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Sword Dance

Sword LockSword dances are known all over Europe. In England, Sword Dances are either Long Sword or Rapper. Long Swords are traditional rigid swords (usually specially made these days with no cutting edge) and Rapper swords are flexible two handle strigils. The Long Sword type of dance is know as a Hilt-and-point dance, as the swords are held by these two extremities.

Long Sword dances are mainly found in Yorkshire. Well known dances and sides include Goathland, Flamborough, Handsworth and Grenoside. Rapper dances are found mainly in Northumberland and Durham. The Rapper Sword is probably derived from the strigils used to clean the pit ponies in the North East coalfields and is a late invention -probably 1820s around the time of the coal fields being started. Well known dance sides include Newcastle Kingsmen, Hexham Rapper and Sallyport. On the rapper sword, one handle is fixed and the other rotates. The stepping tend to be faster than Long Sword but the moves are similar.

A notable feature of the Long Sword dance is the 'lock' pictured above. It is lowered around a person's head and the swords are withdrawn as the person acts out being beheaded. In this, it is similar to the Mummers especially as the resurrection is sometimes performed. The person may be a member of the team or someone invited in. This is hard to achieve in rapper because to the two handles (the lock is achievable, but not the withdrawal of the swords) but the rapper makes up for that by the flexibility of the swords which can turn a lock into a basket.