This photographic essay depicts a traditional dance specific to a corner of North Wales and the North West of England. Although the dance has strong cultural and historical working class lineage, it is almost unknown outside of this area, and despite the pressures of modernity, has survived as a potent symbol of community spirit.
This is ‘Morris Dancing’, but not the Morris Dancing most people know. This is dancing that requires bag packing at supermarkets and the selling of football cards to fund travel to the next competition meet, and doesn’t have the luxury of lottery funding or Government grants as it is not recognised as a sport.
Dances last 6 minutes and normally have a line up of about 8 to 10 girls (one leader and one mascot from a younger line up) in height order. The dance comprises two sections; a march and the actual Morris dance, dancing symmetrically in time, whilst conducting intricate arm and foot movements with pom poms in tow. Traditionally dances were to old carnival music, where as modern morris dancing can now include tracks by Lady GaGa and the Chemical Brothers.
Sharon, trainer and coach of the namesake ‘Sharonettes’ has 32 girls (and one boy), aging from 9yrs to women in their thirties in her troupes. Dancing within their age groups Dinkies, Tinies, Juniors and Seniors, the troup train once a week in a conference room above a pub in North Wales.
Subs are minute with Sharon often letting the girls off if they turn up without. Monthly competitions keep the girls busy, and are forever approaching Sharon with new chart music and arm moves that they’ve seen on the TV.
Sharon says “We’ve got to try and keep up with the fashion too. We used to make to pom poms out of blank carrier bags from super markets. Nowadays we have to import them from America. If the girls see other troupes with sparkly pom poms they say ‘why cant we have sparkly ones?’ We can’t apply for funding as we aren’t seen as a sport. The dresses cost £55 each, when we need new dresses we know we need to work harder at fundraising to pay for them”
Although brought up to date with modern music and dance moves, Morris Dancing has retained its strict rules and tradition: Girls must wear bells on their pure white pumps; arm movements made with pom poms must be accurate and symmetrical; knee high socks are fastidiously aligned with the rest of the troop, lest points be deducted.