Lords of the dance: The men of Aldbury Morris
‘It’s the history really,” says Jon, who has been with the group for six years.
“It’s tradition, and it’s dancing, and it’s going to the pub with your mates all over the local area. Sometimes we’ll go out and perform at a local pub, and often the landlord will give us all a free beer, but more than that we’re supporting the pub tradition too. “Tradition, dancing and free beer - that’s not a bad mix.
“Some of the people in Aldbury aren’t people I’d know without being part of the group, and I couldn’t ask for a nicer group of people.”
Aldbury perform every year from May to August in pubs across the Tring area, with music after the dancing. And while he was more into rave music as a young man, he can trace the lineage of his own music history as well as the broader history of morris dancing.
“Some people say it was the ritual dances that pre-date Christianity, and there’s some early references in church records going back to the 15th century, but the dancing back then isn’t how we know it today,” he says.
“Traditionally it was men-only, it started on May Day and was tied in with Anglo-Celtic history and traditions. “Then again, some people think it might have been imported from Spanish dancing, or the Moors when the Crusades were going on.
“No one really knows - it’s lost in the mists of time.”
Morris dancing underwent a revival in the UK in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and for Jon it was a long-time ambition.
He said: “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
“When I was at school people used to take the mickey out of some teachers who did it, but I liked it.
“Now I dance with one of those teachers on the circuit!”
Aldbury Morris Men were founded in 1969 at the back of the Greyhound pub in Aldbury village, and the group still dance every May Day, New Year’s Day and throughout the summer.
And Jon predicts that the tradition will continue to be a part of English life for many years to come.
“Morris is thriving, and even in this part of the world there’s sides all over the area.
“It’s something that’s for everyone - men’s sides, women’s sides, mixed sides, young sides - you name it.
“Just in Aldbury we have people from all walks of life. Some love the socialising, some love the music, and some just know it’s a great way of keeping fit.”
n Aldbury Morris practise every Thursday in Aldbury Memorial Hall. Email [email protected] aldburymorris.co.uk