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Ideas / Album / Morris Dancing
Photos from Westminster Morris Men's annual "Day of Dance"


Morris dancing is an English tradition which is more than 600 years old. There are several different styles which have developed in different parts of England.

In the Cotswold tradition (originating in central England) the dancers dress in colourful costumes. The most common combination is: a hat decorated with flowers, a white shirt covered by a tunic, white trousers, bells below the knees, and black shoes. Dances may involve handkerchieves, wooden sticks and hand clapping.

In the Border tradition, dancers blacken their faces. This was originally done as a disguise - Olvier Cromwell banned morris dancing because it was a form of begging. The dancers wear mainly black top hats with pheasent feathers - making fun of the village Squire and the Gentry. Their coats have rags sewn to them because the poor farm labourers usually only owned one coat and could be easily recognised without the rags.

Rapper dancing is a style which developed in northern England - the dancers use metal blades called rappers.

Morris dancers are usually accompanied by a Fool (a comic person) or an Animal (often a horse) who helps to entertain the audience and to collect money.

The event shown below included only groups of male morris dancers, but note that there are also many mixed and women's groups.
You can see more pictures of morris dancing (including mixed and women's groups) on these pages of this website:
Jack-in-the-Green Festival (Hastings): Ideas/Album/JackInTheGreen
Sweeps Festival (Rochester): Travel/Tours/England/Rochester
Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival: Ideas/Album/MayFayre


The photos below were taken in May 2003 on a special Westminster Day of Dance in Trafalgar Square, organised by Westminster Morris Men. In total, almost 200 members of morris clubs from different parts of England performed in this event. This Day of Dance usually takes place in various locations in the Westminster area of London on the second Saturday of May.

The 2011 event takes place on Saturday 14 May
For details of times and locations, see:

Bells to the left of him ...

Bells to the right of him ...

Into the valley of flowers ...

... rode the two hundred !

A horny unicorn gets friendly with the crowd

Some kids can talk to the animals

Teams have their own musicians

Playing the melodeon ...

... pipe and drum

Some Morris men use handkerchieves ...

... others use wooden sticks

Some even use metal rappers ...

... and perform somersaults !

A square Morris ring ?

Water music ?

It's bloomin' Betsy !

Mind your step ...

... and mind your fingers !

Anyone have a cold ?

When the squire says jump ...

... you jump !

Time for a rest for the younger dancers ...

... liquid refreshment for the adults

... horseplay for animals

Fertility symbols are used: flowers ...

... leaves ...

... and young women too!

Traditional art at the National Gallery ...

... and lion dances in Trafalgar Square

Spare us some change, guv ...

Please feed the horses ...

... and show your appreciation


For more information about morris dancing, see these links:
Morris Ring:
Morris Dancing:
Morris Federation:
Icons (a portrait of England):

The event shown above was organised by Westminster Morris Men:

  History and the Morris Dance: A Look at Morris Dancing from Its Earliest Days Until 1850
Author: John Cutting
Publisher: Dance Books Ltd
Date: November 2005

Discovering English Customs and Traditions
Author: Margaret Gascoigne
Publisher: Shire Publications Ltd
Date: May 1998

Customs & Traditions in Britain
Author: Maggie O'Hanlon
Publisher: Pitkin Unichrome
Date: March 2000

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Pictures from St George's Day: Ideas/Album/StGeorgesDay
Village fete: Ideas/Album/Village-Fete
Events in the UK in May: Ideas/Events/May
Dancing in the UK: Life/Entertainment/Dance
Trafalgar Square: Travel/Tours/London/TrafalgarSquare

Home page: Home

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