What is Morris Dancing?
Well, the short answer.... A traditional dance form, found in various parts of England dating back in its current form at least 500 years, with records showing a form of dance some 400 years earlier than that. The usual image of morris dancing is that of the Cotswold morris, as danced in the area around Oxford, and the types of outfits worn and the instruments played are very much that as noted from about 1860-1900. There are further variants from around the country such as North West, Border, Molly, sword, rapper etc. Each village had its own set of dances and its own style of dancing, referred to as its Tradition with the group of dancers being known as a side. So Blue-eyed Stranger, Headington, refers to the dance done to the tune Blue-eyed Stranger by the side from Headington Quarry.
There are morris dancing sides all round New Zealand (and the world), dancing generally for the same reason as those sides over the last 500 years - it's fun, it's different, it's musical and it's always been done.
The dance form employs figures that can be found in many folk dance traditions. The principal characteristics distinguishing it from others are that it is principally a display dance and the music will vary markedly in its timing to accommodate different phases of the dance. Many dances employ a capering (that is jumping) movement. The most usual dances employ teams of 6, but teams of 8 are seen for some and the North-West processional dances can include any number.