Tuesday, 30 June 2009

A Black Day For Traditional Dancing

A group of Morris dancers say they are "disappointed and frustrated" after performances were cancelled because they wear traditional black make-up.

The Motley "Border" Morris Men from Dartford in Kent, follow a tradition which originated in the Welsh borders, where faces were blackened using burnt corks.

Chantry Primary School in Gravesend is one of three event organisers which have cancelled perfomances this year.
The school said it had to weigh up any potential offence to its community.

The Motley Morris Men's Squire, Pete Hargreaves, said it was clear from its website, that the dancers wear black make-up.

"It is the third event this year that we have had cancelled," he said.
"We get to the point where everything is set up and then they suddenly realise that we are a black-face Border group.
"They say people might be offended without investigating why we dance with black faces."

Blackened faces are believed to have been used originally as a disguise by Morris men who danced for money and did not want to be recognised.

Head teacher of Chantry Primary, Hazel King, said it apologised for any inconvenience caused to the Morris Men.

"We organised the event to bring a diverse and fragile community together," she said.
"To celebrate all cultures we booked a Morris troupe, having failed to recognise the possible significance for our community of their tradition to perform with blackened faces.
"We found ourselves in a difficult position of weighing up any potential offence versus not wishing to compromise the Morris dancers' tradition."

I know this school, as I happen to have been born and bred in Gravesend. It has a high proportion of Sikh children in its classrooms.

Personally I find this an insult to them, not because the dancers wear black makeup but because the school is implying that these children, including their white schoolmates, can’t differentiate between ‘dressing up’ and real life.

Every year these morris men perform in front of thousands of people at the Rochester Sweeps Festival, organised by Rochester Council. Not one single person has ever complained that these dancers may be racially motivated.

Is it me, or is political correctness absurd?

Now a conundrum for you.

If a black pop singer was contracted to make a fifty date appearance at the O2 Arena in London, lets say in July, would the organisers cancel it if they found out that he performed with a white face?

If they want non-PC they can have non-PC. So sue me!

1 comment:

  1. It's a double insult to the kids because what kid would look at a totally black face and say "hey that looks like me!"

    And why inconvenience the dancers when you knew they would have black faces from the start?

    Of course, white painted faces are associated with Geishas and clowns, not Jim Crow, which is why people aren't offended by it as often...