UK morris dancers urge young to strap on the bells

Tue Jan 6, 2009 9:07am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's morris dancers, renowned for bells on knees, colored rags and flower-bedecked hats, are launching a recruitment drive to convince young people that their stick-slapping art form is not a thing of the past.

The folk revival of the 1960s and 1970s, spearheaded by artists like Bob Dylan, led to a surge in interest in morris dancing in Britain.

But dancers who started out then are now in their 60s and often unable or unwilling to try and keep up with the accordion music.

Many troupes, known as "sides," are aging fast, and will soon disappear, predicted Brian Tasker, the leader or "squire" of the Morris Ring which represents dozens of morris dancing groups across the country.

"I'm now 62 and I started in 1971," Tasker told Reuters.

"We will see a lot of those men who started in the 1970s dropping out of dancing, and those sides who have not recruited will have a major problem and we expect sides to close."

But he played down gloomy predictions of morris dancing's imminent demise which hit the headlines in newspapers this week and "caused quite a stir" in the morris dancing world.

Charlie Corcoran, "Bagman" of the Morris Ring, was quoted as saying that in 20 years' time there was a risk there would be "nobody left."   Continued...

<p>Members of the Ewell St. Mary's Morris Men's folk dancers perform in front of London's St. Paul's cathedral as part of Saint George's Day celebrations April 23, 1997. REUTERS/Dennis Owen</p>