There are quite a few different types of Morris dance, but most sides fall in to one of the following categories:
- Cotswold Morris is the native dance of Oxfordshire and the surrounding regions. It is danced with sticks and hankies, and usually with bells tied round your legs. There are variations within the Cotswold style, as each village had its own way of dancing. There's usually a fair bit of complex foot and hanky work and you'll be required to leap in the air, so it's quite hard on the knees! However it's very rewarding once you've conquered it, and when it's done well it looks *really* good. Unsuprisingly, the vast majority of sides in Oxfordshire dance in the Cotswold traditions.
- Border Morris originates from the Welsh borders, but is much more widespread these days. Border morris teams are easy to identify as they will probably be wearing heavy tatter coats, sewn all over with rags and tatters. They will probably have their faces painted; usually black, but other colours are becoming more common. Border morris is danced with sticks, and relies on energy, enthusiasm and noise rather than complex footwork. If you like running around, shouting, and scaring small children, then Border is probably for you.
- North West Morris, unsurprisingly, has it's origins in the North West of the country. It's danced in clogs - sometimes with bells on - and is characterised by the strong rant step used throughout the dances. (If you're not familiary with the rant step, it's quite noisy. Especially when done in clogs.) North West morris is sometimes danced with sticks, but usually only little ones, and the sticks often have bells or tassles on them.
- Molly dancing was born out of the Cambridgeshire region. It's not usually danced with sticks or hankies - sometimes a broom, but otherwise without props. Molly dancers are often very colourful, and will dress in a variety of interesting novelty outfits. They'll paint their faces too - less likely to be black though. There will be at least one man dressed up as a woman. Interestingly enough, Oxfordshire doesn't seem to have a Molly side - if you know differently please
There's also longsword, rapper and clog dancing, which are variously argued as types of morris (or not as the case may be). However, so that there aren't hundreds of subcategories listed under one main category, for the moment you can find out about them on the Sword and Step dance pages.
If you're interested in a slightly more detailed history of Morris dancing, a good first step would be Jamie Huddlestone's article on Daily Info, or for local information try the online version of the Oxfordshire Morris Dancing exhibition which was held at the Bate Collection in 2009. And if you're interested in some 'alternative' types of morris dancing, try googling Fluffy Morris and see how you get on...