Morris dancing bang up-to-date

Rhys Boorman in Morris Offspring
Rhys Boorman in Morris Offspring

DANCE company Morris Offspring are set to explode onto The Stade with a modern take on an old folk tradition, and break with all stereotypes.

Student Rhys Boorman, 20, originally from Hastings, belongs to the 14-strong company, whose members are all aged between 18 and 38.

Rhys, whose dad is Kevin Boorman, the borough council’s head of marketing, has been Morris dancing since the age of 13, when he joined local side Mad Jacks Morris. Aged 18, he was recruited to join Morris Offspring and has travelled the country with the company in the last year and a half.

He said: “We want to keep the tradition alive while keeping people interested.

“We try to mix different traditions up and to put atmosphere into the dancing.”

Morris Offspring along with powerhouse folk trio Faustus, are bringing their spectacle to The Stade Open Space on June 1 as part of the Stade Saturdays programme, the first ever outdoor performance of The Furnace.

“If you don’t like Morris dancing, you should still come down and let us change your mind,” Rhys said with confidence.

The members of Morris Offspring, which has been running for 10 years, hail from Morris sides from across the UK, bringing influences from those traditions to dances masterminded by the leader of the company, Laurel Swift.

Morris Dancing takes up much of Rhys’s spare time - he has not had a free weekend since January, and expects to be busy all the way through until August - but for him it is a labour of love.

Already this year he has toured from Gateshead to Exeter with Morris Offspring, while finding time to practice with Mad Jacks in Hastings whenever he can.

This is as well as studying for a degree in sports and exercise science at the University of South Wales.

Rhys plans to work as a PE teacher after graduating, but intends to continue Morris dancing, and fit this around work, keen to travel across the country Morris dancing during the school holidays.

Over the summer he will be teaching Morris dancing to children at folk festivals in Sidmouth and Towersey, and in July will be jetting across the Atlantic with Morris Offspring for a tour of New York, Boston, and Toronto.

There are increasing numbers of young people taking up Morris dancing, and becoming involved with the folk scene in general.

“My favourite aspect of Morris dancing is the social side and meeting new people who like the same things,” Rhys said.

“My university friends take the mick and are always asking me to do a dance, but they are quite jealous I’m going to America.”

The Furnace, by Morris Offspring and Faustus will be performed on The Stade Open Space on June 1, at 7.30pm.