The American Travelling Morris to present English Traditional Dances during weeklong tour throughout Bucks, Mercer and Hunterdon Counties July 29 – August 4
The exciting sights and sounds of authentic English Morris Dancing will be on display along the Upper Delaware River Valley during late July and early August as performers of the American Travelling Morrice present a weeklong series of shows in communities throughout Bucks, Mercer and Hunterdon Counties. The ATM is an international ensemble of dancers and musicians that has come together each summer since 1976 to offer authentic presentations of the Ritual Dances of the English Cotswolds in performances throughout the United States and England.
Morris Dancing was already a well established tradition in Shakespeare’s time, with roots in medieval street theatre. For hundreds of years, white-clad Morris men have performed the intricate patterns of the dance – ringing bells, clashing wooden sticks and waving handkerchiefs – in time to lively folk tunes played on accordion, fiddle, or the traditional pipe and tabor.
The foundations of the Morris are lost in the mists of time. Even in the fifteenth century, Morris Dancing was already an established practice. Considered very old in William Shakespeare time, the Bard’s biggest star – actor Will Kemp – was also a celebrated Morris man. After nearly becoming extinct, the Morris saw a revival at the end the nineteenth century. Today, the dances flourish in England and elsewhere. Echoes of primitive fertility rites, celebrations of the passage of the seasons, hints of magic and the promise of good fortune are to be found in the dances.
Each team or side has its own costume, or “kit,” which becomes its trademark. Many sides are typically decked out in traditional “whites,” said to represent springtime and the renewal of life after the dormant darkness of winter. The blue suspenders and tricolored rosettes worn by the dancers are emblematic of the American Travelling Morrice, and add a festive flash of color to the dance. The bells ward off evil spirits and gloomy thoughts, and the fierce clashing of sticks may survive as a vestige of the pagan rituals of much earlier times.
Many tunes played these days for the Morris date from the late eighteenth century folk music literature. Specific details of step and arm movement in their present form can be traced to the English village where the individual dances originate. In addition, many sides in the United States have recently created their own American Morris dances based upon the English styles.
The time-honored custom of passing the hat has always been associated with the Morris. This ongoing tradition allows the audience (and occasional passerby) to share in the dance and express gratitude to the dancers. It has often been said that dropping a coin in the upturned hat of a Morris man brings the donor good luck and prosperity “for a year and a day.”
You can see a free performance by The 37th Annual American Travelling Morrice at any of the following locations.
Sunday, July 29 11:00 am: Lambertville NJ: Mercer County 4-H Fair (at Howell Living History Museum)
2:30 pm: Lambertville NJ – Wells Fargo Bank
3:30 pm: New Hope PA – East Ferry & Main Streets
4:30 pm: New Hope PA –The Logan Inn
Tuesday, July 31 11:00 am: Riegelsville PA – Riegelsville Inn
12:30 pm: Milford NJ – The Ship Inn
3:00 pm: Frenchtown NJ – The Frenchtown Inn
4:30 pm: Lumberville PA – Lumberville General Store
6:00 pm: Stockton NJ – The Stockton Inn
Thursday, August 2 11:00: Trenton NJ – Trenton Farmer’s Market
2:00 pm: Hamilton NJ – Grounds For Sculpture
8:00 pm: Trenton NJ – Douglas Plaza, South Montgomery Street
Friday, August 3 11:00 am: Lahaska PA – Peddler’s Village (Village Green)
1:00 pm: Doylestown PA – Fonthill Castle/Moravian Tile Works
4:00 pm: Doylestown PA – Mercer Museum
7:30 pm: First Friday Doylestown
Saturday, August 4 10:00 am: Pennington NJ – Honey Brook Organic Farm
12:00 noon: Washington Crossing PA – Washington Crossing Park;
3:00 pm: Princeton NJ – Nassau Hall
6:00 pm: Princeton Public Library (plaza)
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