Angela Williams explains how women can take up the old English folk tradition of Morris dancing…
As Angela Williams pulls on her several layers of performance kit – underskirt, overskirt, blouse, waistcoat, sash, purple tights and of course, her clogs – she’s taking part in a tradition that’s been going on, in one form or another, for at least 600 years. Most of us have seen Morris dancing performed at a country fair or festival, but Angela took it one step further when, aged 45, seeking a new, active hobby now her children were teenagers, she decided to join a Morris dancing side.
“I saw an advert in the paper for an open evening at the local Pump House Clog Morris side in Watford and thought it sounded fun! I went along and have never looked back,” says Angela (61), who’s a part-time book-keeper and mum of four.
While Morris dancing is traditionally a men’s activity, today there are lots of women’s and mixed sides for people of any age and background. “I’d never really danced before but they showed me the steps and the formations – we dance in sets of four, six or eight people. I got my kit and, when the dancing season came around in May, I started to ‘dance out’ with the group about once a week at festivals and special events around the UK.
“When I perform, I feel great. It’s not about showing off or saying ‘look what I can do’, it’s a gift you give other people. I love it when someone comes up to us afterwards to say they enjoyed watching us.” As well as the traditional Morris dancing,
Angela also practices Appalachian Clogging, another type of folk dancing derived from the Appalachian mountains in North America.
“I was at a festival when I saw this other group dancing in a different costume with tap shoes. When I found out these were Appalachian Cloggers I decided I’d like to have a go, found a workshop teacher and learned how to do it. I then helped to form a side – called Tappalachian – and we now have 13 dancers and eight musicians who regularly go to festivals and days of dance.
“I love doing both styles of folk dancing as it keeps my brain cells going trying to remember all the steps as well as being good exercise. You also make so many friends, both on your Morris side and at festivals. And you get to hear such lovely music – accordion and drumming for the Morris dancing and fiddles and banjo for the Appalachian Clogging. What’s more, when my knees give up and I can’t dance anymore, I know I can just join the Morris dancing musicians as that’s an ageless way to remain part of this fantastic Morris community.”