5 May 2017

Five on Friday

Morris dancing has been associated with May festivals for hundreds of years and can be seen at folklore and heritage events particularly on May Day.  This year I wasn't able to get to any event to see a local team, or a side as it's called, perform traditional dances accompanied by the band of musicians, but I took some photos when at a local event during the national Heritage Day which takes place each year in September and share them here. The Sheffield City Morris Men provided some entertainment on the forecourt outside the Cathedral with the handkerchief, stick dance and others in their repertoire.




Who were these ladies strolling across the forecourt?



In fact they were members of one of the heritage groups dressed in period costume. There was a lot to see - traditional craft displays and visitors could get involved in activities including a tour up into the bell tower to see how the bell ringers perform the service of bell ringing.
  

More entertainment followed when the huge figures standing in the forecourt suddenly started moving and then began to perform a slow dance again accompanied by another band of musicians. The figures are called War and Peace and are examples of processional dancing figures built in the Catalan style by a Catalan craft maker. These types of figures were used in religious and civic processions, but the practice died out and was only revived in England in the 1970s when one or two were made. The craft of making such figures for special events is more common in France, Spain, The Netherlands and Canada.  When not being used for performances at festivals in England and abroad the figures can be seen in Kelham Island Industrial Museum in Sheffield. 



Here are 5 facts about these huge dancing figures :-

1.  Each figure called a giant is 4.4. metres tall (14 feet).

2   Each figure is carried on the head and shoulders by one person called a porter and catchers stand by to provide safety for the ones performing and for the audience.

3.  Each figure weighs about 9 stones (58 kg).

4.   Dressing and assembling takes 30-40 minutes.

5.   The porters are changed after each dance to give them a much-needed rest!


I'm joining in the Five on Friday Meetup.



As always wishing you a good day and a peaceful weekend!



40 comments:

  1. This event looks so fun, and so do the Morris dancers! As to those giant figures I have seen them in processions in Barcelona - not dancing though. We have our folk dances too but no tradition of these huge figures.
    Thank you Linda, this was an interesting post.

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    1. It was fascinating to see the figures dancing. It must be tiring to be a porter. Morris dancing and dancing in general keeps you fit!

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  2. Looks like a wonderful event I love Morris Dancing and am fascinated with the different groups and the regional variations of costumes and dances and the history behind them. The figures are amazing but sound very heavy no wonder the porters need a change and a break after each dance. Thank you for sharing such wonderful photos:)

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    1. I enjoy going to heritage and folklore events whether here or in Italy. The history of Morris Dancing is interesting. I well remember the May celebrations at my primary school. The senior boys performed the Morris stick dance, there was country dancing, the crowning of the May Queen and, of course, one class danced around the Maypole.

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  3. I bet it was quite a shock for some people when the big figures started to dance!
    I think they look fantastic but I don't envy the people dancing around with 9 stone on their shoulders!
    Thanks for joining in with Five on Friday, enjoy your weekend

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    1. I knew the figures could walk around, but it was fascinating to see them dance. I videoed the dance, but haven't put it on the blog. I'm sure the children present enjoyed the dancing. Have a good weekend Tricky and Carly!

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  4. I was enjoying the dancers and thinking that is great exercise when the next photo I thought wow, those statues are not all the pretty to look at and total surprise when they started dancing. wow on that... I would topple over and have to be caught...

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    1. I enjoy watching any kind of public dancing. The kind featured here looks rather strenuous. It must be difficult to keep those heavy figures on the dancer's head and shoulders.

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  5. This is wonderful! I would love to attend a celebration in like this in May some time!

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    1. It's good that old traditions involving music and dancing are still celebrated. Thanks for your visit Marie.

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  6. We saw the giants when we visited Kelham Island last year. I'd love to have seen them perform.

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    1. The giants are impressive just standing there like statues, but even more so when they move around. I think they come out into the city centre together with the Morris dancers on St. George's Day as well as on other special occasions.

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  7. How interesting and what fun to watch. I haven't seen these large figures before. There were some huge puppets in London and Liverpool and even some in Reading but I managed to miss them all despite being eager to see them. Next time!

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    1. Huge mechanicals that are part of street parades must be amazing to see. What a shame you missed the puppets in Reading! Perhaps they'll return?

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  8. Lovely post! I haven't seen the large figures before. Love watching Morris Dancers. I used to see a lot of them as a child, but not so much anymore.

