If there’s one tradition in the UK that harks back to ‘the olden days’ more than any other, it’s definitely Morris dancing. No village show or folk festival in the UK is complete without the presence of a band of Morris dancers. Picture a group of men or women, dressed in old-fashioned clothes, with bells jingling on their legs, holding sticks or handkerchiefs, and dancing rhythmically to simple, traditional music played on a fiddle or accordion, and you get the idea. In fact, that description probably doesn’t do it justice, so view this YouTube video for an example. Though the earliest known written mention of Morris dancing dates to 1448 (the record of a payment of seven shillings made to a group of Morris dancers by the Goldsmith’s Company, in London), it may have started much earlier than this. These days, six main styles of Morris dancing survive, and they’re named after the regions in which they originate, such as Border Morris and Cotswold Morris. It’s English historical eccentricity at its finest.
Some snippets from our very illustrious past hopefully with more to follow.
Formed almost 50 years ago, Chalice Morris have been entertaining many parts of Somerset and beyond with their dancing skills in the Cotswold tradition of Morris Dancing. However this is only part of what makes The Chalice Morris team what it is.
A Short History of Morris Dancing and Chalice Morris
In 1889 Cecil Sharp started to collect and record Morris dances after seeing the Headington Quarry men dance. Although most of the dances that you will see were collected by Sharp, they, and the music, have evolved over the years. The world of the Morris is clearly indebted to Sharp and his work.
During the 19th century, when most villages had their own Morris side, the custom started to wane. This has left only a few places with an unbroken tradition of dancing.
Chalice have a long and varied history and it would take too much time at this point but over the period of time we will cover many of the historical elements that make up our story. It started in the heady days of the early 1970’s when Morris Dancing was taught in schools and teams formed in schools went on to develop into adult teams.
“People always ask about the bells, sticks and hankies. the bells and waved hankies are supposed to ward off evil spirits while the sticks represent ritual combat. Nobody is sure of the origins of Morris dancing, but we believe that it was based on pre-Christian fertility dances. It has elements of circle dancing, resurrection and death and ritual combat deriving from our earliest pagan forebears. The fertility dances (necessarily male) would have taken place on such ancient feast days as the first day of spring, the solstices or midsummer’s day. When the Christians took over the old festivals they would have danced on “high days and holy days. We like to think it works!”
Many of the dances we perform are in the Cotswold tradition with many from Oxfordshire/Cotswold villages such as Adderbury, Bampton, Headington and Fieldtown and our outfit is also traditional Cotswold style, white shirts and trousers, black shoes and bell pads.
Very prominent is the baldric ( NOT the Tony Robinson character in Blackadder!!) which is two loops of coloured webbing, the colour’s in our case being red and blue, passing over the shoulders and crossing at the middle of your chest and back with a badge or perhaps a rose or other decoration at the crossing points. With Chalice, the emblem on the front of each baldric is personal to each particular individual and the back has a facsimile of The Chalice Well at Glastonbury
For more information the following link is useful, http://www.morrisdances.com/costume.html