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Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?

GUEST,Lucy 01 Apr 09 - 02:20 PM
meself 01 Apr 09 - 02:24 PM
greg stephens 01 Apr 09 - 02:30 PM
RTim 01 Apr 09 - 02:47 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 01 Apr 09 - 03:05 PM
Tim Leaning 01 Apr 09 - 03:13 PM
Folkiedave 01 Apr 09 - 03:19 PM
ClaireBear 01 Apr 09 - 03:33 PM
The Borchester Echo 01 Apr 09 - 03:34 PM
Art Thieme 01 Apr 09 - 03:41 PM
Folknacious 01 Apr 09 - 04:08 PM
Art Thieme 01 Apr 09 - 04:17 PM
The Borchester Echo 01 Apr 09 - 04:21 PM
Kampervan 01 Apr 09 - 04:21 PM
Ref 01 Apr 09 - 04:22 PM
Kampervan 01 Apr 09 - 04:25 PM
BobKnight 01 Apr 09 - 04:35 PM
Art Thieme 01 Apr 09 - 04:35 PM
GUEST,Lucy 01 Apr 09 - 04:51 PM
Kampervan 01 Apr 09 - 04:55 PM
Paul Burke 01 Apr 09 - 05:05 PM
The Vulgar Boatman 01 Apr 09 - 05:27 PM
Art Thieme 01 Apr 09 - 06:02 PM
Crane Driver 01 Apr 09 - 06:03 PM
Will Fly 01 Apr 09 - 06:16 PM
Andrez 01 Apr 09 - 06:26 PM
DADGBE 01 Apr 09 - 09:06 PM
artbrooks 01 Apr 09 - 09:18 PM
katlaughing 01 Apr 09 - 10:14 PM
Art Thieme 01 Apr 09 - 11:55 PM
meself 02 Apr 09 - 12:54 AM
selby 02 Apr 09 - 01:56 AM
Peace 02 Apr 09 - 02:09 AM
Herga Kitty 02 Apr 09 - 02:53 AM
GUEST,Slowalan 02 Apr 09 - 03:02 AM
GUEST,Bob L 02 Apr 09 - 03:06 AM
Little Robyn 02 Apr 09 - 03:53 AM
Will Fly 02 Apr 09 - 04:16 AM
Tim Leaning 02 Apr 09 - 04:35 AM
davyr 02 Apr 09 - 04:48 AM
Acorn4 02 Apr 09 - 05:04 AM
GUEST 02 Apr 09 - 05:14 AM
Jess A 02 Apr 09 - 06:27 AM
GUEST,EricTheOrange 02 Apr 09 - 06:41 AM
Bloke from Poole 02 Apr 09 - 07:56 AM
GUEST,Graham Bradshaw 02 Apr 09 - 08:03 AM
the fence 02 Apr 09 - 08:18 AM
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Acorn4 02 Apr 09 - 09:35 AM
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Subject: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: GUEST,Lucy
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 02:20 PM

Hi,

I'm an Ethnomusicology Masters student writing an essay on morris dancing and masculinity for a college project on Music and Gender. I'm from a family of morris dancers so have grown up around the traditions, but was wondering if anyone had any ideas when and how morris dancing became such a joke in popular culture - i'm thinking of the recent news story about the "decline" of morris dancing among younger people and the way the media prefixed all its reports with snide remarks about hankies and bells and prancing about. Has it always been this way or is this a modern phenomenon?

Any comments would be gratefully appreciated - also any thoughts on morris and masculinity generally. I've always thought it's quite sexy..!

Thanks in advance,

Lucy Wright


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: meself
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 02:24 PM

I think it started as a joke!

(Okay, I'm sorry; I just couldn't resist ... )


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 02:30 PM

Well, it's certainly been a joke since I came to consciousness. Say the 50's. Don't know about before then. Surely it must have been funny at least since collectors dragged it from the rural wastes of Oxforshire and presented it to London.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a jok
From: RTim
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 02:47 PM

Lucy - I am sure you will NOT ever get a serious answer to your question, unfortunately!
I think those of us who do take it seriously are steeped in the tradition or it has been part of our family life, and we know exactly why we do it. We may of course have many different reasons for doing it, but they are very important to us.
Both of my children have become Morris Dancers, so maybe I got something right.

