Friday, March 17, 2006

Long Live Morris Dancing!

Right! Earlier this week I promised you I'd write about the Morris dancers and the super volcano.

But first a little tidbit. I can't remember where I read about the origin of Goodbye.
It started out as "God be with you." Phrases inevitably become shortened, "God be wi' ye." and so on.

Anyhoo. The other morning I was watching Morris Dancers. When people all over the world think of English folk dance, does anything come to mind? I doubt it. When you think of Spain, India, Greece, Thailand all sorts of traditional costumes and dances spring to mind.

Why has England lost its lyrical and musical heritage? The Irish still sing ballads, play instruments, and dance their reels. The Welsh still fill the hills with song. The Scots still love a good jig and the bagpipe shows no sign of fading. Furthermore, the Gaelic language has undergone a huge revival in Wales. Many school-age Welsh children can switch smoothly between English and Gaelic, so well done them.

What the hell happened to England???

Morris dancing very nearly died out but thankfully some small villages try to preserve the old traditions like summer fairs and the Maypole dance on the green. Morris has its origins in ancient pre-Christian ritual, and so in the 19th century it was spurned by the mainstream as being a bit too pagan. I suspect the modernising English man began to think it was a bit effete, leaping about on the grass with a load of men dressed in white, waving white hankies, and jingling the bells on their ankles...

You see? Good Morris images are rather hard to find...

Here they are dancing with sticks which they clap together in various patterns. It's called the Bean-something or other, because it is for the bean planting season. Knocking the end of the stick in the ground symbolises planting the bean.

Women do clog dancing and molly dancing. Please, please visit this page, it is full of wonderful images: Brighton's Morris Day. (opens new window.) I want you to see that this can still happen in England!


I hope the next generation grows up appreciating the past rather than trying to ignore it. History is NOT naff. If you lose your heritage, it is gone forever, be it language, music, song, costume, myth and legend...

People may undervalue so called "heritage" preserved for tourist enjoyment, but consider the possibility that if it were not for the tourists showing an interest, many cultures might have lost their traditions. For instance, few Japanese show an interest in the No opera today, but it is the wide-eyed tourists who keep it alive.
A number of Oriental artisanal skills have been dying a slow death, but now with a renewed interest from the West, it goes to show that Japan's isolationism will not preserve its culture. So many Westerners are learning the Eastern arts, taking it global. So what if there is dilution or integration? At least it will still exist, and in this age of knowledge it is not difficult to discover the true origins of an art.

Anyway, I didn't mean to rant and I have taken you on a huge tangent, but I hope you have enjoyed the journey!


Jia Li said...

hey I did a SG1 recap for you on my 20six

Steliano Ponticos said...

Hey, my 6 year old cousin speaks gaelic. And the dance seems very nice, its must be cool to jump around like that, but tiring. Which links quite well to my last too picture posts.

randis said...

Wait, wait, wait wait wait wait wait. What about the volcano part? Volcano deficiency!

Michelle said...

I don't know, the benefit of modernity is being able to retrieve the parts of your past that you truly value. Its hard to say how affected people are by blood. I mean, is this swedish guy going to go on and on about his babylonian heritage? Personally, I feel next to no love for my
'selected' heritage, chinese. I almost never want to visit the country again but assuming that my sig. other wants to I will.

Olivia said...

Steli - why on earth does your cousin speak Gaelic?
Also, thought you had friends over this weekend!

Randis - you're a cheery old bugger. This Morris post got longer than I'd expected, so I didn't want to clobber you all over the head with more info!

Alright Michelle - so are you saying that you would never go to a Chinese new year celebration, in say San Francisco? Even if it's fun?

Steliano Ponticos said...

My cousin lives in Wales, he's 5. They learn it at school, so he learned it. In fact his teacher says he is better than most other children, at gaelic..I do have friends. I wrote about it.

Randis said...

Man, you know it. Did you get my email?

For my two cents, though. Culture dying doesn't necessarily mean a vaccuum of culture. Take, for instance, some art form that became obscure and unpopular. Like, I dunno, wood burning (pyrography, for you technical types). Out goes wood burning. In comes cubism, pop art, post-modernism, and so on and so forth. It's just a natural evolution of culture. Morris dancing rave? The U.K. was the birthplace of the rave...yeah, I got nothing. Morris dancing seems to have gone to bed sick and not been replaced. But, frankly, that bugs me less than preserving it just for preservation's sake. Think about where we would be, socially, if we didn't let certain customs die. We'd still burn people at the stake. Which is social, versus cultural, but still a very similar principal.

Olivia said...

Steli - how did your cousin end up in Wales???
Yes, I saw your latest posts.

Randis - YES I got your email!!!! I think you should have stopped hyperventilating before you wrote it!!!

Wood burning seems to have moved into the realm of home hobbies and crafts.

Well, we know better than to burn people at the stake, but you can't measure music and dance the same way.

Randis said...

I can type just as well hyperventilating as not.

Anyway, I know you can't measure it the same way. It made sense as an analogy at the time.

M. said...

I've never heard of the Morris Dancers before. Learned something else new today!

I'm fiercely proud of my heritage, and love learning about others' as well. It's fascinating to learn where people came from and how they end up in different places. Though I can understand people not caring about it if they live in the geographic area all the time - it's nothing new to them so they seek out something else.


Steliano Ponticos said...

Um his dad works they live there now.

Michelle said...

I was kind of an outcast in the chinese community because I'm so damn different. I don't think I'd live in san francisco and if there were a celebration I doubt that I'd go. Sad to say.

Maybe for the food. I don't like most french or chinese people but I do like the food. You pretty much need to like the food.