As a general rule, delicate and tender colours should be chosen for the girls' dresses, and these should be allotted with a due regard for the tableaux into which they will fall at certain figures of the dance.
As regards the more elaborate costumes of the Jester, the Hobby Horse, and similar characters, it may be said that five shillings to seven-and-sixpence should cover the cost of each, if made, as were those in our pictures, at home. So that a party of from thirty to forty performers, which is quite a sufficient number, need not entail an expense for costumes much exceeding five or six pounds. And, of course, if one or two performances be given in aid of a charity, with a stipulation that expenses shall be deducted, the cost of costumes is immediately cleared, and usually a substantial sum in addition is handed over to the charitable object for which the dances have been given.
The number of rehearsals necessary to acquire proficiency will vary very much with the ability of the individual children. But half a dozen rehearsals - three at least of them in costume - should suffice in most cases. It has been found by experience that the children themselves look upon rehearsals, not as some unpleasant task, but as a most enjoyable amusement. Of course, each group will need rehearsing; and each character, when a perfect performance is striven for, will require individual coaching, both as regards positions, gestures, and expression. More especially when examples of the folk songs or of singing games, such as " Simple Simon Met a Pieman" and "Little Boy Blue," are included in the programmes. Facial expression, graceful and effective action, and precision of movement count very largely in the general effect.
As a pleasant and interesting means of raising money for hospitals and similar charities these revivals have been immensely successful. And on the several occasions upon which the writer has happened to be present the appreciation and enthusiasm of the audiences were most marked. And as to the happiness and whole-hearted enjoyment of the performers there could be no question.
Perhaps, also, it may be useful to add that the necessary music of both dances and games can be procured from Messrs. Simpkin and Co., Ltd., and Messrs. Novello and Co., Ltd., both of London, the cost of which is small. There is also a most excellent book upon the subject, entitled " The Morris Book," by Messrs. Cecil J. Sharp and Herbert C. Macllwaine, in two parts, 2s. 6d. each, giving the fullest and most explicit directions regarding both the music and the dances, as well as many other useful and interesting notes and hints.
It should be remembered that the Morris dance is essentially a vigorous, rather than necessarily a graceful, set of movements. This, of course, may be said of almost all country dances, and it is especially true of Morris dances. It is also easy to understand why this should be so, as the Morris dances were evolved in early times by healthy, vigorous people, who, indeed, took this means of expressing their animal spirits, health, and love of active movement.
The Morris step, roughly speaking, is alike throughout all the dances. It varies only in force, the length of the stride taken, and the height that the foot is lifted. It should be noted that the foot when lifted is never drawn back, but invariably thrust forward. The toe should not be pointed in line with the leg, but held at a right angle to it, as in the standing position.
Once possessed of the spirit, the variations of the Morris step need little explanation or description, for the steps are few in number and simple in character. The first thing to do towards getting the true art of the Morris dancer is rigidly to forget the ball-room style of dancing and manner, and in their place to aim at vigour, abandon, and the exhibition of a considerable amount of animal spirits.
Now to describe, somewhat in detail, a couple of the most popular of Morris dances, pictures of which have been given in the present article. The "Rigs o' Marlow" is chiefly a stick dance, and in it the sticks are held throughout by the middle, and must be grasped much as a penholder should be, that is, lying in the hollow at the base of the thumb, and supported by the second finger, with the forefinger and thumb meeting together above it to hold it in place. In all single tapping passages to "A" music in "The Morris Book" sticks are held slanting upwards in the same position as would be a "single-stick," but with the upper arm close against the body. When in column formation, odd numbers - that is to say, leading file - must hold the forearm to the right side, and even numbers - right file - the forearm must hold across the body in such a way that the sticks cross between the files, ready for tapping. The leading file dancers always tap with their sticks those of the other file dancers, who must hold theirs firmly. In the double tapping which comes with the "B" music, sticks are held in the middle, the hand below the stick, which should now be straight, parallel with the ground, and advanced towards the partner, and raised about as high as the neck.
The following diagram will perhaps show best how the sticks are tapped in this movement. The V's and numbers represent the leader and partner, Nos. 1 and 2; the other pans, of course, tap exactly as these two, odd and even numbers respectively. The arrows represent the sticks, and as the tapping has now to be done with both ends of the sticks these are shown in this way. The barbed end represents the top of the stick, and the feather end of the arrow the butt end. The top should always be held to the right - (the feathered or butt) to the left of each dancer.