Adderbury Village Morris Men

After the last post ceremony in Menin Gate in Ypres, the audience dispersed and I too moved. A bit away from the crowd, atop the Menin gate, Atyudarini and Mr.V were playing in the grass and I went to them. After 10 mins we came down and saw another dance happening. I thought this too is a part of the Closing Gate Ceremony. The crowd was much less now and we stood there with Atyudarini and she too enjoyed the performance!


Turns out its not actually a part of the Closing Ceremony but was the Adderbury Morris dance. It wasn't even a regular event and for the same dance to take place at the same venue it takes several years! We were indeed lucky to have witness this! The next day, I was at Tyne Cot Cemetary and the same troupe was there too, performing. So, who are they and what is this dance?
The origins of this dance is unknown but it belongs to the midland regions of England. Its believed to have been originated in Spain in 12th C CE and then moved all over Europe. In course of time, seveal churches had their own troupes of Morris dancers. It had its ups and downs, periods when it was patronized in 15-16th C CE and periods when it was just practiced in villages by very few people in 17th C. The best period was when Henry VIII has his troupe in this court in 16th C CE!
The death blow to it was the World War I! With all the performers off to participate in war, just one returned alive - Charlie Coleman. He never danced again! However during the same time, Janet Blunt and Cecil Sharp began documenting the dance in journals, and conversation with old time dancers William and John Walton. With that resource, and with tremendous effort and a year of research, finally, the dance was once again revived and was performed after several decades in April 1975.
Since then the dance has been performed at several places. Every year in April its performed in Adderbury village itself. Today, of all the performers, I did meet a young man who would be hardly 10 years old! Turns out his father and grandfather belong to the troupe as well.
Though they say the roots of their dance is unknown, I see a rather undeniable similarity between the dance and our own traditional Tamil folk dances of Oyilattam, Poikkal KuthiraiKummi and Kolattam. Links are to YouTube videos of performances of these dance forms, so see for yourself and decide. It might have gone from India too, for the commercial links between India & Europe is several centuries old and India was a British colony for a solid 200 years!

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Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

14 comments:

  1. That's interesting, I've always thought Morrismen was a British thing, but to hear it may have originated in Spain is amazing! I always knew there was a reason we couldn't dance.

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  2. I am always fascinated by traditional dance forms and specifically the symbolism and cultural connotations. You say there's a similarity with Tamil folk dances? Wow.

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  3. It is interesting to see these men dancing and cheering. Dance is a form of communication and art.

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  4. I never heard about this group but this is what I like about blogging - still learning about new things. They looks quite funny to me, on the video. Thanks for sharing art with us, it's more and more rare to do.

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  5. Such a beautiful cultural experience. I love folk dance so this information is very interesting and useful for me. Will check out the videos to see how similar it is from the Indian dance forms. Great insight.

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  6. What an interesting piece of history and it sounds like you were very lucky to experience it. It's very sad that only one returned from the war but it's so nice that it's finally be revived. Thanks for sharing this experience.

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  7. I loved the story telling style of your writing and its engaging :) Its amazing how you accidentally attended the Adderbury Morris dance. Lucky indeed. Thanks to the documentation, the dance continues to live till date. Was surprised when you mentioned that you notice similarity with Tamil folk dances. It surely was a delight to watch the Adderbury Village Morris men dance and it did pep me us.

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  8. That is indeed interesting, especially the history behind the dance. It’s sad knowing its history but at least it’s being remembered and celebrated. Lucky that you were at the right place at the right time!

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  9. That's a terrible story! Only 1 dancer came back alive from the WW I! Good to hear the dance is back again and you even met the youngest dancer, that 10-year-old boy! So, do you think the British introduced the dance to the Tamil during colonial era?

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  10. Quite an interesting story about a dance form that got hit by war. Such a well written article detailing the origins of the dance and its similarities with different forms of Tamil folk dances

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  11. I've seen videos of these Morris dancers, and there's a region in England where it's still popular and traditional too. I've not heard of Adderbury Village, but clearly they enjoy the performance! This sounds like an interesting dance to watch too!

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  12. I've never heard of this dance so it's nice to read about. It's great that you could attend and experience this traditional dance. I find it's interesting that the dance may have been originated from Spain, and moved all over Europe.

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  13. What an interesting historic place. I never heard anything about it before but visiting sure seems like an amazing experience. The most surprising thing for me was that you noticed similarities with Tamil folk dances. Overall, a great article, I learned so many new things

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  14. A lovely narration of the performance and it must indeed have been a revelation to find resemblances in our Tamizh folk forms.I watched the video first and I was like ' Idhu namma kolattam maadhiri na irukku... ada idhu poikaal kudhurai na' ..haha.. and as I read the post further , I realized that you too found the resemblances. Glad to know about Adderbury MOrris Dance through this post of yours :)

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