Dance is universal. We all do it. Whether in front of your bedroom mirror, at your cousin’s bar mitzvah or in your car — we’re born to move.
Movement is our birthright, our medicine, our catalyst for change and transformation. Dance is the way to remove the stuck, hesitant, awkward, and self-conscious places.
Chronicling my Dance The World adventures, I will take you on a journey into the world of dance. Real dance. Using the dance as the lens to get to the root of cultures and look deeper within.
I am committed to movement and will leave no dance untouched. From a suburban hoedown to a lap dancing master class to an all night Latin dance party, I will go where the dance calls me. Whether shaking it at the largest desert dance party in the world or entertaining the Gods at the temples of Anchor Wat or learning ancient spice dances on the beaches of Zanzibar, the world is my dance floor.
Join me on my mission to live life fully on and off the dance floor. Let us set our dance free.
Ladies and Gents, meet England’s Morris Dance.
Last night I fell in love with 14 jolly men wearing white knee highs and corduroy britches. Their knee highs where adorned with bells and colorful ribbons. Their hats decorated with vibrant fake flowers and trinkets. Aged 16 to 70, these Englishmen wooed me.
Dancing around me with sticks, swords and white handkerchiefs, how could I not be taken with them and their regal foreign dance?
Where am I? Horsham, England.
What is this dance? Morris Dance.
What is Morris Dance? Morris Dance is traditional English folk dance accompanied by live music. Fiddle, banjo, accordion, flute and the like. The dances themselves are made up of rhythmic stepping, jumping and skipping. Choreographed figures allow the dancers to weave in and out of each other.
Danced traditionally by men, no one knows exactly how long Morris dance has been around, though it is believed to originate from the Middle Ages. There are claims in England that Morris dance goes back as far as 1448.
Who the heck was “Morris” anyway? Well, apparently nobody. There was no “Morris.” The word is derived from the term “Moorish”, meaning the Moors. (The people who invaded England from North Africa).
Later on in history, the dance is mentioned as something performed in parishes, I guess back when dancing in Church was okay and used as an expression of worship. Ah, I wish I were around then.
In England there are many different Morris sides (teams) that still keep the dance culture alive. Hoping to learn the local dance on my latest visit to England, I started researching different sides and found a group out of Horsham: The Broadwood Morris Men.
Unfortunately, they didn’t return any of my emails, asking them if they would be so kind to meet with me and teach me their Morris ways. So, I did what any girl from New Jersey would do… I stalked them.
Turning up at a local pub to watch them dance, the Morris men were shocked at my persistence and charmingly evasive about not returning my emails. After a few pints we were fast friends and the dancing began!
As the accordion raged and the fiddler fiddled, we jumped and skipped in and out of formations flicking white handkerchiefs to keep the evil spirits away. Yes: dope.
This dance makes me feel like a real “Lady” with a large dowry. I am transported back in time, to a period of simplistic communal living when dancing was steeped in tradition and took place as a group activity. Visions of castles, maidens, and knights appear before me.
The energy of this dance is fun, spirited and light. Proper… but beautifully so.
The men taught me the “sword dance” and the “Valentine” dance. In this sweetheart dance the men took turns courting me with their foot stomps as they whinnied and neighed. It ended with the lot of them picking me up over their heads.
Wait. It gets better. After we danced, the men invited me to join their post gig jam. Sitting in a circle outside, downing pints of ale the men took turns expressing their fondness for a life long ago. Together old village songs were song. Romantic poetry was read. Stories were told and many instruments were played.
Under the stars, I looked around. Everyone was smiling peacefully, their faces filled with nostalgia. I observed my own ease in the circle. Thinking to myself “yes, this feels natural, I have done this before, and now I really don’t want to leave.”
Sweetness was being showered over me, as some of the men shared their stories of how and why they started dancing. Many different paths, but the endings were all the same:
Dancing improves their quality of life and they just can’t stay away.
But it’s about more than the dancing alone. It’s the history, friendships and bonds that glue the Broadwood men together. Some of the members have been in the group for 40 years.
This is one of the reasons why dance is so important: it creates community. The dances themselves are born out of community. Have you ever heard of someone making up a major dance style all by him or herself living alone in the middle of nowhere? I think not.
Satiated and sleepy we hugged and said our goodbyes. Feeling like Cinderella at the chimes of midnight, I was startled by the newness of my rental car. I guess I expected that the magic men would have transformed it into a white horse and buggie for me to ride home in.