One of the finest traditional English forms of art is Morris Dancing. There are several theories about the origins of this art, suggesting that it comes originally from the North of Europe, and made its way to England with the arrival of the Vikings. It is also believed that this kind of dance had borrowed its major features from the Moors (Moorish dance) who left their trace in important parts of Europe, thereby influencing the style of the folk costumes of the region.
Evidence has been found that this style can be traced back to the English Middle Ages, when people used the Morris Dance to celebrate the arrival of spring. It is believed that the sticks used in Morris dancing were initially swords and other weapons, and that the dance was supposed to represent victory in battle. By Shakespeare’s time, Morris dance was already part of a well-planted tradition that had come to stay.
Even if this art has significantly changed over the years, there were more than 20 Morris Dance groups participating in the last Wessex Folk Festival. The visitors can witness a plethora of choreographic styles that showcases the talent of these dancers, and how individual contributions add up to the already rich art of dance. Nowadays, new steps and creative styles have been introduced thanks to the influence of foreign countries.
Many of these dance groups have been around for over 50 years. The groups in the last WFF set list and a number others have been training Morris Dancers in the region for over 30 years.
It is not only the dance and choreography that attracts the audience to these groups. As in the case with most of these dance forms, they also pay special attention to the way the dancers and musicians dress with the traditional Morris Dance attire being quite bright, colorful and elaborately decorative.