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The female Morris dancers redefining an old English tradition

It’s Morris dancing, but not as you know him. Pictured above (left to right) are Katie Watton, Rhia Davenport and Madison McLeod from the female category Boss Morris Group, which was formed in and around Stroud, Gloucestershire, in 2015.

Its 12 members, who have become known for their unique and colorful take on the traditionally male hobby, spend the winter months working on new suits after Covid-19 forced a hiatus from their live performances.

“Some of the Boss girls made a beautiful new beast [a giant, moving puppet for processions] during the confinement, so we’re excited to take her out for a walk during the winter months, ”said Alex Merry of the group.

Boss mixes the old and the new, but thinks of something spontaneous rather than stuffy.

“We like to keep things instinctive rather than consciously planning them,” Merry explained. “We really enjoy researching and exploring the historical side of things, but we think it’s important not to be restricted as well. An old folk tale, song, or image can spark an idea and then we’ll respond in a way that feels relevant today. We are an eclectic and creative group, so it is always fun to watch what we cook together. “

The women have begun to develop new “chieftain traditions” connecting them to the countryside around Stroud and to seasonal customs: they are currently working on ways to mark the winter solstice.

An old folk tale, song, or image can spark an idea and then we’ll respond in a way that feels relevant today.

Merry described the dance as a great exercise – “every practice session is a proper workout,” she said – but also as an exciting and unusual outlet for the group members’ creativity.

“We’ve met amazing people through Morris dancing and it always seems to take us to unexpected places,” he said. “It’s great to see a positive response to Morris dancing from people who normally wouldn’t find it. It feels good to bring a bit of charm and mystery to everyday life. “

Lead Image: Gareth Iwan Jones

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