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  1. #1
    Senior Member Duvet's Avatar
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    Default Morris Dance attraction

    I seem to know a number of bellydancers who either have a partner who Morris dances, or who actually Morris dance themselves.

    Is there some sort of commonality between Morris and belly dance that anyone would like to comment on - the comradeship, the costumes, the public exhibition, the connection to a 'folk' tradition, etc?

    I know that someone who dances one type of form will also be attracted to another, but it's the apparent attraction to partners who Morris dance that seems to stand out.
    Last edited by Duvet; 04-26-2016 at 09:28 PM.

  2. #2
    Junior Member BeatriceC's Avatar
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    Well there is a school of thought that the word Morris derives from "Moorish". I'm sure that's pure fakelore, though.

    I can vaguely see a similarity between the more grunty testosterone-fuelled Border Morris and Sa'aidi/Tahtib, not sure about the hanky-waving though.

    And I will hold my hands up to finding men who dance (in that gruny testosterone-fuelled way - sorry but I'm a heterosexual woman, and I like manly men) attractive- you know they have a sense of style and rhythm, which are both appealing qualities in a partner.

  3. #3
    Moderator Daimona's Avatar
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    I would guess it isn't about Morris dance in particular, but maybe people interested in various folk dances in general are more open to other folk dance afficionadas - as well as the style and rhythm aspect previously mentioned? The Morris connection could be simply because you live in the UK.


    During the years I've been active I've had bellydancing friends being passionate about Argentinian Tango, greek and Balkan folk dances and a tiny bit of flamenco, but not Morris dancing (most people around here wouldn't even know what it is).
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    Daim.

  4. #4
    Moderator Zorba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daimona View Post
    Greek and Balkan folk dances...
    WORD. Greek and Balkan was how I got my start in dancing.

  5. #5
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Kharmine, who used to come to OD, is married to a Morris Dancer, now retired. I am married to a man with two left feet who has not been to one of my dance performances since 1981. Not His Thing, but I love him anyway. Oh, wait. A couple of my students and I danced at a Music and Reading program that he and I put on several years ago; he saw that but only because he had to be there anyway.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  6. #6
    Member Roshanna's Avatar
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    I'm a morris dancer (and currently very excited in the run up to May Morning, which is a big deal for morris dancers in these parts!).

    Quote Originally Posted by BeatriceC View Post
    Well there is a school of thought that the word Morris derives from "Moorish". I'm sure that's pure fakelore, though.
    I think there is some genuine reason to believe this, actually - it's certainly far more plausible than the idea that it's some kind of ancient pagan survival, which was put about by 19th century folklorists to try to make the customs of working people seem more worthy of attention and preservation (sound familiar?).

    There's written evidence that morris dancing was originally a court entertainment in the 15th/16th centuries, and described as 'mauresque' or similar, though whether it ever actually bore any resemblances to real dances of the maghreb/andalusia I have no idea. The hankies apparently evolved from costumes with long flowing sleeves in the 'moorish' style, when the dance was taken up by common people who couldn't afford fancy costumes with long flowing sleeves I have a massive book at home about the early history of the dance, complete with meticulous analysis of primary sources, but haven't got round to fully reading it yet...

    Quote Originally Posted by BeatriceC View Post
    I can vaguely see a similarity between the more grunty testosterone-fuelled Border Morris and Sa'aidi/Tahtib, not sure about the hanky-waving though.

    And I will hold my hands up to finding men who dance (in that gruny testosterone-fuelled way - sorry but I'm a heterosexual woman, and I like manly men) attractive- you know they have a sense of style and rhythm, which are both appealing qualities in a partner.
    To me, morris of any flavour usually doesn't have that sense of flowing, controlled power that tahtib has - it feels much more exuberant. Morris seems to have a different emphasis than any of the middle Eastern folk dances I've encountered, which required some unlearning of movement habits for me (I also had to unlearn my habitual way of handling a stick! For the first few weeks, I kept getting corrected for holding it like a tahtib and putting my free hand on my hip...). I'm used to keeping time with a downward movement or a heel bounce in things like saiidi and dabke, whereas in morris it's generally more about leaving the ground (and in theory, creating the illusion of not quite obeying gravity, to which the timing of the hanky movements can also contribute).

