The Lord of the Dance

“The Lord of the Dance” is one of the iconic Revels “touchstones” that collectively form the foundation of every Christmas Revels performance and are eagerly anticipated by returning audiences. (Others are the Susan Cooper poem, "The Shortest Day," the peace round "Dona Nobis Pacem," "The Sussex Mummers' Carol," and frequently the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance.)

At the conclusion of the first part of The Christmas Revels, a trumpet fanfare signals the entrance of a singer and two morris dancers. As the soloist sings the verses of the song, written by Sidney Carter to the tune of the familiar Shaker song “Simple Gifts,” the dancers dance a series of traditional figures from five different English villages as chorus, brass ensemble and audience join in on refrains. After the final verse, the chorus leaves the stage and joins hands with the audience, streaming into the lobby in a serpentine dance and repeatedly singing the song's refrain.

For many people this brief experience of shared celebration is the high point of the show. Since morris dancing has long been associated with celebrations of the return of spring, Revels’ creators, John and Carol Langstaff, determined that it would be the perfect vehicle for restoring hope and renewal at the darkest point in the year. Carol choreographed the dance, with the help of seasoned morris dancers Martin Graetz and Jonathan Morse, for the first Christmas Revels production in 1971, and it has retained its central place in the show ever since.