Monday, April 23, 2012

For St George's Day: Morris dancing at Clun

It's St George's Day. And what could be more English than morris dancing?

The blackened faces here, suggests Wikipedia, are either a reminder that morris dancing was originally known as Moorish dancing, a form of disguise adopted by 17th- and 18th-century labourers supplementing their wages with a spot of dancing and begging, or a remnant of the 19th-century craze for Black minstrels. (That last explanation seems to be the one Roy Palmer favours in The Folklore of Shropshire.)

Whatever the explanation, the faces are typical of Border morris - "from the English-Welsh border: a simpler, looser, more vigorous style". (That's Wikipedia again.)

This video was filmed in The Square at Clun. The pub on the right is the friendly White Horse. The sign on the left is for the long-closed Buffalo, which will be familiar to readers of Malcolm Saville's The Neglected Mountain.

1 comment:

Tristan said...

I always heard that it was a disguise.

This was certainly the case with East Anglian Molly dancing which used to combine dancing with demanding money, and in later years culminated with a riot in Cambridge Market Square...

Another theory I've heard from a dancer is that its to disguise you in case you get something wrong and displease the gods.

Personally I'm more worried about the wrath of the Squire if I mess up (and the threat of having to buy a round).