The Thelwall Dances and Style

Andrew J White

As if there aren’t enough Morris dances in the world already, it is common for Morris teams to “invent” dances based on the style of existing dance traditions. Thelwall, in this respect, is no exception and the team has worked together to generate a suite of dances which we believe to be interesting/impressive to watch and fun to dance.

There are currently 6 dances in the Thelwall repertoire which we tend to call our own. Most of them are direct extensions of existing dances, which have been developed by the side.

  1. Bean Setting: This is the basic Headington dance with a modification in stick clashing during each of the 4 choruses, the last of which is particularly hazardous and requires a certain degree of concentration - hence the dance’s nickname of Brain Testing
  2. Nutting Girl (4-man): Originating on a practice night when only four men and a musician turned up, the Ducklington jig was adapted to four men facing each other in a square set. Some modification of what happens in the chorus was required for extra bits of action, but the result is quite interesting to watch, especially the climax when all four dancers “cross” in the middle narrowly avoiding collision (mostly!).
  3. Jockey to the Fair (4-man): If it could be done with Nutting Girl it should be possible with Jockey - and it was. A Jockey jig for four men.
  4. Princess Royal (4-man): Ditto, but with Princess Royal.
  5. Android’s Folly: Designed from scratch as a “stereotypical Morris dance”, it is performed free-style, has lots of stick clashing in it and has figures loosely based on usual dance figures - cast, double gypsy, whole hey, Bruce’s reel and "across, adjust, round and out" (once referred to as "fancy doings").
  6. Pickering (aka Pick a Ring): A dance devised for the 25th anniversary year by Andrew White. The dance includes figures of the circular (ring) figures from traditions danced by Thelwall over 25 years, and a chorus of 25 clashes performed in a circle. The figures can be danced in any order - hence "pick-a-ring".
    Note: The "Pickering Arms" is where Thelwall Morris Men started.
  7. Primrose and Blue: A dance created especially to fit a tune composed by local international pianist Stephen Hough. The dance was performed to him on 4th June 2018 at The Belvedere in Liverpool, close to the Philharmonic Hall where he was performing that evening.
  8. The Covid Girl (4-man): Devised in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic by David Devereux and fine tuned by team members, the dance is a socially distanced adaptation of "The Nutting Girl (4-man)" with all figures danced away from the set.

There is, of course, another dance that is “exclusive” to Thelwall and that is the Statham Morris Dance. The style is very distinctive, the stepping, figures and kit deriving from North-West Morris, while soft shoes, as for Cotswold, are worn. It is danced with very large handkerchiefs. The dance is now performed by Thelwall Morris Men as often as possible; if dancers’ availability permits it is danced at the annual Lymm Rushbearing Ceremony.
See also:
Statham Morris: Notes from a collectors diary and also the dance notation.

A "Thelwall Dances" supplement to the Morris "Black Book" can be downloaded from our publications page.

The style of dancing by Thelwall Morris Men is something that has evolved over the 40 years of our existence and will undoubtedly continue to evolve. We pride ourselves on performing a wide range of different traditions and dancing each of them in a distinctive manner. As well as our unique dances, a number of the dances have developed variations from those normally practiced by other sides or as notated in the ‘Black Book’ (A handbook of Morris Dances by Lionel Bacon). 

A set of Dancing Notes made by the foreman (as of 2013) captures style of the team at that time, as far as is practical. These notes will be made accessible on the publications page soon.

Go to Thelwall Morris Men 25th Anniversary Home Page

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Last updated 25 June 2021