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morris dance

morris dance or morrice dance, rustic dance of the north of England that had its origin in country festivals, such as those of May Day and Whitsunday. Reference to it in English literature is made as early as the 15th cent. The main dancers were called Robin Hood, Maid Marian, the hobbyhorse, and the bavian, or fool. They were accompanied by a piper or taborer. An ambulatory dance, it was often performed from one village to another by the main dancers and six other dancers, three in a row. The morris dance was a sword dance in many vicinities.

See J. Forrest, The History of Morris Dancing, 1458–1750 (1999).

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morris dance

morris dance a lively traditional English dance performed out of doors by groups known as ‘sides’. Dancers wear a distinctive costume that is mainly black and white and has small bells attached, and often carry handkerchiefs or sticks. At least one of the dancers is likely to represent a symbolic or legendary figure, as the fool, hobby horse, or Maid Marian.

The phrase is recorded from late Middle English; morris comes from a variant of Moorish, but the association with the Moors remains unexplained.

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