible world, so any concepts of ancient cultural forms being somehow distinct is absurd.

So, I’m – partly just for the sake of argument – going to dispute the “not at all moorish” idea, here.

There’s plenty of archaeological evidence of trade with the Mediterranean before the Roman invasion. I can easily imagine pre-Roman Brits – let alone medieval villagers – being so impressed by the marvellous otherness of Phoenician traders that they recreated what they remembered, in their own idiom. After the crusades, there must have been many ex-soldiers who had absorbed a fair bit of North African culture in their travels.

Flowing white clothes, streaming coloured ribbons, male-only dancing, the ways in which percussion sounds are generated – it all seems pretty damn “North African” to me. Credit where it’s due, I think.

(Plus in your faces, BNP, with your ludicrous attempts to co-opt traditional English cultural forms into your racist project, as if English culture was somehow NOT formed through constant migrations and invasions.)

Here are some you-tube clips of North African men dancing in a way that could go on as Morris dancing without rehearsal.

Iraqi men dancing

Kurdish man dancing

And here’s an American Morris group, acquitting themselves well enough at the art to show that nationality doesn’t matter anyway.

3 thoughts on “Give the public what they want

  1. Hi

    Thought you might be interested in a new film that we’re working on called Morris: a Life with Bells On –

    UKTV’s Blighty channel is showing the TV debut of the comedy Brit film about Morris dancing and we wondered if you’d be interested in receiving more info?

    We’ve got loads of funny clips, and all sorts of content that we can send over, plus it’s nice and seasonal in the run up to the May bank holiday.

    Let me know what you think and drop me a line back if you want to know more.



  2. Bex

    Great. It looks really good and I’ll look forward to the movie. Please send whatever you like. 🙂

    Over the bank holiday I caught Morris dancing in Chester – with some sort of dance-off between 8 teams and some really beautiful music – and I attended a bizarre Holywell ceremony called the Cadi Ha – a few men dancing wearing what looked like old pillow cases with ragged ribbons on, followed by a stream of kids dancing in much more elaborate costumes.

    Oh dear, this may be becoming a theme.

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