The MossyBacks are well known for their high quality and vigorous dancing. We dress in white shirts and white pants with accent colors of yellow, red and green. Red suspenders hold up our pants while rosettes and armbands bring on the color. Most unique is our red shoes (i.e., sneakers) which were once popular and easy to buy.
Our headgear varies from the formal and fancy red bowler to the casual red baseball hat depending on the venue. You can meet as all individually by clicking here.
[Click on the photos for big picture]
Our dancing is primarily from two villages in the Cotswold area of England, Bledington and Ducklington. Most of the dances are handkerchief dances, i.e., the dancers wave handkerchiefs about during the dance. Some dances are done with long wooden sticks which we cut from vine maple trees that grow wild here in the NW. Most dances are "six up" where six men stand side by side as in the photos. Learn more on the history of Morris with this link.
Our music right now is primarily melodeon. We have an occasional accompaniment of fiddle, concertina and drum. The dances are usually named after the tune which is played. Our dance list is here.
We have for several seasons danced the Border Morris. This is tradition some believe started out as a Christmas seasonal dance in Victorian times. The dance was done as a way of begging, similar to carolers of the time. The most likely time to see the Border Morris was from Boxing Day (Day 1 of the 12 days of Christmas) until 12th Night (12 nights after Christmas).
Border Morris is a bit more wild and crazy than the Cotswold tradition. The dances have an extra bit of zeal which includes oftentimes fanatic stick clashing. The costumes can be downright scary, especially to small children. Our Border "kit" is made from a red lab coat sewn heavily with colorful ribbons. We wear black underneath. Rather than blacken our faces (as the traditional dancers did), we completely cover our faces with multicolor paints.
The MossyBacks have joined other local pyrotechnic artists in performing with fire. The idea was sparked by the local event dubbed "Trolloween," hosted by the Fremont Arts Council (Fremont is a neighborhood in Seattle). Why not set our sticks on fire and dance (tried the hankies- didn't work too well). With some serious engineering we turned our sticks into torches (we are now up to revision 3.0).
We have performed for several years now, each time adapting
a traditional Cotswold or Border dance to work with fire. I was excited
that many of the other "fire art" performers thought our performance was
wonderful- they didn't know it was a morris dance. Check out the Fremont
site at http://www.arfarfarf.com/
In 1999, the MossyBacks were seduced by a long and intense email campaign to have us come to the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire (hats off to the Shrew). In careful preparation, the week before, 10 complete Renaissance costumes were sewn to fit all the men (huzzah to the amazing Kathleen!). Off we went, looking good and armed only with cheat notes on how to create Shakespearean insults.
We were a big hit - (per the Shrew: comments coming in thick and fast from the guild participants... " who are those sexy men with hankies and bells and big sticks?")
For more info on the faire, check out http://www.shrewfaire.com/