Tim Radford.
Ex - Foreman and Squire The Adderbury Morris Men and Foreman of Kirtlington Morris.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 03:05 PM

I think I'd listen to Tim Radford, GUEST - Lucy, We've (my family and I) have seen The Adderbury Morris a number of times (haven't had the chance to see your new side yet, Tim)and believe me you want to see them again and again.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 03:13 PM

I love to see the morris dancers and hear the tunes.
I dont know the history and am not steeped in the tradition but even as a kid it looked like fun and was funny the dancers are usualy smilin and having a good time.
I wouldnt say Morris Dancing is a joke,but like everything else in life there is humour about it.
Can you do a degree in that now?
As for the masculinity or otherwise of the dancers make fun at a safe distance the buggers must be fit to do that all day.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 03:19 PM

Having taken the morris to France Spain Germany Hungary and Ecuador I can tell you it only happens in the UK.

Interestingly when in France we were roundly applauded by a large group of people only for them to say "Oh! You are morris dancers - when we spoke".

Personally I blame lazy journalists (which frankly is a lot of them).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: ClaireBear
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 03:33 PM

Folkiedave -- absolutely!

I was just about to say that, in the (western) US and Canada where I've performed as a morris muzo, it is treated with respect in all cases -- and, in some cases, with reverence.

Except from UK tourists, who I've heard grumble loudly about how they thought they'd be safe here...

C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a jok
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 03:34 PM

Some journos are, of course lazy. However, mostly they are reinforcing the mindless prejudices of the vast majority of "normals" out there, glued to their tellies watching a classical ballet on C4 or an anodyne heat of Strictly Come Dancing.

And why do all these "normals" despise and ridicule Morris (or any other tradarts for that matter)? Because for the past several generations, the education system has taught them to do so. Only "fine" or commercialised arts are good, only "culture" meted out by their "betters" . .

As Dave says, only in England. Yes, England. Not the UK as a whole. There's no such problem in Scotland. Until our education system is overhauled and children are taught to respect their cultural heritage, this will go on.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 03:41 PM

Diane,

------------ ------------- --------!
----------------@#$%^&*@#$&^^#@#------.

------------- -------   -------------   -- - ----------!

And that's not only what the Chinese think!

Respectfully,


Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a jok
From: Folknacious
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:08 PM

Have none of you noticed the date? Not one!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:17 PM

Da date don't matter.
It's da prunes dat keeps ya reglar!!!

Richard M. Daley
Chicaga, Illinois (Where da gov'nuhs make ouah license plates!)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a jok
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:21 PM

You might care to consult the published writings of Chris Wood and of the English Acoustic Collective. This analysis is not solely mine but accords very closely with theirs, indeed it is more or less lifted wholesale.

Such a crass, ill-considered reaction simply reinforces the mindless and moronic thoughtlessness of those who dismiss the tradarts as a joke. Could well be some kind of reflection on your inflated "masculinity" too.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Kampervan
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:21 PM

Not really sure where you're coming from there Art.

There are many dances in other countries that could easily be construed as comical, but they don't get mocked by their respective cultures.

Anyone who's tried Morris dancing knows just how fit you have to be before you can even start to get to grips with the complex movements and rhythms that make up Morris.

No-one, least of all Morris dancers - minds the odd remark, they can all take a joke, but it gets a bit wearing when the humour isn't accompanied by the respect that's due for the artform.

K/van (non-dancer)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Ref
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:22 PM

That's sort of like asking why rugby is always described in the mainstream US media as a weird form of football-without-pads played by Brit expatriates who get drunk together after every game. It looks strange to people unfamiliar with it.

On the other hand, it might just be funny.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Kampervan
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:25 PM

April 1st or not, the thread homes in on what is a real problem with the English.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: BobKnight
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:35 PM

Was it considered a "joke," before the advent of television? If something is continually portrayed as comedy fodder, it becomes a visual shorthand for something amusing. We have been taught to look upon it as something strange/funny done by beardy weirdy's.

Lazy journalism - for sure - the same attitude that always refers to beards, real ale and wooly jumpers when they are describing the folk scene.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:35 PM

It's obvious to me that Morris dance deserves respect! I've never had anything but respect for sincere and heartfelt devotion to the folk arts.

