Morris Dancing: Tradition

This is the sound of long wooden poles being struck together by a group of Morris dancers perform on May Day. They’re keeping alive a tradition of English folk dancing that dates back hundreds of years. And to do that, they have to obey a set of very specific rules. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. It takes a lot of practice to be one of the six dancers on a Morris team, and you’d better be able to speak the language.

“Each figure has a different type of movement to it. There’s something called the jip and the half-jip and there’s foot up and then there’s rounds. There’s hay, there’s half hay. There are things called bug squashers, there are splits which are very exciting and athletic kicks where dancers jump up and it’s also a way for men to show off, (laughs).”

Laura Chessin is a Morris fiddler in Virginia. She says a group of Morris dancers is called a “side”. Morris dancing is often done around this time of year, especially on May Day, as a rite celebrating fertility. It was once performed only by men — now there are many women dancers as well. But in other respects, today’s Morris dancers are following patterns that are centuries old. One member of each group is a special guardian of the tradition.

“The foreman is the person who teaches the dances and runs the practice, and so the foreman would be somebody who’d be the most knowledgeable about the tradition, about how a hanky is flicked, how a caper, which is a certain way in which the foot comes up and twirls around, how that would be produced….how the sticks are clacked, how the sticks are held, at what angle.”

About eight hundred Morris dance groups now perform in the United States. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’m Jim Metzner.

Morris Dancing: Tradition

The people who participate in Morris dancing at spring festivalas across the U.S. are following a centuries-old traidtion of Enlgish folk dancing., with very specific rituals and traditions.
Air Date:05/02/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

This is the sound of long wooden poles being struck together by a group of Morris dancers perform on May Day. They're keeping alive a tradition of English folk dancing that dates back hundreds of years. And to do that, they have to obey a set of very specific rules. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. It takes a lot of practice to be one of the six dancers on a Morris team, and you'd better be able to speak the language.

"Each figure has a different type of movement to it. There's something called the jip and the half-jip and there's foot up and then there's rounds. There's hay, there's half hay. There are things called bug squashers, there are splits which are very exciting and athletic kicks where dancers jump up and it's also a way for men to show off, (laughs)."

Laura Chessin is a Morris fiddler in Virginia. She says a group of Morris dancers is called a "side". Morris dancing is often done around this time of year, especially on May Day, as a rite celebrating fertility. It was once performed only by men -- now there are many women dancers as well. But in other respects, today's Morris dancers are following patterns that are centuries old. One member of each group is a special guardian of the tradition.

"The foreman is the person who teaches the dances and runs the practice, and so the foreman would be somebody who'd be the most knowledgeable about the tradition, about how a hanky is flicked, how a caper, which is a certain way in which the foot comes up and twirls around, how that would be produced....how the sticks are clacked, how the sticks are held, at what angle."

About eight hundred Morris dance groups now perform in the United States. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I'm Jim Metzner.