Morris dancers have a plethora of terms unique to our tradition, some of which are defined below.
Specific terms are used by Morris dancers to describe the various roles or groups within their team. These can vary between groups, and the terms used by Worthing Larks are as follows:
Side. This is the term used to refer to a team of Morris dancers, although this is an interchangeable term for a set of dancers, and may apply if more than one set is dancing at any given time.
Squire. The Squire is in overall charge of the side, organises the dancers at an event and decides which dances will be performed and who will dance them. They are elected by the members of the side. The Squire of Sompting Larks can be recognised by their yellow neckerchief.
Foreman. The Foreman is responsible for teaching the dances and setting the standards. They work closely with the Squire.
The Bag. In charge of administration, handles any bookings, collects Membership/Subscription Fees and any money due for events and keeps an eye on the kit.
Apprentice. This is the term used for a new dancer who has yet to fully master the fundamental steps and dances of a particular Morris Side. The Larks Apprentices do not wear braces as part of their Kit. Once they have mastered 5 of our 6 core dances, they are awarded a set of Larks braces to show they are no longer an Apprentice.
Musician. These are the folks who provide the music for the dancing! Morris traditionally dance to Old English Folk tunes, and the typical Morris band will contain a selection of traditional Folk instruments such as melodeons, concertinas, fiddles, whistles and accordions. At present, the Larks band consists of melodeons with a recorder, harmonica and occasional concertina.
There are many developed Morris traditions, each using their own steps, figures and equipment, such as hankies, sticks, clogs or even swords! Traditions are Side specific, with most Sides opting to perform mainly from one or two traditions only. The traditions Larks dance in are as follows:
Cotswold. The most well-known and widely performed tradition of Morris is Cotswold, named directly after the Cotswolds as this is where it was started and performed. Cotswold Morris has many sub-traditions, named after the villages in which they were first performed, including Adderbury, Sherborne, Bledington and Ilmington. Cotswold Morris dances can be performed with sticks or hankies, although on occasion these are replaced with rhythmic sequences of hand clapping. Cotswold, or more specifically, Adderbury and Broadwater dances (see below) form the bulk of our repertoire.
Border. The Border tradition is named as such, as it originated from the villages bordering Wales. Border dances are traditionally performed with sticks, with the dancers often dance wearing Tatty Coats and donning masks or painting their faces as a form of disguise. Border dances are usually accompanied by a loud drum as well as the usual traditional folk instruments and the dancers perform using different steps and figures to those seen in a Cotswold dance. Larks currently dance one Border dance, ‘Bunch of Fives’ which was passed on to us from Roundhill Morris, who were a Border Side in Steyning, West Sussex.
Lilongwe. We have adopted two stick dances which were created in the late 1980s by the City of Lilongwe Morris in Malawi; a Side our Foreman danced with previously. These dances are ‘Old Osborne’ and ‘The Mayor’s Delight’.
Larks/ Broadwater Tradition. We are developing our own Larks tradition named after Broadwater, the area in Worthing where we practice, which is in keeping with the naming style of other Morris traditions. Currently we have handkerchief dances called Offington Roundabout and Rampion, along with stick dances called Larks by the Sea and Southwick Tunnel and a handkerchief hand-clapping dance called Downsbrook. The inspiration for naming our dances comes directly from local landmarks and places, although we do have a dance, originally written for May Morning when Morris dancers traditionally get up very early, called Up With the Larks.
Day of Dance. This is an organised Morris event, usually hosted by either a Morris Side or a Morris Organisation. Morris Sides, both local to and further afield from the hosting Side or Organisation are invited to meet in a certain town on a specific date and perform at different venues throughout the day, with the intention of not only entertaining the public but also themselves too. A Day of Dance usually includes Sides of various Morris traditions. Information on any Days of Dance the Worthing Larks will be attending can be found on our Events page.
Stand. Stand is the term used to describe a Morris performance in a specified place at a particular time. During a Day of Dance, Morris may perform several pre-arranged stands at different locations throughout the day, often with other Morris Sides, which last for a set duration of time.
Busking. If Morris dancers are busking, they do not have arrangements in place to perform at certain places at specific times, but rather go with the flow and surprise the public with their performances. This is the Morris version of a Flash Mob.
Set. This refers to only the people within a specific dance. The number of performers within a set is often 6, however we do also perform dances which have a set of 4 or 5 dancers, and sometimes also have more than one set performing together.
Figure. A figure is a specific move within a dance. Different traditions and sub-traditions of Morris have their own figures which are generally used in all of that particular tradition’s dances, and these moves are what make the various Morris traditions recognisable and unique. The structure of a dance is usually of changing figures, which are broken up with a chorus which is unchanging and is repeated throughout the dance.
Jig. A jig is a dance which doesn’t require a partner and thus can be performed by a single dancer, although often these dances are flexible and can be performed by any number of people at once. Jigs are usually showy, with slow and often complex steps and are usually of Cotswold tradition.
Each morris Side wears a kit of their own choosing, and this kit is what makes them unique and distinguishable from each other. Traditionally, the Cotswold kit consisted of white trousers and white shirt, but as the times have changed, some Morris Sides have developed their kits to suit their own needs and styles.
Kit. This is a term for the clothing, or uniform, which the members of a morris Side wears to perform in, and will usually follow a colour scheme. Some Morris Sides wear a more traditional kit, including britches for men and dresses for the ladies, but Worthing Larks take a less traditional approach to our Kit and have embraced a gender-neutral and modern kit instead.
Bellpads. Morris dancers are known worldwide for wearing bells. The origins of this tradition are not fully known, and it is much debated, but one theory is that the bells were believed to scare off negative spirits and mythical creatures such as faeries and boggarts. Bellpads are worn on the shins of the dancers, are made of leather and have ribbons attached in the colours of the particular Side. Some teams also opt to wear bells on their arms, however this is not something Worthing Larks do.
Hankies. Hankies (handkerchiefs) are the squares of cloth which are used by Cotswold Morris teams as a prop in some of their dances. Each dancer has a pair which are waved in time to the music along with specific arm movements. Worthing Larks hankies come in pairs of one red and one yellow.
Tatty Coats. Tatty coats are jackets which are covered in strips, or tatters, of fabric in bright colours. These are mainly worn by Border sides, who often dance in them, however are adopted by other Morris Sides also as part of their kit. Worthing Larks do not dance in our tatty coats, but do wear them to keep warm when not dancing.
There are 3 organisations who govern and oversee Morris within the UK, and all Morris Sides have to be registered with one in order to perform. Worthing Larks is registered as a Side with the Morris Federation, but the Open Morris and Morris Ring also oversee Morris, with Morris Ring being the oldest of the 3 organisations. If you would like to read more about these organisations, please click the links below.