I DID think that this thread was for April Fiool's Day---so I chimed in with a meaningless post there with my intent being to take note of BOTH the actual humor of bells and sticks and prancing while inferring the subluime nature of the dance as obvious on it's face.

Once again, things meant as humor get morphed like an aspect of Tam Lin even as we speak and before our very eyes.


Every coin has two sides.

Yin and yang.

Dean and Jerry.

It is the stuff that paradox be made of.

If ya don't have a sense o' humor...

It isn't funny!

Loveingly posted with respect by Art   ;-)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a jok
From: GUEST,Lucy
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:51 PM

Thanks for all the responses so far. I hadn't made the April fool's day connection. Not sure whether it's good or bad timing!
So it sounds like it's not all together a new thing, this general disregard... i've just read Cecil Sharp's Morris Book and although he does comment on the educated classes perhaps not taking such "quaint" traditions of the country folk seriously, he doesn't imply that it's out and out ridiculed.
Maybe it is somehow linked to TV? Whatever, it grates with me - it seems to be singled out among the arts for scorn in a way that i just don't think would be accepted for, say, opera or "world" musics. and it does seem to be a peculiarly English thing.
Not that i'm suggesting that it has to be venerated as wholly serious - of course it's fun too for those who do it and watch it, but i'm not sure that's what the 'outside" commentary is referring to.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Kampervan
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 04:55 PM

Art,
Your point is well-made and well taken.
Sorry for the mis-understanding.
K/van


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 05:05 PM

It vertainly wasn't a joke when I was a teenager wandering the streets of Manchester with my very second- hand Exakta VP SLR- my first serious camera. I came across a Morris side dancibng in St Peter's Square- I don't think I'd ever seen dance so exciting. Sadly, the young blokes who danced then are even older than me now.

It became a joke when self- regarding overpaid twerps took control of our media, and the sheep followed their every word like the idiots they are. "Russell Brand" says it all really. No, not quite. "Jeremy Clarkson" says the rest.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: The Vulgar Boatman
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 05:27 PM

Some thoughts, for what they're worth:

Just because the media says it's a joke doesn't mean it is...

Take a traditonal art form out of its natural habitat and you take that risk - especially if there's no money to be made out of it.

Just once we got it right - six men and a musician so together that I felt we were about six inches of the ground and putting our feet DOWN. Hair standing up on back of neck, and when we walked round afterwards, the words went "bloody 'ell, what was that?" And a bloke in the crowd (in 1970 ish) said "I don't know what you buggers did just then but it scared the crap out of me" and put £10 in the bag.

For better or worse, it's the ritual dance of this country, and if there are those who wish to make a joke of their own culture, so be it - it's nothing new or particularly clever. But there are many thousands of those who will still stand outside pubs to watch revival morris sides dance their collected dances, and put money in the bag so that it can continue; there are thousands of dancers and musicians who wear it like an old coat. And that's before we get to the surviving sides with a continuous tradition.

I must be getting optimistic in my old age - look at all the things that have not survived, amongst other things, the anihilation of half the male population of Europe, and then try very hard to tell me why the morris can't look after itself. Then admit that the sight of six, often overweight and middle-aged blokes with bells on, smacking each other with ash cudgels to music outside a pub might just strike some people as slightly eccentric...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 06:02 PM

To answer the first post's query!

The very first time I ever heard Morris Dance referred to for comic effect of some kind was when the late, often great, Canadian singer songwriter, Stan Rogers, on stage doing his set sort of demeaned the Morris dancer group at that same festival (Winnipeg possibly) by saying, Morris dancing "...was done to a ponderous knuckle-dragging Neanderthal beat!" It was said, I thought, to evoke laughter---and it did. But it was not terribly much laughter as I recall it.

Lucy, that is my two cents---for what it's worth. I hope it helps you some. But I've no idea if that utterance by Stan, a wonderful writer of songs that could easily be taken for the real McCoy, was the seminal point on the calendar that you are trying to find.

Stan did have a way of finding testosterone driven motivations of derivatives--cause and effect--where seeing things that way was, at best, not really called for. (See his song, "Harris And The Mare" and several others.


