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Folkwales Online Magazine June 2012

Gwerincymru — o Gymru o’r byd




Morris dance is a Welsh and English mix


Mike Greenwood scores a very relevant point in his Dancewales column (March, 2012). Morris dancing is perceived by the English as an English tradition, which is largely the historical fault of fire-and-brimstone religious beliefs which prompted Bardd y Brenin, Edward Jones, to declare with great sadness that Wales, which had been one of the merriest of places, “has now become one of one of the dullest.” The story goes that dance researchers called on a lady who had the reputation of knowing the Welsh dance traditions; before she demonstrated some dances, she drew the curtains to keep her out of sight of the disapproving neighbours, who regarded Welsh dances as the work of the Devil.


Mike identified the Vale Of Glamorgan as the place where forms of Morris dance still lingered. In the village of Ystradowen, there was a historical description of 12 men and women, gaily decked out with ribbons, who performed what can only be described as a Morris dance. In West Glamorgan, teams of “Merry dancers” accompanied the Mari Lwyd ceremony. Right now, the Nantgarw fair dance Rali Twm Sion smacks of a processional Morris dance, as do Dawns Y Blodau and Gŵyl Ifan.


Even that unusual eight-man Nantgarw Morris dance, Y Caseg Eira, has its origins in the pottery city of Lichfield. There’s a story of the Lichfield potters working at the Nantgarw pottery; the Lichfield tradition is very similar to the Nantgarw tradition, and the Nantgarw solo dance Dawns Y Marchog (in which the dancer dances to all the points of the compass) is strikingly similar to the Lichfield dance All The Winds.


But in England, knowledge of Welsh traditions and folklore is absolutely zilch. The English regard Wales as a closed book as far as dance and folk traditions are concerned. What is sorely needed is for the Welsh Folk Dance Society to cooperate with serious dance experts such as Dawnswyr Nantgarw or Cwmni Caerdydd to write a history of Morris dance in Wales; and there might be a few surprises along the way!





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Contact: Mick Tems, Editor - Folkwales Magazine, 88 Manor Chase, Y Beddau, Pontypridd, CYMRU / WALES CF38 2JE Phone: 01443 206689

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