Morris Dancing: You’ve Got To Laugh, Haven’t You?

Is there really a debate going on about whether Morris dancers or X Factor winners, Little Mix, should participate in the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics?

Got to say, I’m with the Morris dancers. For all the ridicule they get, they are bastions of this country’s folk dance traditions going back hundreds of years and it would be nice if, for a change, we celebrated our folk heritage as other nations do.

With a bit of imagination, a mass of traditional dancers, backed by a group of the finest folk musicians from the British Isles, I am sure a great show could be put on. Perhaps we could take the opportunity to teach some of our own islands’ inhabitants that our cultural heritage originates not in the streets of Harlem, but from the many varied regions and traditions which make up this collection of islands.

My own personal experience of people hearing English folk in particular is that they instantly assume it is Irish, due to the similarities in instrumentation and song. This is sad in the first place, because it illustrates immediately that they have no idea of how their own indigenous folk music sounds. English folk comprises jigs, reels, shanties, and other song forms – all from a variety of regions across the country, all with their own regional twists.

There was always a cross-pollination of musical influences across the British Isles, including Ireland of course. This in some way explains why, when British people, ignorant of their own country’s folk music, hear it for the first time, they instantly assume it to be Irish.

As for the ceaseless mockery of Morris dancing, people used to mock Irish dancing until Riverdance came along as the interval act of the Eurovision Song Contest and transformed people’s perception of that traditional dance form, making it and all things Irish ‘cool’.

Perhaps, in this respect, we should learn from our friends and relatives across the Irish Sea.

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