Geez, folks, I had no idea this thread was taking me to these ruminations---in these directions. No intent to bash Stan or anyone. It's just how I saw it. Stan, a bit like Hemingway, did protest a bit too much.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Crane Driver
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 06:03 PM

I started dancing the Morris in (of all places) Edinburgh in the early 70s. At one point we had over 20 members, only 2 of which were over 30 years of age. It certainly wasn't treated as a joke in that time and place (not a natural home for the Morris, many would say).

Sadly the Lothians Morris didn't survive. I guess attitudes changed.

The original poster may want to look into the Battle of Marlborough, which certainly reached mythic proportions in the 70s. A group of Hells Angels began shouting insults at a visiting Morris side and got seven kinds of crap beaten out of them, which helped adjust attitudes towards the Morris in that part of the world for quite a while.

But it's not just Morris. Too many 'opinion-formers' in England treat all forms of English folk culture as a joke, while being prepared to venerate folk culture from pretty well anywhere else.

Sad

Andrew


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a jok
From: Will Fly
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 06:16 PM

Coincidentally, the ceilidh band I play in did a gig tonight (I'm just back from it). The gig was the culmination of a day of morris dancing for 4 local primary schools in my area. The children had been practising and dancing all day, in their own costumes, and they - plus teachers and parents - all got together on a local village hall to demonstrate their dancing. So we had children strutting their morris stuff and then the adults being shown some dances to music by the band.

It was a great evening. The hall was packed. The children danced delightfully, and everyone had a great time. The event was sponsored by SEFAN - the South-East Folk Arts Network - and a huge amount of time was put in by local teachers, parents and stalwarts from the Ditchling Morris. I felt privileged to be part of it - even as just a humble member of the band.

And I should add that Ditchling Morris regularly dance in Normandy and invite local French dance teams back to Sussex.

There's a lot of good stuff going on...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a jok
From: Andrez
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 06:26 PM

Look guys lighten up please. If you are "into" something you do it because you like it and care for it. Regrettably not everyone is going to share your interests and passion and they will either ignore it completely, view it from the sidelines taking a live or let live attitude, or they will hate it and go and find something more appealing to their tastes and interests or they will take the piss using humor.

Personally I am happy to watch Morris if I happen to come across it in Oz. I am respectful of the fact that some people have got together to learn about the tradition and train to put on a show.

On the other hand once I get a whiff of someone taking their "art" too seriously ( and I have seen a lot of that in the past), I am quite happy to go into joke mode and then anything is fair game.

So tell me why are Morris dancers more thin skinned than bodhran players or banjo players to name but two other "persecuted" musical minorities?

Cheers,

Andrez

PS: The bottom line of course is that if Morris dancing, like sex, feels good you will keep doing it. If it doesnt dont and find something else to do!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a jok
From: DADGBE
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 09:06 PM

Of course, everyone now knows the true history. The form was invented by Morris Danzig, Holly Tannen's uncle, when he lived in the Bronx in the 1920s.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: artbrooks
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 09:18 PM

You don't see morris dancing too much in the States. When you do, I don't really think anyone sees it as a joke - probably because we aren't exposed/inundated with "morris jokes" as you seem to be in England. Rather, it is viewed as an interesting variety of folkloric dance and gets about the same (minimal) level of respect as does Greek or Mexican dance.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 10:14 PM

We loved it when we first came across it in New England back in the early 1980s; still love it, but don't see it live out here in the Rocky Mountain west.

I am wondering what has happened to our square dancing...is it ridiculed here in the USA the way Morris seems to be in England? They taught it in school when I was a kid, but I don't think my kids ever had it after they'd passed the third grade or so, if even then. We do have some clogging groups out here.

kat


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Apr 09 - 11:55 PM

Kat,

I do think that square dancing, as you knew it in school, has, over the last 35 years slowly been combined with clog-dancing. Large ensemble groups like the Fiddle Puppets, The Green Grass Cloggers and several other well known aggregations played just about all of the large folk festivals through the 1970s and '80s. Juel Ulven, Phil Cooper, Kate Early and The Fox Valley Folklore Society here in Illinois (where our governors make our license plates) sponsor dances of this kind just about every week of the year. Vicki Moss in the Washington D.C. area, I'm sure, is still involved with those dances since leaving our area. I bet you know of dances like these I'm talking about around you too.

