32nd Annual Tour of the American Travelling Morrice

Cape Ann Beacon

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Press Release

The merry jingling of bells and the resounding clashing of sticks will soon waft through the summer air in the Cape Ann region as the American Travelling Morrice brings its 32nd annual Morris dancing tour to the area for the third time in 15 years. The dancers will perform in many area towns during the week of August 19-26.

The dancing is vigorous, colorful and great fun to watch. “There is nothing quite like the Morris dancers”, says Medford resident Mitch Diamond, organizer of this year's tour. “The music of fiddles and melodeons, the sound of the bells on the dancers' legs and the bright colors flashing in the sun create an unusual spectacle which catches people by surprise. Suddenly there appears this incredibly energetic and exciting situation right in the middle of the day! It is worth coming out to watch”.

The Travelling Morrice consists of Morris men from all over the country, including more than a few dancers of international fame in the field.

The tour begins Sunday, August 19th with performances in Newburyport; Monday in Danvers and Hamilton; Tuesday, Portsmouth, NH; Thursday in Ipswich and Essex; Friday in Salem and Marblehead and Saturday in Rockport, Gloucester and Manchester.

All performances are open to the public and free of charge. However, the dancers are quick to point out the time-honored Morris custom of passing the hat, enabling the spectators to participate in the tradition and, as they put it, “partake in the Morris luck”.

While the origins of the Morris dance tradition are lost in history, the centuries-old custom, first noted down in 1458, apparently evolved as a ritual designed to shake off the dark and gloom of winter and celebrate the coming of spring, bringing luck and fertility to participants and audience alike.

Most of the dances are performed by six men at a time, with either sticks or handkerchiefs in hand. The dancers are recognized by their distinctive outfits or “kits”, consisting traditionally of white trousers and shirts set off by multi-colored ribbons, bells and gaily decorated hats. Accompanying each Morris team is at least one musician who performs lively English folk melodies on accordion, concertina, fiddle, or pipe and tabor (drum), as well as a mascot or Fool, who frisks about good-naturedly taunting and baiting the dancers and entertaining the crowd.

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