Morris Ring

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morris dance

English Folk Dance and Song Society

Cecil Sharp (1859—1924) collector of English folk-songs and dances

Douglas Neil Kennedy (1893—1988) folk musician and dancer


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An association of morris dance clubs, founded in 1934 by six of the clubs then in existence. The English Folk Dance Society (EFDS), founded by Cecil Sharp in 1911, had been concerned with the teaching of morris dancing since its inception, but by the early 1930s there was a growing feeling amongst many dancers that the EFDS had moved too far from the traditional forms of morris dance, and that there was ‘too much of the classroom and the examination hall’ and what was lacking was ‘the essential unit of the ceremonial dance, a coherent group of performers, learning, practising, and dancing together’ (Abson, 1984: 11). Moves to break away from EFDS control had already been made ten years before by the Travelling Morrice founded in 1924 by Rolf Gardiner and Arthur Heffer, which made a point of dancing in the villages, and deliberately seeking out old dancers and other informants. Nevertheless close links between the two organizations were maintained, especially through key individuals such as Douglas Kennedy.

The Ring remains an umbrella organization for morris clubs, with about 170 clubs as full members, plus about 70 associates, and it publishes The Morris Dancer and the Morris Circular. It holds an annual gathering meeting at Thaxted, Essex (where it was founded), in addition to other meetings organized by member clubs up and down the country. One of the major areas of contention in the inter-war years had been the heavy involvement of women in the EFDS-led revival, and Gardiner was one of the many dancers who sought to return the morris dance to its full masculine glory. The Morris Ring still holds to its original rule that member clubs are for men only, and in the 1970s and 1980s the question of women and the morris dance became an openly contentious issue causing much bitter debate and the formation of rival organizations, the Morris Federation and Open Morris. The question is no longer a major problem, and the three organisations now coexist in a spirit of co-operation and mutual assistance.

Walter Abson, ED&S46:2 (1984), 11–12;Boyes, 1993: esp. 159–79.

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