Morris Dancing – middle age men with white hankies and bells? Ladies with silly frilly frocks? I contest these brave men and women are an underground punk music scene, the scale of which, is yet to be fully realised.
For many over 35, “the system”expects them to submit to braincell-removing evenings of TV-absorbtion, whilst working pay off the mortgage and spending any other waking hours being a child-taxi.
One can see how dressing up in silly clothes, humiliating your children, and [mentally] saying “fuck it” just doing it because its fun.
Then when you need to sound respectable, you can explain it in terms of ‘keeping alive a living do-it-yourself tradition of making music and dancing’.
The Punk and Morris Dancing movements are almost identical. Punk music isn’t complicated – it’s not embellished, it’s not fussy, it’s not polished, and neither is music in Morris Dancing. In Morris you have one or two simple folk tunes almost anyone can pick up, in punk rock you have one or two guitars that anyone can pick up, playing some simple chords.
Morris Dancing is technically a form of display dancing, but compared to other display forms of dance, the emphasis is not on a perfect display, on empowering almost anyone to get involved.
Punk rock – technically a display art but more about trying yourself – has two forms of dancing, both of which are high energy, and both of which are instantly possible to pick up.
Morris Dancers dress provocatively in their subculture, in styles that would seem strange those outside it. Men with sashes, white hankies and bells?
Punks dress provocatively in their subculture, in styles that would seem strange those outside it. Men with spiky green mohawks?
Both Morris and Punk are outsider movements with outsider music. The mainstream cannot deal with them. Punk had its commercial day in the 70s and has largely been sent back to the underground. Morris has never been discovered as an underground scene.
In some senses, this sounds ridiculous – Morris has been around since the 1900s (or 1448 depending on how much historical speculation you wish to engage in) but as a mainstream street dance, it’s never been there. Yet for its proponents, and the people who feel apart of it, this is probably a good thing. When a movement goes mainstream, often many original members feel betrayed when things change, poseurs arrive and the underground feel turns into something more mainstream.
As legendary punk rock journalist John Robb explains,
Punk is about feeling alive
and strangely, it seems, so is Morris.