Thursday, July 11, 2013

Starting a Morris Side

This post is a little different - it's not about history. It's about modern folk dance, and me experimenting with a tradition that has its roots in the fifteenth century. I look forward to getting to the point where I'm going to be able to tell you something about what the first couple hundred years of morris dance history were like, but right now all the information I can find is confusing and contradictory. (Best guess: "morris" was a catch-all term for performance dances done in disguise, some of them sword dances, some related to modern morris traditions, and some something else entirely. But I can't back up that hypothesis at present.)

Anyhow, I'm starting a sword and morris dance side, mostly out of a desire to learn more about this family of dances. We're dancing in for the first time on Saturday.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Hilt-And-Point Sword Dances

Hilt-and-point, or linked, sword dances are a style of dance which originated in Germany (probably in Nuremberg) in the middle of the 14th century. From there, they spread all over central and western Europe; evidence of the tradition has been found by folklorists in England, Scotland, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the Low Countries, Romania, Austria, and Scandinavia. A particularly showy variety of these dances known as "rapper dances" began in England in the 19th century, peaked in the period between the World Wars, and is still going strong today; many other places have either preserved or revived their sword dance traditions as well. In dancing these dances today, performers continue a custom which connects them to the medieval bourgeoisie and so to over six centuries of history.