Morris Dancing is closely associated with mummers’ plays which originated in Britain in the medieval times. A troupe of actors normally visited homes or public houses to perform, and on the odd occasion would perform in the streets. Depending on the time of the year, the occasion and the type of local hero, the actors would dress up to represent characters such as Father Christmas, St George, Robin Hood, a man as a women and of course a jester.
The original story told of St George in a fight with a Turkish knight. One of them would die. A ‘doctor’ would administer a magic potion to the one who was killed.
Sadly, no scripts remain from pre-1700, but these plays were the foundation for Morris dancing, first documented in the mid-1400s. The rhythmic folk dances include bells, sticks, swords, handkerchiefs and are performed by men and women.
A range of theories exist as to the name Morris dancing, but the most accepted is that it comes from Moorish dancing which may have derived from a celebratory dance after Isabel and Ferdinand expelled the Moors from the Iberian peninsular in 1492. There are variations of the dance across the European Continent, and there are records of this type of dance being performed in the court of Henry VII, which may explain its birth in England.
Today the dances are performed across the British Isles and around the world by young and old, embracing medieval history of pageantry.