What Makes Me Dance

At my local mosque where I was volunteering for an Open day, I was surprised by the first question a visitor asked me. A woman in her fifties enquired rather aggressively: ‘Why have Muslims banned Morris dancing?’

December 16, 2021

In the village where I grew up, a highlight of the annual fete was watching my brother and the children from his primary school Morris dancing around the Maypole. They wove the different coloured ribbons around the pole, going in opposite directions, together creating a pattern that was far more impressive than any one of them could have done on their own. Sometimes they messed up –the ribbons got tangled. Then they had to retrace their steps until they got to the place where they were just before the issue arose, they had to reset themselves, and they had to start again.

Click here to listen

As we approach the Strictly Come Dancing final, it strikes me that a dance is like a good relationship. The odds-on Strictly favourite Giovanni Pernice explained: “If people at home, or the judges think [the two of us] have a great connection, then it means my job, what I’m doing, is perfect.” As American writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “they know they are moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it.” It works well when people encourage the other positively. When they support each other. When they don’t tread on each other’s toes. And when things go wrong – as things occasionally do – people stop, sort out the issue, and restart.

My relationship with the mosque visitor was likely to be a short-lived one, but it hadn’t got off on the best footing. I tried to get it back on track. I explained many people think Morris dancing may have originated with the Moors, dating back to when there were many Muslims in Spain. That Muslims didn’t have anything to do with why it wasn’t seen so often any more in the UK. And that like her I could see England was going through a lot of change. She slowly seemed to soften. We had reset. And so we started again. Listening and learning from each other, together creating an interaction that was deeper and more diverse than either one of us. The dance continued.