Just over a century ago, that most English of pursuits, morris dance, made its way to America – this summer it’s making the return journey in style! The groundbreaking English group Morris Offspring is collaborating with North American dance collective Maple Morris to create a huge site-specific performance work, to be performed at London’s Cecil Sharp House on 28 July.
Directed by Laurel Swift, the event will also feature dynamic performance storyteller Debs Newbold, and a cast of musicians from the underground world of emerging folk talent, including Becky Price, Jackie Oates and Gavin Davenport. In total there will be 45 performers exploring international and contemporary influences on morris, through dance, story and song – rooted in and inspired by ancient traditions, these dancers and performers will show the audience just how powerful morris dancing really is.
Morris Offspring is a vibrant group of dancers in their early 20s who have been gaining fans around the world since 2003. Amongst their fans they count Billy Bragg, who said “Morris Offspring put the mystery back into morris”.
Maple Morris, 20 outstanding young American and Canadian dancers, are flying to England especially to participate in the creation of this exclusive and startling show, based around the power and grace of this ubiquitous English dance.
Morris dancing found its way to America over 100 years ago, flourishing and developing in parallel with the UK scene. In both countries it has survived intact as a rich and diverse tradition despite ridicule and misunderstanding. It is always performed and rehearsed to live music – unlike most other dance forms in the UK. Morris dance has rarely received official arts funding in the UK; this project, however, has bucked the trend and received support from The National Lottery through Arts Council England, and from the PRS Foundation.
Laurel Swift, director of Must Come Down, said
England is one of very few western nations to boast a dynamic, living, evolving tradition that has been untamed by institutional influence. Morris is a complex and energetic art form demanding athleticism, coordination, and musicality from its performers, who are expected to display both discipline and individuality at any moment. It is rich in material, forms and movement, rarely tapped by the wider arts world yet offering a unique source of artistic possibilities. It is often ridiculed in the media, yet celebrated and welcomed overseas. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work with so many talented and inspiring performers, in such a unique venue. This is going to be a very special production.
Katy Spicer, Chief Executive of EFDSS, said
Previous EFDSS projects have allowed contemporary dancers to begin to explore the world of morris and let it inform their work. This project is the opposite: it gives morris dancers the opportunity to apply contemporary approaches to their skills and traditions and explore the resulting ideas. We are proud to host so many talented performers for this very special production.
“Now this is something really special…..the sheer grace and energy of these young dancers, with their stylish whites and subtle ribbons on their shoulders is quite startling… They have a grace and verve that is, well this will sound weird, but the whole thing’s actually quite sexy.” – Colin Irwin, In Search of Albion
28 July, doors open 7.30pm
Must Come Down
Morris Offspring and Maple Morris
With Becky Price, Jackie Oates, Gavin Davenport, Matthew Keegan-Phipps and Debs Newbold
Tickets: £15 (concessions £10)
Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent’s Park Road, London NW1 7AY
020 7485 2206 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.efdss.org