Dancing is how much of the Old Timey music survives in the USA in this millenium. Concert sets and gigs, like those we in the '50s and '60s heard the New Lost City Ramblers present to urban audiences are fairly rare these days. But the dance scene is going strong --- backed by Old Time string bands.

Art


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: meself
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 12:54 AM

Re: Stan Rogers. He said that he composed the melody of his song "The Idiot" using the rhythm he had become familiar with from Morris dancing. Not saying that he participated in it, mind, but implying that he found the rhythm appealing, such that he felt the urge to experiment with it.

He was known, though, for making untactful remarks "to evoke laughter".


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: selby
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 01:56 AM

Morriss in all its forms suffers from a lack of understandinf tied in with all the things that have been said. The old adage of don't knock it till you have tried also rings true,
A work collegue who ran with the pack and joked with me for being a folkie was forced by his partner to go to a school ceildh he enjoyed it that much that at their wedding they are having a ceildh band he looks for dances to go to and asks me about the big bands, he fancys a go at morris so there is hope and probably no good reason why people knock it other than socially the worlds changed
Keith


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Peace
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 02:09 AM

"When did morris dancing become a joke?"

Wasn't aware it had. I suspect there are degrees of ability/art/skill/respect for the tradition, and troupes that practise lots will have a better handle on the form than troupes that don't. I'd also suspect that some use it as an excuse to get shit-faced. They'd be the ones that make it a 'joke' I'd think. IMO--with no offense intended to anyone anywhere in the whole wide world.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 02:53 AM

I tried googling on morris dancing and incest and found this and also this . So did Arnold Bax and Thomas Beecham both make the connection...?

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: GUEST,Slowalan
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 03:02 AM

I was a dancer in Australia with Sydney and Canberra Morrismen, had to stop dancing because of bad hips/knees/liver. But to my surprise my very groovy twenty year old son decided to become a dancer, and is now with Black Joak Morris. This side has three second generation dancers, and one third generation dancer born in England.

Black Joak also has a couple of sixteen year olds, so I am not at all worried about the continuation of Morris. I now play fiddle for the dancers.

Funny, when I was dancing, nobody ever laughed at us. Who would laugh at eight fit blokes, most of them over six foot and fifteen stone carrying dirty great lumps of wood. One of our dancers was the Bouncer at famous Sydney knocking shop the Touch of Class.I can only think of one occaison we used the sticks for non peaceful purposes... when some yobbo attacked our muso while we were dancing. the squire suddely called rounds, and every person dancing past this yobbo bashed him with a yard of willow.. worked a treat.Just like the Cloggies!

Despite all of the boozing and singing and dancing, sometimes, when the dance fell into place eactly, we could all feel an unreal connection to generations before us and, I suspect, to things in the collective uncosnsious. Like alcoholism, only people who have it will know what I am talking about.

Laugh all you like, but those who do are laughing at the whiteman's oldest form of cultural expression.I reckon Morris will be around a long time after most other cultural forms have gone to dust . Why? Because it is real magic.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: GUEST,Bob L
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 03:06 AM

For the other side of the coin, have a shufti at http://www.stormpages.com/baboons/Bab1.htm (skip the first three quarters or so).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Little Robyn
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 03:53 AM

When did morris dancing become a joke?

I don't know for sure but suspect it had something to do with the Cloggies. The cartoon strip made fun of a hard drinking, clog wearing, uncouth team of dancers and was popular from the late 60s.
Even in NZ, many people who have never seen a Morris side in action, will make rude comments if we admit to being Morris dancers.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 04:16 AM

Ah! The Cloggies! A truly great creation by Bill Tidy - thanks for the Wikipedia link - very funny itself and well written.

The Cloggies were also used as characters in, if I remember rightly, the real ale magazine produced by CAMRA. I recall one strip where the Cloggies leader was breathalised by the law, having drunk 40 pints of Watneys Red Barrel - and was found to be under the limit...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 04:35 AM

"So tell me why are Morris dancers more thin skinned than bodhran players or banjo players to name but two other "persecuted" musical minorities?"

