Mossyback Morris Men will entertain at Everett library

EVERETT — They might show up, guerilla-style, at your local pub.

The beer-drinking, song-swapping and high-stepping Mossyback Morris Men like to entertain unsuspecting tavern patrons, but they will dance sober in a free performance to ring in the New Year at 2 p.m. Jan. 4 in the auditorium of the Everett Public Library.

The Seattle-based group practices the Morris dance, which originated more than 500 years ago in the Cotswolds, an area of south central England.

Apparently the Morris arose as part of the fashionable appeal of Moorish influences in English culture and as a way to celebrate the change of seasons in farming villages. In the winter, the Morris spread good cheer during times of darkness.

“We maintain the Morris traditions and we have created our own contemporary response to the dance form,” said Mossyback team dancer Jim Rymsza.

Since 1980, the Mossyback Morris Men have danced at the Northwest Folklife Festival and numerous street fairs. The team of about 15 includes guys in their 20s and longtime dancers in their 60s.

These manly men wear white shirts and pants and red caps, suspenders and shoes. They dance with sticks, handkerchiefs and bells strapped to their shins. The musical accompaniment is provided by a member playing the concertina.

Reference librarian Cameron Johnson, whose son, Rory, is on the Mossyback team, said the group has played to a full house at the library during the past few years.

“They are a great bunch of guys,” Johnson said. “It’s rare to see males dancing together like this, but they do carry large sticks, so it’s best not to make fun of them.”

Rymsza said the group rehearses weekly and is always “looking for a few good men” to join the team. Those interested can talk to him after the show on Sunday, he said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; Twitter: @galefiege.

If you go

The Mossyback Morris Men perform at 2 p.m. Jan. 4 in the auditorium at the main branch of the Everett Public Library. The event is free. For more information, call 425-257-8000.

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