    Border morris certainly has that manly stomping and hitting things quality, at least when it's done well (border morris done hesitantly or with insufficient welly is a bit painful to watch). Cotswold dances (the ones with the hankies are Cotswold, though we also do cotswold stick dances) can be quite athletic and potentially quite manly in a 'showing off feats of strength and agility' kind of way - especially in certain traditions where there are special steps called 'slows' where the music slows down and you do various combinations of tricky footwork and jumps, which can include things like doing the splits in midair (or not, as the case may be) or jumping into deep lunges. In practise, the effect often tends to be lost because so many dancers are 'of a certain age' and are not as bouncy as they once were, but when you see a team of fit and technically competent dancers doing these traditions, they really come into their own.
    Last edited by Roshanna; 04-27-2016 at 04:14 PM.

  7. #7
    Member Roshanna's Avatar
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    And to illustrate what I mean about cotswold morris being rather athletic when done with a suitable amount of vigour... This chap is very impressive.
    Jigs are the solo version of morris. They use the same repertoire of steps, but are more show-offy, and because you have to be a pretty good dancer to even think of entering a jig competition, it is easier to find video footage of them being done well!



    PS, it's worth watching this one to the end

  8. #8
    Member Roshanna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duvet View Post
    Is there some sort of commonality between Morris and belly dance that anyone would like to comment on - the comradeship, the costumes, the public exhibition, the connection to a 'folk' tradition, etc?
    Hmm...
    Both involve wearing jingly things! And I partially became interested in morris because I was interested in Egyptian folklore and that naturally got me thinking about British folklore, and how it was a bit odd that I was studying folk dances from thousands of miles away but didn't know the ones that were from the county I lived in.

    As a primarily Egyptian-style bellydancer and cotswold morris dancer, I don't find very much commonality in the nature of the performance, or the social side, or the costuming.

    Morris is inherently really sociable, whilst learning bellydance can easily not be a social activity at all, unless the dancers in your community go out of their way to make it so. This is different if you're in a troupe, of course, in which case there's probably more in common, although my experience of being in bellydance troupes and dance companies is that it's still less sociable than being in a morris side because the social element is very ad-hoc or optional, whereas in morris it's institutionalised as something everyone does every week unless they have some reason to need to leave early.

    As far as performance goes, bellydance is spontaneous and interactive, and as a performer I have to engage with the audience... In contrast, morris has set dances, and the dancers themselves don't really interact with the audience at all (although some sides have a fool or a beast - kind of like a jester - who will interact with the audience as well as coming in and out of the dance and goading the dancers), or even necessarily acknowledge them much, even though it is a 'display dance' - most dances are done in two lines facing each other and your focus when performing is usually on the other dancers to stay in tight formation with them.

    Finally, on the costuming front... well, both tend to have jingly bits! And in my case, both have AB crystals here and there... Apart from that they are quite different though. For morris I only have one costume and it's always the same - and the costume is somewhat unique to the dancer. We make our own baldrics and bell pads in the side's design, personalise them gradually with badges and stuff, and then wear them every time we dance until they fall apart (and sometimes after they fall apart - some of our chaps have magnificently deconstructed straw hats...). In some ways it has more in common with a sports team kit, except with more bells. For bellydance, of course, I have many costumes and they are super blingy

    I do, however see more similarities with ATS - and a lot of the morris/bellydance overlap actually seems to be with ATS/ITS dancers. They are used to being in cohesive groups, having a performance dynamic that's more focused on each other than the audience, and having a costuming style based on gradual accretion of more shiny bits rather than many different 'looks'. When I started morris dancing, when people found out I was a bellydancer they kept asking me if I danced with a bellydance 'side', and I was really confused by this until I realised they had mainly encountered ATS dancers...
    Last edited by Roshanna; 04-28-2016 at 08:20 AM.

  9. #9
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Wow, Roshanna, what a great bunch of information! Thanks for taking the time to share it.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  10. #10
    Member Roshanna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    Wow, Roshanna, what a great bunch of information! Thanks for taking the time to share it.
    Oh, when it comes to morris dancing or bellydance I can happily go on until I bore people to tears, so the combination of both in one topic is irresistable

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