Morris dancing: Record numbers in Sheffield are shaking a leg to get in step with tradition

Ever thought of morris dancing? Record numbers are doing just that as they join up with Sheffield sides for the start of the season.

Friday, 29th April 2022, 12:28 pm

While cynics might snigger at bell pads on the dancers’ shins and implements such as sticks, swords and handkerchiefs, it is clear plenty are enjoying a twirl with tradition.

Why might that be? A desire to reconnect with history or just joy that we’re finally able to get out and do things together? Whatever the reason, the morris dancers are having a ball.

So here’s the history lesson. A side is a group of dancers dancers and Sheffield has around 20 active morris dance sides - more than anywhere else in the country. They have recruited 46 new members, with many getting up early to ‘dance up the sun’ on May Day.

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Morris men in Leopold Square

New members are spread across the different forms of traditional dance in the city, across teams which have both been formed relatively recently and those with decades of history. The Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers can trace their history back over 150 years. Five Rivers Morris formed in 2010.

Sally Smith, dance leader of Silkstone Greens, said: “It’s clear that all of our members were desperate to get back out and performing after over two years of pandemic-enforced inactivity. Morris dancing provides a fantastic aerobic workout which is accessible to all ages and levels of fitness.

“It is also an incredibly social hobby, with the opportunity to attend events and festivals together as a team.”

And after the isolation of long-suffered lockdowns, we should not be surprised that a social hobby is proving popular again.

Simon Brock, captain of the Handsworth Sword Dancers, said: “One local chap joined because his grandad and great-grandad danced with the side, while we have also recruited international members from Iran, Peru and Croatia who want to have a go at an English tradition. What’s been key is talking to different audiences and performing in different places.”

In a multi-cultural city renowned for welcoming all, we should celebrate the fact that an English tradition is getting an international flavour.

So give it a go and see if it rings your bell. For information visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/sheffieldmorrisdancers