American Travelling Morrice returns to Western Mass with bells on

  • American Travelling Morrice dancers perform. PHOTO COURTESY OF MITCH DIAMOND

  • American Travelling Morrice dancers perform. PHOTO COURTESY OF MITCH DIAMOND

  • American Travelling Morrice dancers perform. PHOTO COURTESY OF MITCH DIAMOND

  • American Travelling Morrice dancers perform. PHOTO COURTESY OF MITCH DIAMOND

Staff Writer
Published: 7/22/2022 2:51:33 PM

After nearly half a century, the bells of acclaimed traditional dance group American Travelling Morrice will ring once more in Franklin County and the North Quabbin region next week.

Founded in 1976, American Travelling Morrice has kept the generations-old English Morris Dancing tradition alive with tours throughout the northeastern United States and England until COVID-19 bound their feet. Now getting back into formation, the group will return to a Northwest Massachusetts area they last visited around the time of their inception. Zipping around the region from July 24 to July 30, the troop will showcase their art with three to five performances per day as far west as Ashfield and as far east as Phillipston. The full schedule of performances can be viewed at americantravellingmorrice.org/atm.

American Travelling Morrice’s website describes Morris Dancing as “an English country tradition, with roots in medieval street theatre.”

“For hundreds of years,” the description continues, “teams of white-clad dancers have capered and stepped through the intricate patterns of the dance, clashing wooden sticks and waving handkerchiefs in time to lively traditional tunes.”

Visually distinct and “thought in ancient times (to bring) good luck and prosperity” according to the organization, dancer Mitch Diamond said exact origins of the practice are unknown. American Travelling Morrice in particular, though, grew out of inspiration from an English group that started in the early 20th century, Diamond said. Americans, he explained, would go to England and learn local techniques before introducing them to their home country.

“It’s foreign fun,” he said of the style’s longstanding appeal. “It’s rootsy. It’s primal. You’re creating something with a bunch of people. You’re losing that sense of oneness and it’s absolutely beautiful.”

This joy, Diamond said, fuels the group’s stamina as they embark on a week-long agenda as fast-paced as their dance routines.

“We’re there to dance,” he said. “That’s what we’re there for. That’s our vacation.”

Those participating in this particular trip include not only experienced American Morris dancers, but dancers originally from England, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

“They’re old friends, and sometimes, they will dance something in a different way or show a different style of dancing something,” Diamond said of the value of having a diverse group. “Sometimes, we will learn a style of dance that we don’t know.”

For American Travelling Morrice, revisiting Western Massachusetts is an opportunity to mingle with other Morris Dancing groups full of like-minded individuals devoted to keeping a piece of culture alive.

“A lot of traditions die out, but there’s something about being connected to the past,” Diamond said. “To me, it’s a celebration of life.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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