The Dance
Up Dance Notation The Music Combined Notation



John Leyland's description of the dance performed by the Abram Morris Dancers outside his house, The Grange, in June 1880 contains the following observations:
"Occasionally only is the dance celebrated, as fourteen years have been allowed to pass last year (1880) since the custom was kept up.  A successful attempt was, however, made for its revival in the spring of that year, and in the month of June the festival was celebrated, extending over several days and losing none of its ancient popularity. One of these days the dancers visited the writer's residence, and enabled him to observe the manner it was conducted, which was said to be in strict conformity with traditional usage... The music then struck up a slow and measured air, and the dancers commenced a series of quiet and graceful evolutions. Each dancer carried in either hand a large white handkerchief, which at intervals of the dance, and at certain strains of the music, he threw round. Altogether it was a curious and picturesque sight."
The notebook of Richard Porter from nearby Hindley contains a notation of the dance, which he called ‘Old English Morris Dance’. A note in the corner of the relevant page says that the dance is "100 years old". Although there is no indication of when the notation was written down we do know that Porter was born in 1872 and had learnt the dance from an old Abram dancer who, from his age had almost certainly taken part in the 1868 and 1880 performances. Porter's notebook also gives the date 1883 in mentioning Adam Ingram who had become a Morris dancer in Abram when in his mid teens, around 1868. Adam took part in the last known performance by the Abram dancers, on July 1st 1901, though he was by then too old to take part as a dancer.
Many people know and perform the Abram Morris Dance as the ‘Abram Circle Dance’. Richard Porter described the dance to Maud Karpeles in 1931 and a year later she visited Adam Ingram who was able to confirm that her notes were correct. Her description of the dance was published in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society for 1932, but inexplicably this original published version contained one or two errors and omissions which she later corrected for the reprint. 
Subsequently the dance has spread around the world: wherever there are Morris dancers, you will probably find ‘Abram’ being performed. Dancers have been ‘creative’ in their interpretation of the dance, sometimes wearing clogs rather than shoes, waving ‘slings’ or ‘mollies’ rather than handkerchiefs, and introducing the cross-polka step. In North America and New Zealand, the dance is popular for several teams to join together for massed displays. Unlike the dance performed in Abram itself, few of these interpretations can be described as "quiet and graceful evolutions" danced to "a slow and measured air". However, they are all, undoubtedly, "a curious and picturesque sight"!

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