Young people take a leap of faith into the world of Morris dancing

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Clashing sticks, jingling bells and leapfrogging are some of the things you can expect from new dance group Makeney Morris. Member and co-founder Ben Salmen spoke to Lucy Roberts about the group’s journey, inspirations and their eagerness to prove that Morris dancing can be enjoyed by young people too!

The origins of the group can be traced back to when, one night uring the winter of 2012, three friends met in The Holly Bush in Makeney.

“We starting talking about Morris dancing in the pub,” said member Ben Salmen.

“And thus Makeney Morris was conceived.”

The ‘side’, the term for a Morris dancing group, was pieced together over the course of a few months. The dancers are based in and around Belper.

“Morris dancing has been synonymous for appearing at pubs in the middle of nowhere with only one man and his dog watching,” Ben said.

“We want to try and get across that there are younger people interested in preserving traditions and also bringing them up to date.

“Obviously we didn’t know how it was going to go at first, but there seems to have been a lot of interest and hopefully we can build on that for the future.”

Makeney Morris is a group of 14 dancers, made up of an equal number of men and women, with varying levels of experience and ages ranging from 16 to 42 years old.

“This is quite young for the average Morris side,” 35-year-old Ben said.

“Amid a swathe of declarations that Morris is in decline and that young people aren’t interested, we formed a side with an average age of 28.”

The group decided on black with orange and white costumes to dance in - colours of the local area.

“We wanted something that represented where we were from and tied us to the local history. It had to mean something,” Ben, from Heage, explained.

“We chose black for the coal that was mined, orange for the furnaces of industry and white for the cotton from the mills.”

The group’s first performance took place at The Holly Bush as part of Bank Holiday celebrations. It rained.

Ben said: “We went wrong. We got wet. We didn’t care. As you looked down the line of dancers all you could see were smiles. Big, beaming smiles!

“We’d done it. We’d created a side and got it dancing out within eight months! The sense of pride and achievement was overwhelming.”

They have also taken part in a pub tour around Belper and were honoured to perform one of their energetic routines at the Towersey Village Festival in Oxford and at Derby Folk Festival earlier this year.

“We aim to put as much energy and athletics into our routines as we can - take advantage of our legs while we can still use them,” Ben said.

The group, who rehearse in Belper, are always open to new members as they continue to leap into their future.

“We’re happy to receive enquiries and there isn’t an audition process. If people are able and want to dance then come along!

“We’ve only just begun, but we’re excited to see what the future may bring,” Ben said.

Makeney Morris can be found on both Twitter via @makeneymorris and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/makeneymorrisdancers.

The group are available to be booked for any occasion, including weddings, fates and festivals.