15 January 2009

Hmmm. How do I feel about this....Hmmm.....

Well, I don't know whether I'm saddened or amused by the news that Morris dancing is facing extinction.

Brought into England to the royal court in the late 15th century, it became a national fad, inspiring such hilarious artistic endeavors as William Kempe's "Nine Days Wonder," wherein he danced the Morris from London to Norwich in 1600. Many people danced part of the way with him. He wrote a pamphlet about it. Then he went back to being a famous actor in Shakespeare's troupe.

Even though it was originally a court dance, its faddishness in rural areas caused it to become a target of satire and jest (I like that phrase, "satire and jest"; nice to have a chance to use it), such as in Beaumont's Knight of the Burning Pestle (first performed 1607), with its apprentice-playing-a-knight, who gives a stirring speech to his fellow Londoners whilst wearing both armor and morris dancewear.

And then it was rediscovered, and declared to be one of the ancient pagan dances of our ancient pagan peoples, in honor of the wheel of the year, or the fecundity of the crops, or whatever, and so it had a new heyday. And this lasted for a while, so you couldn't go visit any tourist sites in England without running into morris dances.

But now, alas, it's going the way of all flesh again.

Not to worry, though -- I expect it'll be resurrected in a few decades, under yet a new guise, so all those ribbons and bells won't go to waste. Keep them in the attic for your grandchildren.


Marjie said...

What is needed in this situation is a Monty Python documentary.

Yeah, yeah, that's it.

CarlBrannen said...

Wikipedia says on the border it was done in blackface, and that "morris" means "Moorish", so it wouldn't date back as far as the pagans.

robin said...

Ah, the reports of our demise ... the poor, sad squire of the Morris Ring has been put through the ringer for this nonsense. It's old men's single sex teams that are having trouble keeping up their members. Not such a problem for mixed teams or the rising number of youth & children's teams, and those border teams are positively a growth industry. Ironically, his comments engendered a swelling of media support for the Morris in the UK - quite a switch from the usual piss taking!