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Styles of morris dancing

Morris dancing, whilst an English tradition, comes from all over England and as such takes a number of varied styles and forms.  The main types of morris dancing are:

Cotswold morris

Cotswold morris is the typical picture people have when you say “morris dancing”, with the bells, sticks and hankies.  As the name suggests it originates from the Cotswold hills region of England.  There are many different styles of dance from the area, each named after the village the style was found in.

Border morris

These more raucous dances were collected from the countries along the Welsh borders, and are generally stick dances with more skipping and hooting than in the Cotswold style.

Sword dancing

The two main styles of sword dance are Longsword – involving a rigid straight “sword” with a wooden handle, and Rapper – involving a shorter flexible length of metal with a handle at one end and a wooden swivel at the other. Longsword dances are typically slow and austere, albeit quite intricate and precise.  Rapper dances are normally quite fast and frenetic, involving a knot of whirling metal and leaving spectators wondering how nobody managed to lose a finger.

North West Clog dancing

Dancing to music usually accompanied by a bass drum, the North West morris is almost akin to formation marching, with dances forming many different patterns, all the whilst rhythmically striking their hard-soled clogs on the ground.  This is also related to Lancashire clog dancing, which is believed to have originated from the cotton/fabric mills of the region/period, and the movement of the dancers said to represent the weaving and movement of cotton bobbins.

Molly dancing

Originating from Cambridgeshire / East Anglia, Molly dancing is generally a simpler style of dance to Cotswold, often done in work boots.  It is believed to have been carried on by out of work plough boys scrambling for extra income. More angular than Border morris, and more like skipping than Cotwsold morris.

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