Thats not really fair
I am sure that anyone with the right background and a degree in
Cultural uses of the frame drum in agricultural societies pre 1914,
would get just as prickly and pretentious as any other defender of the trad arts,if you should happen to make a light hearted and possibly disrespectful comment on their efforts.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: davyr
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 04:48 AM

I'm not sure The Cloggies were to blame - they were always more akin to step cloggers than Clog Morris Dancers anyway. Personally I'd blame Dennis The Menace (the "Beano" character, not the US comic book and TV character of the same name).

Several generations of British men have grown up associating any form of dancing by males with the effeminate "Walter The Softy" (pressing wild flowers and reading poetry has a similarly negative image for the same reason). What red-blooded male would not prefer to identify with Dennis rather than Walter?

And that bloody Tetley Tea Folk ad from the 70s, where they all had bells on their carpet slippers, didn't help either...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Acorn4
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 05:04 AM

I've found that most Morris Dancers I've met have a sense of humour -as one of them pointed out last year , you have to have one to do it.

It's a part of tradition that we all love, but taking the p*** is also part of the English tradition.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 05:14 AM

On Bax versus Beecham (or Wilde ...), here is a

previous thread


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Jess A
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 06:27 AM

In response to Andrez - with respect, I genuinely think that morris s singled out, in England at least, for ridicule by the general public and the media in particular. This is not the same as the general piss-taking amongst people who are already involved in the scene with regards to banjos, bodhrans, or whatever else. I have never heard anybody on national radio or tv sniggering about banjo players for example, and that happens far too often about the morris. Most morris dancers have pretty thick skins and are happy to take the piss amongst themselves, so I don't think this thread is about people being precious about 'their' hobby being mocked. It's more that England seems to have developed a national habit of believing that morris is something to be embarrassed about, in a way that no other country that I know of seems to behave towards their national dance. And at the same time England is regularly taken over with fads and fashions for other countries' dance traditions - the riverdance phenomenon for example. No idea whether the same attitude is prevalent in other countries such as Australia, so maybe you haven't come across the attitude that is upsetting some of us here...?

I can't help answer Lucy's original question though - certainly the situation has been teh same for as long as I've been aware of it but I'm only in my 30's.

J


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: GUEST,EricTheOrange
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 06:41 AM

Some journos are, of course lazy. However, mostly they are reinforcing the mindless prejudices of the vast majority of "normals" out there, glued to their tellies watching a classical ballet on C4 or an anodyne heat of Strictly Come Dancing.

It's interesting how Strictly seems to have resurrected ballroom dancing in the popularity stakes. Certainly when I was growing up this was seen as the most comical and uncool type of dancing you could do. While we might have taken the mick out of Morris dancers, it didn't escape our notice that sides seemed to have a lot of fun & got to drink a lot of beer.

As for official bodies getting involved in funding for Morris and folk events I suspect this would be the beginning of the end. One of the strengths of the folkie world is that the people involved do so much themselves without needing the approval of "outsiders." This self-reliance is a strength.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Bloke from Poole
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 07:56 AM

At grass roots level I don't see Morris taken as a joke. Most ordinary people seem to enjoy watching, and the banter and leg-pulling is good humoured.

There are a number of elements at play, and I don't think there is a simple answer.

It is presently fashionable in some circles to talk down anything that is English - mostly by English, but with a few expat Scots joining in. Somebody I know, when told that something was English, stated "That can't be any good then". I asked why. She said "Because it's English". Why? She didn't know, wasn't that what everyone said?

Part of the problem does seem to lie, not so much with journalists, but with columnists. Part of it, I believe, is the "lazy media" - a stereotype saves a great deal of original effort and the media seem very fond of milking stereotypes these days. And cliches, of course.

Maybe it's part of being a "personality" - Clarkson and caravans, Ann Robinson and Welsh folk - if you're a "personality", you need a down on somebody or something - pick a soft target who isn't going to sue you. TV and press are into personalities - presenters, columnists and now bloggers no longer present the stories, they are the stories and they have to make themselves stand out. Mocking somebody or something is a very cheap way of doing so.

Local press is usually supportive. I do note a trend among male journalists to present themselves as incapable and inept. They brag about their lack of DIY skills, inability to use basic technology, ability to get lost by using SatNav, and so on. This seems to colour their reporting of people who actually get out there and do stuff, and such activities rarely get reported without a snigger even if otherwise treated kindly.
The "quality" press seem to be the main culprits. I personally take the view that their readers like to be made to feel smug and superior, and the columnists like to oblige by setting up a few stereotypes to look down on and sneer at - Morris and caravans, activities of ordinary people (vs ballet and weekends in Paris or Rome) are handy targets.

