Logo The Nantgarw Tradition

After a forty year history, this is what we think Cardiff Morris is all about. (We're not entirely sure, but we think this might be it!)

Nantgarw is a small village in the Taff Vale at the junction of the Pontypridd and Caerphilly roads. It has one pub and used to have a large pit and coking plant complex. There were once potteries in the area, of which the only obvious evidence is the Nantgarw China Works Museum (currently undergoing an extensive restoration programme) and a modern pub called 'The Pottery' on the Treforest Trading Estate to the North.

This 8-person tradition (which explains our obsession with 8-people dancing) is often compared with Lichfield, but to be brutally frank, the two traditions have nothing in common except the number of dancers. The arguments might have raged over the years, if anyone outside Cardiff had been the least bit bothered, but as it is, we've more-or-less decided that the Lichfield dances were imported from Nantgarw, so there :-).

Without dwelling too long on the detailed history, suffice it to say that by about 1974, the original Nantgarw dance, Y Gaseg Eira, was being danced out, having been worked out from the Manuscripts, including Margaretta Thomas' rememberances. Ten years later the repertoire had been extended to three dances with the introduction of Hunting the Hare and Ty Coch Caerdydd.

During the practice season 1991-2, we 'discovered' a fourth dance, which started life as as The Camel (Y Gamel), due to the committee principle, but which later was renamed after the tune to which it is danced, Y Derwydd (The Druid).

No two dances are quite alike, although it's fair to say that Caseg Eira differs to a considerable extent from the other three.

Although Cardiff Morris are the only morris side to do these dances adequately, it should be noted that some members from the early seventies who went on to form the Isca Morris Men in Newport, Gwent, in 1976 took Caseg Eira with them, performing a debased version to this day. It is considered great sport to invite these people to dance with Cardiff, to see whether they have any race memories of how it should be done.

The Figures.

These can be summarised as Foot Up, Corners Change, Top Hey, Bottom Hey and Circular Hey, with usually a distinctive verse figure unique to each dance.

The Steps.

Double step throughout, except when 'chipping' (q.v.). The basic pattern is two double steps followed by four capers. There had been a tendency to truncate the second double step and leap straight into the capers, leading to a loss of balance and poise which is, of course, totally contrary to the Cardiff Morris ethos. This unfortunate habit has now been eradicated.

The hand movements are straight up-and-down, with Adderbury-style circular movements at waist level for the capers.

In the 'chipping' sequences in Caseg Eira and Hunting the Hare the arms are raised in turn and in time with the single stepping which accompanies it.

The Dances.

Y Gaseg Eira (The Snow Mare)
This handkerchief dance has a pattern entirely peculiar to itself and was the first Nantgarw dance to see the light of day with the Cardiff Morris.
Hela'r Sgwarnog (Hunting The Hare)
This is the first of three dances which conform to a standard pattern; which can, with a little care, be memorised and need, therefore, no calling. Like Caseg Eira it is a handkerchief dance.
Current practise with the music is to use hornpipe time, which lends a lilt to the dance that some people find attractive.
Ty Coch Caerdydd (The Red House of Cardiff)
Sixteen sticks lend a certain weight to the stick bag, if not the proceedings. The sticks are held skiing-fashion (that's downhill, not slalom or cross-country) and are brought up in front of the face to clash.
Y Derwydd (The Druid)
Previously known as Y Gamel (The Camel). Some dances are discovered by inspired individuals, others less so.
Only eight sticks this time and no clashing except in the chorus. The dance pattern is identical with that of Hunting the Hare, even down to the half-heys in the chorus, if you ignore the fact that the corner figures are completely replaced with Stars.
Y Goron (The Crown)

Pete Weston, Alun Roach

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Cardiff Morris 2010