Age of morris dancers

Key findings

  • The age distribution of morris dancers in the UK is skewed towards older age groups: 66% are age 50 or over whereas just 13% are under 30.
  • There is a younger demographic internationally, with an average age of 44 compared to 52 in the UK. This is especially the case in the USA where 26% of dancers are under 30.

The age of morris dancers has been a theme of recent concern: it is widely perceived that the average age has been steadily rising and that relying on a large number of older dancers might mean morris dancing faces decline in the future. This feeling was expressed vividly by a Morris Ring press release in 2009, in which the Bagman said: “...unless younger blood is recruited during the coming winter months, morris dancing will soon become extinct. This is a serious situation. The average age of morris dancing sides is getting older and older”.

Data from the Morris Census confirms that older age groups are the most prevalent in morris sides. In the UK, 66% of morris dancers are age 50 or over and 40% are age 60 or over. That compares with just 13% of morris dancers that are under age 30, which amounts to 1,600 dancers.

There are some areas of the morris with lots of young dancers: Rapper sides, teams in the USA and Australia, and Open Morris in the UK. These figures highlight the need to keep recruiting new dancers as members of sides get older.

A Morris Ring 2010 survey showed the average age of members was 53, compared to 56 in 2014. A 1996 survey of Morris Federation sides found that the average age was 40, whereas the average age now is 52. These comparisons indicate that average age of morris dancers in the Morris Ring has risen by 3 years in 4 years, and in the Morris Federation by 12 years over 18 years, which shows that ageing has been a stronger force than renewal in recent decades.

Age of recruits

An encouraging characteristic of morris dancing recruits is that they tend to be younger than existing dancers. Morris Census data shows that the average age of recruits is 42, whereas the average age of current dancers is 52. Recruits tend to be from younger age groups: more than 600 dancers under age 30 have been recruited in the last two years.

Will the age distribution of morris dancers affect the future of morris?

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