FFL Morris, based out of Menlo Park and Palo Alto, California, started in 1998 presenting dances in the style of English Border Morris, combining the unique energies and excitement of ritual and celebratory dance into what has been referred to as "barely controlled mayhem".
Since that beginning, FFL (fondly referred to as "fuffle") has been pushing its own borders, evolving to include theatrical and educational material as well. Performances contain borrowings from traditional street busking, village players, and other cheap theatrics such as singing, juggling, mumming, and drinking. These can include audience participation as well. Don't be surprised to see drums, bells, whistles, horns, ribbons, swords, rubber chickens, and some things you just can't describe.
FFL has created choreography for stage shows (including material for the San Jose based Lyric Theatre), conducted master classes and impromptu teaching sessions, and is involved with local community organizations, schools, and theatre. The team itself and many of its members are associated with the Bay Area Country Dance Society.
Curious? Interested? Good for you! You can contact FFL via our or our Foreman (artistic director), Ric Goldman
What is Border Morris? - a historical
Several dances were recorded from villages and towns in the Welsh border counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire, and Shropshire as performed by gangs of men who would appear at Christmas-time, often in motley costume with assorted ribbons attached to their clothes, and equally often wearing clown suits or women's dresses. Almost always they had blacked faces, and were accompanied by a musician and percussionists who might play drum, triangle, bones, or tambourine.
The earliest records from the area indicate widespread appearances of dancers in the 17th century, typically in summer but to some extent in winter. By the 19th century, it was commonly known as "No'fo'Joeing" in the English areas of the three counties and was mostly a Christmas-time dance. Mostly a longways dance for as many as 12 men, it also occurs as a single line hey alternating with stick tapping. A few handkerchief dances have been recorded.
Unlike the elaborate May Morris dancing of the neighboring Cotswolds, these dances seemed to be relatively simple, unelaborated performances. Roy Dommett speaks of Morris as only getting as complicated as it needs to be to suit the occasions which it graces and perhaps the pecuniary gain to be made from it. These dancers seem to have got together a few days before Christmas, and figured out a performance using whoever they had.
The great collector, Cecil Sharp, was given some of the information, but in the light of the Cotswold Morris measuring stick regarded them as degenerate examples. Later work by Roy Dommett and Dave Jones (now deceased) in the 1950's and 1960's revealed a different set of performance circumstances. Their publications and subsequent development of teams such as Shropshire Bedlams (John Kirpatrick), Martha Rhodens Tuppeny Dish, Silurian Morris Men, and Paradise Islanders have given rise to a revival of interest in the "Border" dances with enthusiastic, vigorous, wildly yelling groups of dancers to create a performance genre in contrast with the other more sedate forms of "Ritual dance".