The origin and much of the meaning of English ritual dance has been lost in history. In this context, "ritual" means dances that are performed for others to watch as opposed to social dances performed by the dancers for their own enjoyment.
Some believe that the name "Morris" is a corruption of "Moorish" assuming that the dances originated in Northern Africa and made their way up through Spain where similar dances are still being performed today.
Sometimes, the term "Morris Dance" is reserved for the dances collected in the Cotswolds - Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and close-by (top left) but we are using it here to refer to all of England's ritual dance, from the 'Obby 'Oss (Hobby Horse) of Padstow in Cornwall to the Horn Dance of Abbots Bromley (left) to the sword dances of the north-east (top and bottom right) and the clog-morris of the north-west (lower left) via the dances of the Welsh Borders (bottom left). Each form of dance has its own characteristics and costume and can either be uniquely preserved, like the Britannia Coconut dances of Bacup (right), or made widely accessible, as with most of the Cotswold dance traditions.
Whilst there is no overall umbrella organisation devoted to maintaining and developing the Morris there is a loose combination of three groups under the title "Joint Morris Organisation" made up of The Morris Ring, Open Morris and The Morris Federation. These groups, singly and together, arrange various events over the year and provide central resources for their members but by far the most common way to see Morris Dancing is when a side (as a group often calls itself) performs at a festival, a special occasion like a carnival or simply by a village green on a sunny summer evening.
With this website you will be able to learn about the Morris and, I hope, have a go.
ps; Morris dancing is a massive subject and I am only seeking to get you interested in discovering more about the subject by yourself. I welcome feedback so please let me know what you think of my ideas and suggestions. Send Feedback >>