Structured silliness 'always good'

Christmas may have been and gone, but the jingling of bells can still be heard ringing around Nelson as an international group of Morris Dancers tours the region.

Yesterday they showcased the traditional English dance to a crowd at Founders Park.

The annual Morris Tour of New Zealand has attracted enthusiasts from around New Zealand, Australia and England.

Jeannie Sutherland, originally from Vermont, said she was drawn to Morris dancing because it had quite a strong following where she grew up.

"It's fun, structured silliness and that's always good."

The dance, which dates back to the 1500's, was traditionally done as a way to ward off evil spirits, bring on good weather and encourage fertility.

Spokesman and event host from Nelson Morris Steve Rule said there are only a few requirements to being a Morris dancer. "All you need is a reasonable level of fitness, good rhythm, sense of humour, a minimum of six people and some music."

His wife Jan King, also in Nelson Morris, said this year's international bunch brought a lot of colour and variety to the area.

"It's great to see all these different sides and countries represented." While most of the dancers were wearing white, the Nelson group was wearing the black costumes of Border Morris, which comes from the border of England and Wales.

The black costumes were traditionally worn with a painted black face by labourers as a way to disguise themselves from their bosses.

Mike Trought, a veteran of nearly 40 years, said Morris dancing has been happening in Nelson since before World War II.

He said that the activity attracted people from all walks of life, and the tight-knit community always welcome any newcomers.

Mr Trought offered some sage advice to anyone thinking of joining one of the 10 Morris dancing groups around the country.

"The first rule of Morris dancing is don't stop, because people watching probably don't have any idea what's going on anyway," Mr Trought said.

The Nelson Mail