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LOVE it or hate it, there’s no denying morris dancing is steeped in history and even a dash of mystery – at least 500 years of it to be exact.

The history? Well this form of cheery folk dancing has been around in England since the time of Henry VII. In fact the earliest surviving record of morris dance in England stretches all the way back to 1448.

And the mystery part? Well nobody really knows where the name ‘morris dancing’ originates from. It’s thought it most likely developed from the French word “morisque” meaning  ‘dance’.

Five hundred years ago the jig was a dance for one or two people, today it is for four or more and different steps, costume styles, bells, sticks and instruments are used depending on regional traditions.  

These days no May Day event, village fete of cultural caper would be complete with a performance from a ‘side’ of morris dancers. Essex has several morris teams, among them the Colchester Morris Men, who have been going since 1926, and the Mayflower Morris Men of Billericay while Maldon has three different morris dancing sides. 

But one long running morris dancing group is in dire need of something in order to keep going - men!

Chelmsford Morris boasts a membership roster of 30, with dancers coming from as far and wide as Colchester and Rayleigh. But in reality it can only rely on the regular dancing services of seven men, some of whom are in their sixties and will soon be hanging up their handkerchiefs for good.

So,  as Chelmsford Morris Club spokeswoman Celia Kemp explains, it’s time to recruit some new blood.

“Our group have had men and women morris dancers for nearly 45 years, but the women are in a state of shock after the men announced that 2017 may have to be their last year.  “The women’s group is thriving and will continue, but they want some more men to carry on the tradition too. 

“Morris dancing is a piece of old English heritage. The men of Chelmsford Morris dance the stick and hanky dances of the Cotswold area, the iconic image of morris dancing.  It is vigorous and energetic but some of the current dancers are feeling their age and the team needs new blood.”

Kieran Fitzgerald, the ‘Squire’ of the Chelmsford morris, added: “What better way to unwind after work midweek than getting some exercise through dancing practice and then going to the pub with new friends? 

“Although our women’s group practises on a different night, we all go to performances together. It’s a whole social life.”

Everyone is welcome to see what it’s all about. The men meet on Wednesday nights in Writtle. www.chelmsfordmorris.co.uk