The North-West Morris comes from the
industrial towns of Lancashire and Cheshire, the dances being more associated
with a leader or a district in a town than with the town itself. Its
ornate dress of sashes, beads, floral hats or caps, dancing clogs and slings,
"tiddlers" or sticks, makes it unmistakable.
The slings are made from twisted rope or
waste; the tiddlers are made of rope. Both are decorated with ribbons. In the
dance they are twirled above the head or twisted at hip level. The short
sticks used in some dances are decorated, and never clashed (unlike
Morris). Dancing clogs are decorated with brass trimmings and the
leather uppers may be carved or embossed. During street dances, the soles
are protected in the same way as a horse shoe protects a horse's hoof.
These curved strips of metal are called "irons" and are fixed around
the soles and heels of the clog. These irons are removed when dancing indoors,
to avoid damage to floors! The polka and skip step accentuate the
rhythmic sound of the clogs.
The dances have many figures which are
either called by the leader/conductor or danced in set sequences. Although
the dances were originally processionals (danced whilst traveling along), the
Bedford men perform four of them as stationary dances, using a fifth as a
processional. One polka dance, using cotton slings, comes from Royton, a
district of Oldham near Manchester - a film taken of Bedford Morris Men dancing
Royton can be found
Another polka dance, this time using tiddlers, is made up from some North-West figures passed on by Roger Edwards of
Garstang and subsequently ordered into a dance sequence called "The Bedford
Dance". The third polka dance, from Ashton-Under-Lyne also near
Manchester, uses sticks and is the one used by us for processions.
The only skip step dance performed by
Bedford Morris Men comes from the Preston Plain, where the dances were revived
in the 1890's for use in secular and religious carnivals and fetes. This
particular dance was associated with the Catholic Church of St. Ignatius in