WINKLEIGH MORRIS ALL ABOUT US
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How it all began ...
In January 1990, the landlady of the Winkleigh Hotel organised evening classes in Morris dancing, enlisting several of her regular customers along with a few other volunteers. A few weeks later, a second evening class started up for a number of ladies who also wished to dance. The two classes ran consecutively, taught by Colin Andrews, an experienced dancer and musician with the Exeter Morris Men. At Easter 1990 both the men's and ladies' side gave their inaugural performance in the village square. Full of enthusiasm, they danced out several more times during the summer.
How it prospered ...
With everyone keen to continue, Winkleigh Morris became established as a new Devon side, with Foreman (Colin), and usual club officers. Practice nights were still held at the Winkleigh Hotel (until the ceiling fell down after one vigorous practice). The men and ladies still had largely a separate repertoire with just the odd dance in common. Winkleigh Morris could also put out a children's side and a rapper sword dance team.
After a winter at a nearby caravan park clubhouse, the practice sessions moved to the Winkleigh Community Centre, where they have been ever since. More 'own' composed dances featured in the repertoire, 1993 saw the first biennial family weekend of dance, and a foreign trip (by canal boat on the Upper Loire), the first of several forays 'overseas' to France, Ireland, Holland, Germany, and the Channel Islands.
Numbers fluctuated over the years but Winkleigh always remained an active, friendly, supportive, and innovative team.
And today ...
We are a mixed side of about two dozen dancers and musicians, including several original members. We perform a variety of dances from Cotswold and Border Morris traditions, and many dances of our own. Recently we have resurrected the rapper sword dance after a gap several years. From May until September we can be seen on a Tuesday evening around the villages in the heart of Devon, where you are welcome to join us afterwards in a friendly hostelry for further music, singing and dancing. We have danced at several festivals in this country and usually attend at least one Morris weekend every summer as guests of another group. Our next Weekend of Dance will probably be in 2020 - our 30th anniversary - at which we welcome friends old and new from all over the country. We are always keen to establish new contacts elsewhere.
You are welcome to share our fun whether as a spectator or by becoming a dancer or musician!
For the uninitiated:
Morris Dancing is a very old English tradition. Earliest written records date back to the early 15th Century. Popular with high society before the Reformation, it had changed into a rural, amateur activity by the eighteenth century. It had declined almost to the point of extinction by 1900 but has shown a remarkable increase in popularity particularly within the last 40 years.
Cotswold refers to dances collected from villages in mostly in Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. Each village (or tradition) had its own particular style of hand movements and figures, and perhaps as many as two dozen different dances. Includes both stick and handkerchief dancers, often with quite intricate footwork and athleticism.
Border refers to dances based on very limited material collected from the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, on the Welsh Borders. Mostly stick dances, with more basic figures and footwork. Many Border dances have been made up in recent years. Dancers often wear raggy jackets and may use blacking, other face paint or masks for disguise.
Rapper Sword refers to dances which originated amongst the mining communities of North-East England. The rapper is a short flexible 'sword' with a swivel handle at one end and a fixed handle at the other. Usually danced at a fast pace in a five person set with intricate weaving figures and rhythmic stepping.
For the experts
The men's original repertoire included Badby and Adderbury traditions, while the ladies worked on Brackley and Ilmington. Badby, Bampton, Lichfield and Adderbury now form the mainstay of Winkleigh's Cotswold repertoire. Our standard rapper sequence is broadly based on Newbiggin but in the last two years we have begun to introduce a new sequence using figures picked up at workshops at Sidmouth and Whitby Folk Festivals.