    Happy Five on Friday!

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    1. Thank you Sharon. We have one or two local Morris dance groups, each one with a different repertoire of dances. Country dancing was an activity we enjoyed during the Summer months in junior school. I expect dancing has been replaced by sports these days.

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  9. I went to a church service in Spain in a mountain village and they had a pair of those figures and I was totally bemused by them and why they were there! Thanks for answering that puzzle!x

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    1. Very interesting Kezzie. I would have liked to have seen those Spanish figures. Being in a Spanish mountain village must have been an enjoyable experience.

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  10. I love watching Morris dancing ...
    Lovely post and a great selection of photographs.

    Many Happy Birthday Wishes - Have a great weekend

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thank you Jan for your kind comments, interest and best wishes. I hope you have a good weekend too.

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  11. What an interesting event -- England has such picturesque traditions, like Morris dancers, Mumming, Wassailing, and the like. Of great interest to non-British readers in particular. Thanks for sharing the festivities! -Beth

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    1. Hello Beth. I'm glad you found the blog post interesting. Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. All the best.

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  12. wow what wonderful festival you attend there .

    charming performances and how hilarious to witness the huge figure dancing front of you,kind of exciting!
    thank you for making us part of your thrilling experience my friend

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    1. It was interesting to see the dancing figures as they only come out into the streets on special occasions. Thank you for coming by and leaving a comment.

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  13. Wow! Those giants are amazing! I can't even imagine trying to walk with one of those on me, let alone dance. I can see why they need catchers and a break after each dance. How cool to watch them!

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    1. The dancing giant figures are quite a sight! The National Heritage Day Event at the Cathedral is always a good event with lots to see and do.

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  14. Gosh, I wouldn't like to be carrying one of those giants - they look spectacular.
    Are there stories to the different Morris Dances Linda?

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    1. Hello Fil. You can read more about the Sheffield Morris Men at www.scmm.co.uk. The group are urban dancers so perform at city events and their dance steps have evolved from an earlier style (Cotswold Morris, I believe). Now they have a unique style called Medup (madeup). They've written a paper for Sheffield University's Department of Lore and Language about this. The Stick Dance is performed to 'Three Jolly Fishermen' and the Handkerchief Dance is performed to 'Oats and Beans and Barley'. Another tune they dance to which you'll know is 'Nottingham Lil'.

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    2. Very interesting Linda - there's a stick dance, or more of a broom dance, in Irish sean nos dancing as well... Occasionally we have seen morris dancers at folk festivals, but I haven't been to any in England in years now.

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    3. Glad you found the information interesting. I would love to go to some international folk festivals. Every country has a different style of dancing and the costumes are so colourful with beautiful detail. Our young nephew in Italy has played the accordian since he was little. He entertains us at family gatherings and now takes part in local folk festivals.

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  15. Always so interesting to read your posts. Glad they give those porters a chance to rest, that would be hard work indeed!

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    1. Yes, one has to admire the porters as they do the dance which has quite complicated movements. Thank you, Jean, for visiting and for your interest.

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  16. Wow, I think the tall figures suddenly moving to dance would have shocked me, don't know why. Just wouldn't be expecting it I suppose. The dancing reminded me of Country Dancing at school. We only did that in the infants but I absolutely loved it. I was very sad when it all stopped. I went to a wedding once and they had this sort of dancing for the evening, fantastic. I was unfortunately helping with the catering, voluntary but it was good to see. Have a good week, Cathy x

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    1. I loved our weekly country dancing sessions at school. The May Day festival held in the gardens of a big house was the highlight. We did Scottish dancing at our senior school and I enjoyed that too.

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  17. I found this extremely interesting and would love to see the 'giants' performing some time but know not when:)

    Diana

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    1. Hello Diana. Thank you for coming by. I would love to take a trip to New Zealand. At least we can visit and share wonderful and interesting things through our blogs and enjoy our blog friendship.

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  18. Very interesting ---and I've never heard of this tradition... I have heard of May Day Festivals, etc... When I was a child, we would dance around the May Pole... Don't think they do it anymore though.

    Where did the name Morris come from? Someone's name???? Interesting....

    Those big figures---wow!!!!!! I'd hate to be a porter carrying all of that... Bet it is hard!!!!

    Thanks for sharing....

    I posted a full moon on my blog today...

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  19. I love going to local festivals and events. I have not seen Morris dancing before and looked it up on youtube. What fun!

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