THE MORRIS BOOK, Online Version

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The Morris Dance is essentially a manifestation of vigour rather than of grace. This is probably true of all country dances: it is pre-eminently true of the Morris dance. It is, in spirit, the organized, traditional expression of virility, sound health and animal spirits. It smacks of cudgel-play, of quarter-staff, of wrestling, of honest fisticuffs. There is nothing sinuous in it, nothing dreamy; nothing whatever is left to the imagination. It is a formula based upon and arising out of the life of man, as it is lived by men who hold much speculation upon the mystery of our whence and whither to be unprofitable; by men of meagre fancy, but of great kindness to the weak: by men who fight their quarrels on the spot with naked hands, drink together when the fight is done, and forget it, or, if they remember, then the memory is a friendly one. It is the dance of folk who are slow to anger, but of great obstinacy—forthright of act and speech: to watch it in its thumping sturdiness is to hold such things as poinards and stilettos, the swordsman with the domino, the man who stabs in the back—as unimaginable things.
The Morris dance, in short, is a perfect expression in rhythm and movement of the English character.
THE MORRIS STEP.
As we have told already, the Morris dance is a bodily manifestation of vigour and rude health, and not at all of sinuous grace or dreaminess. This will be obvious at a glance to anyone who watches the traditional Morris dancer at his evolutions. The first step, therefore, towards acquiring the true art of the Morris-man is to put away all thought and remembrance of the ballroom manner—really to unlearn, so far as possible, the lessons of the dancing-master and all his exhortations upon and exhibitions of glide, pirouette, chassez; the pointed toe, the gently swaying body, the elegant waving and posturing such as become the finished performer of round and square dances in the drawing-room. To say, put away for a while these methods is to put no slight upon them, or to offer a word of criticism: it is requisite and necessary, even as one should advise a change of clothing to somebody about to quit the ballroom for some rough-and-tumble pastime in the open fields.
Firstly, as to the manner of the steps. The Morris-men wear bells strapped to their shins; the bells are there that they may ring their music—and a fine wholesome music it is, too: to ring, they must be well shaken; to be shaken, the leg they are strapped to must be kicked and stamped. Get that principle into your head, and that practice into your legs, and you make the first long stride towards acquisition of the art of Morris dancing. Strap a set of bells to your shins, get out upon a grass-plot or the King's highway; never mind elegance or the criticism of the emasculate modern: kick and stamp upon the earth in such a manner as to make your bells ring their loudest, and ring all together. You will see pretty soon that, to do so, you must, when you jump, let the heels come solidly to earth, immediately following the toes—no man, even an old-time Morris-man, may jump and alight upon his heels alone, with the spine held rigidly above them (see p. 33). You will find also that, in stepping it, whether to advance or retire, or to step rhythmically in one place, to make your bells ring the true fortissimo you must kick, and kick hard.
Half an hour's experiment of this kind will do more to instil into the would-be dancer the spirit that presides at Morris revels than chapters of exhortation. It is a robust and friendly spirit, and will set the learner's steps—given that he be of English blood, or even of Anglo-Saxon sympathy—a-thumping to its solid downrightness.






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