Dancing

There will be about 36 dance groups, that’s at least 320 dancers and 100 musicians dancing from 10 til 3 at eight town centre locations. We have two broad categories of dance styles and we’ll add details of individual groups as they book,

International Dance styles: We are focussing on a really international theme to the dancing this year so we are inviting lots of international dance styles including Appalachian, Ballet, Bollywood, Bulgarian, Clog, French, Hip Hop, Irish, Lebanese, Majorettes, Moravian, Playford, Polish, Regency, Samba, Scottish, Slovak, Tap, Turkish and Welsh. Expect some wonderful outfits and mesmerising dances.

English Morris dancers of every shadowily be performing including Border, Cotswold, Jig, Longsword, NW Clog, Molly, Rapper and Stave dancers. These variations are described below.

  • BORDER MORRIS: Originated in Herefordshire  Worcestershire and Shropshire in the 17th century. Dancers were supplementing their income by a bit of dancing and illegal begging so they blackened their faces to hide their identity from employers and the law. There is absolutely NO connection with ‘Minstrel’ shows. Dancers generally wear black with masses of highly colourful rag ribbons (tatters) and elaborate headdresses, often featuring tall pheasant feathers. Faces are painted in variety of hues. Wild dances, raucous dancers, driving rhythms and enthusiastic crashing of sticks. Stand well back!
  • CLOG & STEP DANCERS: Originating from the Lancashire and Cheshire woollen mills where workers sitting at the weaving machines wore hard-soled clogs with iron nails on the soles and heels, which they tapped to the rhythms of the machines to keep their feet warm. Today’s sticks and hoops are symbolic of the mills’ bobbins and shuttles. Most clog dancing sides are female and their costumes are visually striking with broad sashes and generously flowered hats.
  • COTSWOLD TRADITIONAL MORRIS Originated in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire. 6-8 men usually dressed in white shirts and trousers with coloured cross sashes and flowery hats, leaping and twirling, hankies waving, sticks crashing, bells jingling, sometimes with a hobby horse and a fool. In the “traditional” style only men dance.
  • “MODERN” COTSWOLD MORRIS: The same Cotswold dances but sides are mixed, men and women, or all female. Dress standards are much more relaxed with bright multi-coloured outfits and some sides have less formal stepping.
  • JIG A solo morris dance, typically competition or show off dances and only danced by those considered to be the best dancers in a side.
  • LONGSWORD miners’ dance style from Yorkshire using (blunt!) wooden or metal swords. They link up in a ring and then weave around over or under the swords. A highlight is to weave the swords into a star shaped knot.
  • MOLLY A very distinctive, high stepping style from East Anglia and the East Midlands. Dances were performed on Plough Monday by male farm-workers with one dressed as a woman and, like Border Morris, they were dancing illegally for money to supplement their income so they concealed their identities by blacking their faces. Traditionally they wore a modified version of their Sunday best but modern dancers are known for their very colourful outfits and brightly painted face paints. 
  • NORTH WEST CLOG The most urban style of Morris dancing from the Lancashire and Cheshire woollen mills where workers sitting at the weaving machines wore hard-soled clogs with iron nails on the soles and heels, which they tapped to the rhythms of the machines to keep their feet warm. They dance with colourful decorated sticks and hoops which are symbolic of the mills’ bobbins and shuttles. Most clog dancing sides are female and their costumes are visually striking with broad sashes and generously flowered hats.
  • STAVE DANCERS: These are unusual and very rare dances which originate from the Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire Friendly Societies. Each dancer carries a two metre stave crowned with a distinctive brass emblem and decorated with ribbons. Whilst the staves are mainly carried on the shoulder, some dances require the dancers to form arches or other figures.
  • RAPPER SWORD DANCERS: Originating in the pit villages of Tyneside, dances are performed at speed by a team of five people continuously linked by flexible ‘swords’ called rappers. For most of the dance the swords are held above the dancers heads while they weave intricate patterns at high speed, moving smoothly in and out of complex shapes including forward and backward somersaults over the swords. Timing is emphasised by the rhythmic tapping of their wooden clogs.