Old Glory was formed in 1994 to revive the tradition of Molly dancing in East Suffolk.
Molly dancing traditionally only appeared during the depths of winter and is regarded
by many people as the East Anglian form of Morris. It is characterized by blackened
faces, heavy boots (usually hobnailed) and the presence of a "Lord" and a "Lady",
two of the men specially attired respectively as a gentleman and his consort, who
lead the dances. There are other characters in Old Glory, such as the “umbrella-man”,
who acts as announcer, a “box-man” carrying a collecting box, the “broom-man”, who
clears the way for the dancers, and the “whipper-in”, whose job it is to marshal
the dancers. Blackening faces was a form of disguise, since the dancers could not
afford to be recognised. Some of those people from whom they had demanded money
with menaces would have been their employers. Molly dancing is by nature robust and,
some would say, aggressive. These qualities are emphasised by the sound of the hobnailed
boots worn by the dancers, which were the normal form of footwear for farm workers
in the East of England right up until the second half of the twentieth century.
There is very little known about the dances that Molly dancers of the early part
of the twentieth century would have performed, other than that they resembled country
dances, but danced using a slow, heavy step, and with much swinging about in pairs.
We have constructed our own dances, based on such information as we have, and we
have developed our own distinctive style - the "Waveney Valley" tradition. The Molly
dancers of Old Glory are all men, whilst the musicians are all women. The musicians
play a variety of instruments, which may include at least one four-stop melodeon
in the "Suffolk key" of C, concertina, drums, trombone, “tea-chest” bass and rommelpot.
For further information about Molly dancing, Old Glory recommends "Truculent Rustics:
Molly Dancing in East Anglia before 1940" by Elaine Bradtke, published by The Folklore
Society, University College, London (ISBN 0 903515 180) and available from Hedingham
If you are interested in joining Old Glory Molly Dancers and Musicians, you are assured
of a warm welcome. Also, if you have taken any photographs of us, we would be very
interested in seeing them.
Video Clips of Old Glory’s performances can be seen in Old Glory’schannel.