North West Morris workshop with Persephone

[“TH2“] saturday 11am, town halltickets – programme

Our North West style of Morris dancing grew out of the processions common at holiday times in the north west mill towns in Victorian times. We dance in sets of 8 people, in 2 lines of 4 moving forwards and backwards and performing various “figures” or patterns interspersed with a chorus figure. There are two basic steps: a “single step”, similar to skipping, and a “rant” or polka type step. We hold sticks, mill bobbins or garlands. Our music is mainly traditional, played on accordions, melodeons, clarinet, whistle and drums.

In performance we wear clogs, with rubber on the soles rather than the traditional irons which many men’s teams wear. For the workshop, trainers or similar are ideal. Fairly loose fitting or stretchy trousers are best for easy leg movement.

Persephone first performed in 1978, dancing in the North West Style. Many of the dances originate from the following of the rushcarts, the annual event of bringing new rushes for the church floor, in a ceremonial procession. This processional style further developed once the streets of the industrial towns of the North became paved.

There is a long tradition of clog stepping in the north of England which needed a hard floor. With the paving of the streets, clog stepping quickly became inseparable from the processional Morris of the North West; their large bands made it possible for the music to be heard over the sound of the clogs. Women dancers have always been a part of this type of dance, and today women’s, men’s and mixed teams can be seen.

Persephone is easily recognisable by the dancers’ black kits with bright green and yellow sashes and ribbons, whilst the band wears black and striking top hats with green and yellow ribbons; the side all wear black clogs with bells. The exuberant style and standard of dancing is maintained by weekly practices throughout the year at Hunsworth Community Centre, near Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire.

Persephone dances a mixture of traditional and new dances written specially for the team, using bobbins, garlands, sticks and slings. The band comprises accordions, melodeons, clarinet, whistle, a large drum, and a snare drum.

Persephone can be seen at venues throughout the country, dancing at festivals, in processions, at weekends of dance and all manner of other events, summer and winter alike.

Persephone is always keen to welcome new female dancers and musicians (female or male), both new and experienced.

 www.persephonemorris.co.uk , Facebook: Persephone Women’s Morris team