Who are the Pokingbrook Morris Dancers?
Pokingbrook Morris Dancers are a community dance group dedicated to bringing the living dance traditions of England to New York’s Capital District. The team has been dancing since 1974.
What is Morris?
“Morris” refers to several traditional display dance forms from England. Display dance is a performance rather than a social experience. Elsewhere in the British Isles you can find parallels in Irish Step Dancing and Scottish Highland Dancing, although those styles don’t have the association with the seasons and with agriculture that Morris has. We have two presentation seasons. One in the fall in the category of Winter Traditions, those activities associated with harvest and with the winter solstice, and one in the Spring and Summer Traditions, associated with the growth and warmth of the new growth.
Our Cotswold Season
Where in England, and what sorts of dances are we talking about?
Cotswold morris comes from villages near Oxford, where records indicate it existed in Chaucer’s day. Each village had its own style of dancing and costume. Modern teams typically adopt one or more village styles and continue developing new dances.
Pokingbrook performs dances from Ducklington and Fieldtown (using a double step, strong up-down arm movements, and flowing figures), Adderbury, Bampton, and Brackley (using a single or skip step), Lichfield (using 8 people in a set and unusual figure shapes), Beverwyck (created in honor of Pokingbrook’s 10th anniversary and using two sticks of different lengths and a swinging back-step), and Wheaton under Glenmont (originated by a team in DC and named after Metro stops).
Our Border Season
The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, with its mystical figures and its characters who seem to be both hunters and the hunted stag, is still performed every year in its home county of Staffordshire, England. The 10 dancers move in patterns learned by ancient hunters. Those who know deer will recognize the circular and backtracking movements of deer stepping through the woods checking their back-trail for predators. The locking of horns and stylized movements of the dance are a sort of sympathetic magic evoking the behavior of the prey.
The Hobby Horse, Fool, Robin Hood, and Maid Marian are romantic characters from old legends. The version you see performed by the Pokingbrook Morris Dancers is sometimes called the Royal Albert Horn Dance, after the haunting tune that was used for a special command performance at the Royal Albert Hall.
The History of the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance
What Do We Mean by Border?
The border in Border Morris is the line dividing England from Wales. Border Morris is distinguished by an exuberant spirit with simple stepping and exciting sticking. It has much in common with wassailing or caroling, where group go door to door performing and begging alms.
We will be showing traditional dances from the villages of Evesham and Upton-on-Severn and newly composed dances in the Border style, Not for Joe from Kettering in England, Battle of New Orleans to that popular tune, Ockington and Mr. Dolly learned from a team in the Syracuse NY area, and The Impossible Dance from a Burlington VT team.
Unlike the showy solo sword dances of Scotland and Ireland, English Longsword dancing is part of a linked-sword tradition widespread throughout Europe, in which teams of five to eight dancers weave patterns while linked together by “swords” held by the hilt (one’s own handle) or point (the tip of the neighbor’s sword). Such dances usually climax in the forming of a star or lock that is displayed by the lead dancer. The lock may be used to symbolically behead someone who is then revived with kisses or foolery, as in another British tradition, the Mummer’s Play. The dances we perform are based on figures from the towns of Ampleforth and Kirby Malzeard, both in the Yorkshire Dales of northern England.
Are you interested?
We would love to have you!
The team practices Wednesday nights from 7 to 9 PM, just west of Albany. Our practices are open to young and old alike. We do ask for $1.00 per person per rehearsal to help defray the cost of the rehearsal space. If you need more information or would like directions, please reach out to our Squire through the form on our contact page or by phone or email.
Meet the Officers