The founding National Association of Morris and Sword Dance Clubs

Girls’ Carnival Morris Dancing

We are pleased to add this 'missing' page of types of morris dancing which has been contributed by Dr Lucy Wright, whose excellent credentials are clearly set out in the 'Other Resources' appendix.

Girls’ carnival morris dancing

Girls’ morris dancing—sometimes called ‘carnival’ or ‘fluffy’ morris—is a highly competitive team formation dance, performed in the Northwest of England and parts of North Wales. Its main participants are primary- and secondary-school-aged girls and young women

Dancers are organised into ‘lines’ by age and ability and perform as part of troupes which compete weekly as members of dedicated local and cross-county organisations. Costumes consist of short dresses with wide bell sleeves—which are often heavily embellished; decorative headbands, white lace socks and white pumps strung with bells. Performers carry pom-poms (or ‘shakers’) and execute highly precise, synchronous footwork (known as the ‘pas-de-bas’) to recorded pop music. Troupes choreograph a new routine each year and hone it over the course of the competition season, leading to an annual championships event in the autumn. 

Despite its neglect by the early morris dancing collectors, girls’ morris dancing shares a parallel history with other morris performances in Lancashire and Cheshire: both girls’ morris and men’s ‘North West’ morris dancing groups once performed competitively at civic carnivals and were an integral part of the town carnival movement of 1860s onwards. Although girls’ morris is sometimes presumed to be a borrowing from the man’s dance, prompted by a loss of male performers during the second world war, records suggest that teams of women and girls danced in the Northwest in the early part of the 19th century and that by the 1890s, references to all-female troupes were commonplace. By the end of the 1950s, two distinct camps—North West and carnival—appear to have emerged, although as late as the 1960s mixed groups of boys and girls with shakers existed in Cheshire (e.g. Goostrey Morris Dancers and Lower Withington Morris Dancers). 

Contemporary girls’ morris dancing troupes continued to perform at town carnivals regularly until the 1990s when the community moved indoors into sports halls and community centres – and the dance is now only rarely seen in public. The performance is often likened to cheerleading but it actually pre-dates this by several decades, being more closely related to other British carnival performance styles, such as entertaining (also known as ‘troupe dancing’), majorette baton-twirling and ‘jazz’ (kazoo) marching bands.




Other resources: 

Buckland, Theresa Jill. ‘Institutions and Ideology in the Dissemination of Morris Dances in the Northwest of England’. Yearbook for Traditional Music 23, no. 1 (1991): 53–67. 

Buckland, Theresa Jill, and Dan Howison. ‘Morris Dancers in Crewe before the First World War’. English Dance and Song 42, no. 2 (1980): 10–13. 

Dommett, Roy. Roy Dommett’s Morris Notes. Easthampton, MA: CDSS of America, 1986. 

Howison, Dan, and Bernard Bentley. ‘The North-West Morris - a General Survey’. Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society 9, no. 1 (1986): 42–55. 

‘Troupes and Bands’ website by Ian McKinnon: 

Wright, Lucy. ‘“This Girl Can” Morris Dance: Girls’ Carnival Morris Dancing and the Politics of Participation’. In The Histories of the Morris in Britain: Proceedings of the 2017 Conference, 295–312. London: English Folk Dance Society, 2018. 

Wright, Lucy. ‘Making Traditions: Girls’ Carnival Morris Dancing and Material Practice’. Yearbook for Traditional Music 49, no. 1 (2017): 26–47. 

Wright, Lucy. ‘Girls’ Carnival Morris Dancing and Contemporary Folk Dance Scholarship’. Folklore 128, no. 2 (2017): 157–74. 


  1. Orcadia Morris Dancers at the English Town and Country Carnival Organisation championships (2016) by Lucy Wright
  2. Greenfield Morris Dancers (c.1920s). Morris Ring Archive
  3. Mobberley Morris Dancers (c.1920s) 

See Also

Carnival Morris has been evolving for over a hundred years, here is some 80 years film from the Morris Ring Archive which helps to show its roots. The Over Peover Rose Queen, in Cheshire from 1938 & 1939, The film features :the following Morris dancing.
1938 - Over Peover Morris Dancers (Time 00:31 to 01:20)
1938 - Peover Magpie Morris (Time 02:00 to 02:35)
1939 - Over Peover Morris Dancers (in colour, time 7:45 to 8:00)