Blackmore Morris started formally in January 1970 when a group of members of Blackmore Folk Club (not far from Brentwood in Essex) got together to learn Cotswold Morris under the guidance of an experienced Morris dancer, Roy Tomlin. You can see photos from that era at The Early Days... Since then hundreds of men and boys have learnt these traditional English dances with Blackmore Morris.
The team in Sudbury, Suffolk in 2013 and at Postojna Cave, Slovenia in 2011
The first time you see the Morris, you might think there are only two Morris dances - the stick one and the hanky one. Then you realise that the tunes are all different. Gradually other differences emerge. Here are some other things to look out for that will make watching more enjoyable:
The general style that Blackmore dance is called Cotswold, because that is the part of the country where most of the dances were noted down during the rediscovery of Morris in the nineteenth century. Other forms of Morris include North West (in clogs) or border (blackened faces and tatter coats, lots of whoops) and East Anglian Molly (once a year in January).
Cotswold is rich in the range of steps and figures that are used. Each village developed its own style and structure of the dances. Details may vary, such as the way hankies are waved, or the steps and figures, even where the dance has the same name and a similar tune in different village traditions.
Most dances are for teams of six or eight men, but sometimes you will see a one man dance or jig.
The basic structure of a Morris dance is a bit like a song. The verses correspond to the figures (which vary through the dance) interspersed with a chorus which is repeated (but this can also vary throughout the dance!). However the music is generally different for the two parts of the dance - the 'A' music for the figure and the 'B' music for the chorus (but see "slows" below.)
Slows. This is when the music slows down (the 'C' music) allowing the pairs (or corners) to perform special or "show" movements, such as: fore capers (beetle crushers) upright capers, right toe back or even leapfrogs.
Once you know these basics, you will realise that no two dances are the same. Different teams (or sides) interpret or develop the traditions differently. Some sides may emphasise doing the steps precisely and keeping straight lines, etc, while others may focus on aspects of the dance such as its humour or energy.
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