Of course, you're welcome to try to learn the dances from these notes (I would not have put them on the web otherwise!), but be aware that you'll need to fill in many gaps. Feel free to email me with questions, but your best bet would be to ask someone who knows the dances to run a workshop for you. See the teams listed below for options.
If you do choose to adopt any of these dances, I'd request that
- 1) You acknowledge the source when teaching the dance.
- 2) You feel free to make changes, rather than slavishly following our notation. (This will allow the dances to evolve.)
- 3) You retain the name, unless you've changed the dance beyond recognition. (This will make it easier to track the lineage of the dances, and will help teams avoid duplication when performing together.)
- 4) You let me know if you decide to perform the dance. (This will allow me to track the spread of the dances, and will get you a listing in the paragraph below. It'll also make me feel nice. :-)
Teams that have have adopted some of these dances include MOTley Morris (Boston, MA, USA), Orange Peel Morris (Orangeville, Ontario, Canada), Wicked Stix (Sheffield, England), Borderline Morris (Amherst, MA, USA), Motley-Morris (Dresden, Germany), Not For Joes (New London, CT, USA), the Ladies of the Rolling Pin (Wakefield, RI, USA), the Red Stags, and Moreton Bay Morris (Brisbane, Australia).
If you're looking for more information, or for other sources of Border dances, you can start with my Introduction to Border Morris
If you're looking for music, Tom Keays maintains a web page of tunes for all of our dances.
All opinions expressed herein are my own, and are not necessarily shared by the Hounds.
Ockington originated with the now-defunct Ockington Morris. An extremely flashy dance for 4, it builds in momentum to a frantically gyrating conclusion. Not for the dizzy or the faint of heart, this is a moderately difficult dance to learn.
Cuckoo's Nest is a versatile dance, as it can be done with any even number of dancers from 4 on up. It's done in a circle, and that symmetry allows for some nice figures (that would be unavailable to a rectangular set) as well as makes simple figures look pretty impressive. The "circular bombast" is moderately difficult to get right, but otherwise the dance is moderately easy to learn.
Northumberland Gypsy (for 5 dancers or for 8 dancers) is a versatile dance, as it can be done with any number of dancers from 4 on up. Similar to Bledington "Saturday Night", it begins with two dancers and then adds dancers during each chorus (a "gypsy and slide" done while sticking!). It's quite difficult to learn - both because the chorus requires moving in a complicated pattern while sticking, and because each dancer's position in the set changes each time through the chorus. The payoff is a tightly interlocking dance that looks impossible to survive but feels great.
Northumberland Musketeers (for 5 dancers or for 8 dancers) is a versatile dance, as it can be done with any number of dancers from 4 on up. Similar to Bledington "Saturday Night", it begins with two dancers and then adds dancers during each chorus (a hey done while sticking!). A real crowd-pleaser, this dance has been described as "the best long stick dance ... ever seen". It's moderately difficult to learn (mainly because each dancer's position in the set changes each time through the chorus), but the payback is a dance with lots of visual impact. MOTley Morris dances this to a Bach fugue!
I Can Hew is a dance for 4, 6 or 8, danced to vocal accompaniment only. Chilling!
The Drunken Idiot may well be the Hounds' signature dance. It is a dance for 4, alternating between a square set and a line, with a spinning movement that was the genesis of the Hounds' "car wash effect". This is an easy dance to learn, but it takes some practice to insure that everyone will be in the right place at the right time.
Just in Time is a dance for six, done with five. To make this possible, two of the dancers must alternately scurry around the set, arriving at their destinations just in time to complete the sticking there, and then scurrying off to their next rendevous. Think of this dance as the morris equivalent of "downsizing" - there's just as much work to be done, but fewer people to do it.
Morningstar originated with the Shropshire Bedlams, and is the dance that introduced the Hounds to Border Morris in 1990. We learned it from a videotape as a single-stick dance, then discovered that one dancer could take the place of two by holding a stick in each hand. This makes the (already complex) sticking even more complicated, but the results are worth the work. We were told by Wicked Stix during their 1998 visit to the U.S. that they had "nicked" our version of the dance and brought it back to England. In addition, the Red Stags also dance this dance, and thus the cycle has been completed (twice!) The Hounds have a version for 4 dancers and a more complex version (involving stick-tossing heys!) for 3 dancers. The sticking for this dance is quite difficult to get "up to speed", but the figures are relatively easy.
Not a Banana is a dance for a square set of 8, and provides graphic evidence that square dancing would be much improved if square dancers were allowed to have sticks. ;-)
Northern Star is a dance for 6, set up as a pentagon with a dancer in the center. During the chorus, the center sticks (in a "star-shaped" pattern) with the dancers on the perimeter. In subsequent choruses, the dancers on the perimeter also begin to stick with one another, culminating in a whirling frenzy of sticking (and leading to the "car wash effect"). The figures of this dance are easy, but the sticking patterns are very difficult to learn. Seen from the side, this dance is really cool. Seen from above, it's spectacular!
The Belligerent Bluejay is a dance for multiples of 4. Done with 8 or more, the final figure is called "Death Star", which explains why the Hounds like the dance.
Five in a Bed was written by James Allwright of the Red Stags, as an "inductive corollary of the Weobley dances". It is a dance for 5, structured so that you never know from which position in the set you'll be doing any given figure, nor (until the last moment) what that figure will be. Dealing with this lack of predictability requires a different mindset from the "usual" morris, and has led this dance to be described as "far too fun to do."
Weobley Handclap was written by Andy Anderson of the Red Stags, with figures "based on descriptions of a four-man set from the Weobley/Dilwyn area." Being a hand-clapping dance, we use it to add variety to our repertoire.
The Alexandra Park Road Stick Dance, n22.5 is a wonderful dance, with a great sticking sequence in the chorus. It comes to us via Rob Kearsley Bullen of New St George Morris.
Dawley originated with the Shropshire Bedlams, with modifications by Andy Anderson of the Red Stags. It is a dance for 8 featuring simple but vigorous sticking, and has been described as "fun and dramatic" as well as "undisputably great!" Once you figure out the sticking, this is an easy dance to learn.
Mr Dolly was written by Andy Anderson of the Red Stags. A simple but interesting dance for 4, this is what we usually teach to beginners. Along with Dilwyn, it seems to be the most commonly done mass Border dance in our neck of the woods.
The Prisoner was written by Andy Anderson of the Red Stags, "based on descriptions of straight-line dances from the Leominister area." This is a simple but vigorous dance for 6, with a unique twist to the sticking.
Morning Glory was written by Andy Anderson of the Red Stags. It's an easy-to-learn dance for 4 or 6, with nice transitions from a line to a rectangular set and back.
Titterstone Clee was written by Andy Anderson of the Red Stags. It's a nice, quick-to-learn dance for 4 with an amusing "gotcha" during the chorus.
Weobley Hanky was written by Andy Anderson of the Red Stags, with figures "based on descriptions of a four-man set from the Weobley/Dilwyn area." Being a hanky dance, we use it to add variety to our repertoire. If there are Cotswold teams within view, we'll often dance it as parody.
This page was written by Mike Miller of the Bassett Street
Hounds and was last edited on 18-Jun-2009.