A gentleman on the Morris list has a compilation of press reports prompted by the "MOrris extinction" stories, PM me if you want me to find the URL. It is interesting to see who said what...

As to when, I don't know. Certainly up to 1980s I wasn't aware of the sniping. But perhaps I was't looking in the right places.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: GUEST,Graham Bradshaw
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 08:03 AM

Let me declare where I am coming from first. I was a member of Earlsdon Morris in Coventry, who danced NW Clog, between 1975 and late 1980s. I never saw it as a joke and had a great time. Most of the members were of a similar age - 20s and 30s - although there were a few lads in their teens. Most of the current make up of the side is the same blokes who are now much older, apart from a few sons in their 20s, and they are struggling for members.

Now, let's rewind back to the 1960s, when I first discovered folk music in my teens. I wasn't really aware of morris dancing as the big revival was yet to happen. I DO remember going to watch the local side (Thames Valley I think) on Boxing Days, and had a fairly neutral opinion as I remember. However, I think there was an implicit opinion around that they were all 'a bit strange'. There was a bloke at the local folk club who danced in a morris side, who was probably in his 40s, and I think there was a general feeling that 'they were all blokes in their 40s who still lived with their mums'.

Now, at the time I guess this was probably a euphemism for 'suspect homosexual'. Remember this was a time when it was still illegal, and not really referred to very much in conversation.

There were a few sniggers about Morris dancing then, and this carried on into the general public when the big revival happened a bit later (mainly in the 1970s).

However, as a counterpoint to this, I can remember my grandmother and my great-grandmother telling me about morris dancing in their village in Wiltshire. I guess we are going back to before the First World War. At that time, my great-grandfather was leader of the village silver band, and he and his sons played cricket for the village team (and I believe one of them played for Wiltshire when they still had a County side). A lot of the cricket team were also in the village morris side. It was apparently a GREAT HONOUR to be chosen for the morris side, and there was great competition for places. According to my grandmother, they wore their cricket whites as a uniform, with a straw hat wound with flowers to adapt it for its alternative usage. In those days, people wouldn't have been able to afford a special kit. Remember that the only clothes they had was their weekly work wear, and a Sunday best suit for Church.

Back then, there was definitely no thought that it was a joke. Quite the reverse.

I suspect this crept in during the post-2nd World War period, when most people had no experience of MD, and regarded it as weird.

And, as with all these stereotypes, the media perpetuate them.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: the fence
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 08:18 AM

I think the lack of understanding regarding 'hankies' 'bells' and the change of 'outfits' probably has something to do with it. I recently went to a 'morris night'(for the first time)and thoroughly enjoyed it, there was a history of morris and the reasons for the costumes.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Bainbo
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 08:47 AM

I don't now if this was the start of it, but the 80s would be when that ad for lager, featuring Paul Hogan, was on telly. "Which one's Maurice?" he asked to camera, as a team performed outside a pub. The advert was repeated ad nauseam - leading to the phrase being shouted countless times at our morris side, each time by someone who thought he was being wittily original, and we'd never have heard it before. That and: "Jingle bells".

Mind, at least the Paul Hogan ads were disparaging about ballet dancing, as well. Remember "Strewth! That bloke's got no strides on!"?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: davyr
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 09:17 AM

As Graham Bradshaw says, before the first Sharp-inspired revival, membership of a Morris side *was* usually seen as a great honour, jealously guarded and often kept within the same group of families within a village.

The "Pagan Survivalists" would have us believe in some sort of hereditary priesthood thing going on, but far more likely was the fact that belonging to a side meant that you could often pick up a few extra bob when times were hard.

Which, of course, was exactly what has going on when Sharp first encountered Headington Quarry Morris on Boxing Day, 1899...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke?
From: Acorn4
Date: 02 Apr 09 - 09:35 AM

I can't make a direct link to the song, but if you click in the top right tracklist it should play:-

Daddy, Don't Become A Morris Dancer!

The theory being, people do it to get their own back on their teenage offspring.


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