History

New Esperance Morris (known as Esps to our friends) have been continuing the tradition of women’s morris dancing in London since the 1970s. We draw on a rich heritage, specifically that of Mary Neal, and the Espérance Club. We dance Cotswold Dances in the traditions of Bledington, Fieldtown, Ilmington, and our own Esperance tradition.

Our team was formed in 1973, inspired by Mary Neal’s historical Espérance Club girls, who were young women dancers from the turn of 1900. Lucy Neal, who is Mary’s great great niece, is the driving force behind the Mary Neal Project which is now spreading the word of Mary’s pioneering legacy and we were delighted to be invited to perform at Mary Neal Day held on February 7 at Cecil Sharp House in Camden, central London, amid a great celebration of the fusion of traditional and contemporary arts. We are mentioned in this Guardian article about the day.

Mary Neal Day was a fabulous day – Sue and MJ danced a jig with our youngest member Nancy making an accomplished debut on the fiddle, we ran a lively morris workshop along with our new friends Abingdon Morris, we performed in the evening concert and the whole day was rounded off with a ceilidh. Much fun was had by all!

So who was Mary Neal anyway? Janet Dowling, a former member of Esps, tells us about the woman who really started the morris dancing movement.

Emmeline Pethwick, Mary Neal, and the Development of Work with Young Women, by Mark K Smith. Published on http://www.infed.org

 An article about Mary Neal’s attempts to take morris to America

A link to a story told by Janet Dowling, about a dance out with Esps –

The Woman with the Silver Bracelets.

Two of our members, Fiona and MJ, joined in the Plinth Practise with artist Antony Gormley in Trafalgar Square on May 15 2009. They appeared on BBC TV, in the London Evening Standard as well as in the Independent and the Londonist.

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