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The Godley Hill Morris Dance

The Godley HIll Royal Morris Dancers from Hyde were one of the most well known and best documented traditional teams who by their appearances at Knutsford Royal May Day over the years are credited with being the source and inspiration for many teams formed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Indeed, our own kit is based in part on that of the Godley Hill dancers.

The dance from Godley Hill has been in the repertoire of Manchester Morris Men for many years and was well known to those original founder members of Rumworth who had previously danced with Manchester MM. Despite this, it was several years before Rumworth began to develop and finally perform our own version of the dance which is always referred to as "Boatmans" after the tune to which the chorus is danced.

Dan Howison had studied three notations of the traditional dance dating from the 1920's and 30's by Crompton, Karpeles and Manning and produced a comparison of them. The notations are almost identical, the main difference being the order in which the figures were performed.

These notations, together with the Manchester Morris Men's version from their own extensive archive of traditional material enabled our Conductor to put together our own authentic version of the dance.
Like many traditional dances from the area it follows the standard pattern of a chorus consisting of a Fall Back and Step and Turn followed by a figure. Based on the notations mentioned above the pattern of the dance is Fall Back (or Fall Back and Throw Up), Step It, Fall Back, Figure. The dance finishes with Cross Morris.

The dance starts on a signal from the drummer with the dancers raising both hands and then making a deep bow before dancing Fall Back and Throw Up in which they walk backwards for 4 steps before dancing forwards and after jumping onto both feet, throw one leg up in the air in a caper movement while simultaneously raising both hands high above their heads.

This is repeated before the dancers perform Step It in which they face partners and dance 2 pas-de-bas type steps first towards the top of the set and then in the opposite direction before turning single finishing feet together. This is repeated in the opposite direction with the dancers facing up ready to dance the Fall Back which precedes each figure.

"The Boatman"

The dance has only three figures;
Run It, which is a corners cross movement, Reel It which is a Hands Across or Star figure and Chain It, which as the name suggests is a Ladies Chain figure. Each figure includes a back to back movement and the figures get increasingly longer.

Run It takes 16 bars (8 bars for Fall Back and 8 bars for the Back to Back, Corners Cross and Corners Cross back!), Reel It takes 24 bars (8 bars for Fall Back, 8 bars for Right Hands Across and Back to Back and 8 bars for Left Hands Across and Back to Back) and Chain it takes 48 bars (8 bars for Fall Back, 8 bars for Corners Chain and Back to Back, 8 bars for Corners Chain back and Back to Back. All this repeated for 2nd corners without an intervening chorus so it takes 48 bars altogether. The back to back movement in each figure is also a key element of the final Cross Morris figure which finishes with the dancers in a deep bow like the beginning of the dance. They remain in this position until the drummer signals the end of the dance with a double tap.

Like all our dances the tunes we use are integral to the life of the dance. The Chorus is danced to Boatmans, Run It is danced to Long Morris, Reel It to Tight Little Island, Chain It to Lass of Richmond Hill and Cross Morris, as you would expect, is danced to Cross Morris! This set of tunes and their changes of rhythm and tempo give the dance a unique feeling. Interestingly, although Long Morris and Tight Little Island were used by the Godley Hill Royal Morris Dancers and Richmond Hill was used at Hyde none of the three contemporary notations upon which our version of the dance is based mentions Boatmans!