0 - 9 June 2019
6 - 9

North West Morris Dance Competition Judges Guidelines

These guidelines are to give you an overall feel for what the festival is hoping to achieve.

Our aim is to preserve North West as a distinctive dance style, but without putting a cramp on innovation.

Features that we regard as typically North West include:

Leader – not all dances will have a leader at the front, but processional dances particularly benefit from someone in front of the set calling the figures to suit the situation. A good leader enhances the dance and adds visual contrast.
A processional dance should score more for having a leader (assuming they do a good job), but a static dance should not lose points for not having one.

Stepping – all dances should use single step and/or rant (cross-polka) for the bulk of the dance. However, stepping is not limited to these steps. Anything that works well in clogs is allowed. Although most North West is done with a flat foot step, marks should not be deducted for having the weight on the toes (this is mainly because the heavy flat foot step is bad for dancers' knees and we don't want to discourage a safer alternative). However, we do not want dancers on tiptoe.

Processions – North West is a processional dance. The typical forward and back chorus is intended to allow for forward/forward movement in processions. As modern dancers also perform on occasions where there is no procession (eg. Pubs), there are modern dances that lack this element. We don't insist on a chorus that can be used in a procession, but there is a preference for that capability, even in a static dance.

Costume – North West has a distinctive costume style and we'd like to see that retained, but without discouraging innovation.

  • Clogs are a key part of that distinctive style (we're well aware that not all historical teams wore clogs, but in modern North West it's the norm). Hence, teams should score higher if wearing clogs. The only exceptions are for children's teams and for the indoor dance for teams lacking clogs with rubbers.

  • Points should be lost for costumes that are associated with other dance styles. eg. Tatter jackets, white trousers, etc.

  • North West teams have more uniform costumes than Border teams, for example. We would expect to see matching costumes (but not to the extent of enforcing identical necklaces, etc)

  • North West tends to have strongly gendered clothing. Typically knee breeches, white shirt, hat, beads, sash, for men, and a longish 'mill girl' style dress for women. (dancers are free to choose their individual gender preference). Waistcoats are often used by both genders.

  • Hats decorated with fresh flowers are fantastic (but please try and use locally grown flowers wherever possible, the carbon footprint of imported cut flowers is very high)

  • This historical style is not set in stone, but it would be nice to have an echo of it in modern costumes.

  • The band can have the same costume as the dancers, or a different costume that goes with what the dancers are wearing.

  • Colour is a good thing. There are some great modern NW costumes that still feel NW in style, but have a modern vibe.

  • No one will lose points for not having a petticoat or apron. Same goes for bloomers.

  • Kit includes hoops, wavers, slings, and hankies, and these should be taken into account when judging costume for a particular dance.

  • Hoops can range from the traditional garland of flowers to any style of hoop at all.

  • Slings can be knotted, plaited, made from old spindles, etc. As long as they function well as slings in the dance, you can make them from anything you like.

  • Wavers are expected to be short sticks, one held in each hand, usually with bells on one or both ends, probably with decoration that is likely to include ribbons.

  • Hankies can be any size or colour you like – as long as they are square. They can have loops, etc, to help fasten them onto costumes, if required.

  • There are cases of pom poms being used historically (even by men's teams), therefore they are allowed.

Dance Style - Scoring drives dance evolution. Carnival morris has very specific marking guidelines and has now developed into a totally separate tradition. Therefore, judges need to think about the effects of scoring and feed back to the festival any thoughts they have on this front.

The rules for live music, and the points relating to stepping and clogs and speed of changes between figures are all intended to reinforce NW as a consistent style. We know that not all historical teams wore clogs, but they are a distinctive feature of modern North West morris.

One of the key differences between Carnival morris and North West morris, apart from the use of recorded music and a different version of the polka step, is the focus on absolute precision and co-ordination between dancers. A possibly unintended side effect of this was to create very slow moves between figures (faster moves are less precise). Carnival and North West have a common ancestor in the late Victorian processional dances, but are now separate traditions and scoring for fast, crisp figure changes in North West is a way of retaining those individual identities.

A Carnival morris troupe would be allowed to enter the competition as long as they met the entry conditions, but would be judged by North West rules, rather than the Carnival morris rules.

Dance evolution – no tradition is totally static. Interesting and innovative moves in the modern dance (as long as they feel 'North West'), should be rewarded, especially if the audience enjoy them. North West moves tend to have a geometric feel to them. They make patterns and shapes. There are many, many ways of making interesting patterns and lines. A typical North West dance should be choreographed for a multiple of four dancers.

Music – Traditional North West teams would dance to the music of the town band in a procession. It's still common for North West teams to have big bands, and this is a feature that should be taken into account in the marking. In styles like Cotsworld, there are typically fewer musicians as the musicians need to respond to the dancers (eg. Extending a note during a high leap). In North West, the impetus is the other way round, the band set a steady tempo, and the sound of the clogs should be bang on the beat. (However, we're not insisting on machine-like perfection – following that route too far ends up with drum tracks and recorded music and we want live musicians.)

Audience – If the audience aren't enjoying it, then there's no point in dancing! If the dancers are enjoying themselves, the audience will respond to that. In addition to their specialist areas, each judge will have some marks to allocate for the overall presentation.

Feedback - There will be a space on the judging form for feedback. Please follow a rule of two positive comments for every negative one, and start and end with a positive comment.