Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Morris Dancers Against the Nazis

Bit of a kerfuffle amongst English folk dance enthusiasts about Observer columnist Jay Rayner's comment that "For some reason, whenever I see Morris dancers I assume a pogrom can't be far behind." Richard at Baggage Reclaim is amongst those rightly miffed by the suggestion that their dancing pleasure has fascist associations. Judging by Richard and others I have met, people in the Morris scene tend more to the left than to the stiff right arm tendency.

As shown by the row about Simone Clarke, 'the BNP Ballerina' at the English National Ballet, present day fascists are to be found in other forms of dancing - but nobody would say that whenever they see a tutu they assume a pogrom can't be far behind.

Incidentally, Surrealdocuments has a good quote from G.F. Foster querying the notion of pure folk culture existing in splendid isolation from other parts of the culture, stating the following in relation to folk dance: 'In the 17th and 18th centuries the Western European dance masters introduced folk dances to social dancing, adapting them to the needs of the courts. English country square dances played a role in the development of the French quadrille, which was then introduced back into London. These folk dances then became the forms around which composers, then and now, created important works. Folk dances, now become court dances, spread from Spain and France to Latin America, and the process began anew whereby little by little they became the property of the folk. The current American rage for square dancing also reflects this process: after a suitable time the folk entertainment of yesteryear becomes the pastime of the artistic avant-garde". The last point is surely relevant to morris dancing, many of whose practitioners are more likely to be slightly aging ex-punks and hippies than right wing rural traditionalists.

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