Long Sword Dance:

Yorkshire Long Sword dancing is a form of English ritual hilt-and-point sword dance from the 15th century, or even earlier; the dances could have been brought accross by the Vikings invaders; they may also have started due to the belief that iron was thought to have magical properties, which would promote fertility and encourage the coming of a good spring and summer.

Many Yorkshire villages had their own style of dance which was passed on from generation to generation, and still is in some cases; the dances have from five to eight performers who each carry a sword, nowadays a rigid metal bar or wooden lath approximately 30 to 40 inches long including the handle; originally each of the dancers carried a real long sword.

The usual pattern of performance starts with the rhythmic clashing of swords, followed by the formation of a ring in which each person holds the hilt of his sword and the point of his neighbour's sword; there follows a a number of weaving and twisting movements which demand a high degree of teamwork if the circle is to remain unbroken throughout the dance; at certain stages of the dance the swords are plaited together to form various shapes, called a "lock, which is held aloft.

Long Sword dances are found scattered all over Yorkshire, but there are particular concentrations of dances in East Cleveland, the northern part of the North York Moors and around Sheffield; the dances vary in the way they are performed, with some being slow and militaristic, such as the Grenoside, or performed with pace and speed like Handsworth dances from near Sheffield.

Other dances have different features including variations of the number of dancers and distinctive movements; the dances are often performed by village teams, such as the Grenoside Sword Dancers, the Goathland Plough Stots and the Flamborough Sword Dancers; these teams generally maintain the traditions of their dances, such as traditional performances on Boxing Day or Plough Monday.

The International Sword Spectacular, the world's biggest gathering of sword dancers was last held at York in May 2008, and at Whitby in May 2004; the event usually has about 40 sword dance groups from around the UK, Europe and North America.

The event in York had 14 Longsword teams from Yorkshire and around the world; they were: Castleford Longsword, Claro Longsword, Coventry Morris, Coventry Mummers, Flamborough Longsword, Goathland Plough Stots, Grenoside Sword Dancers, Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers, Orion Longsword (USA), Pateley Longsword, Redcar Sword Dancers, Ryburn Longsword, Southport Swords and the Sullivans Sword.

The Castleford Longsword team performing in the gala concert
in 2008, at York.

The original picture with enlargements can be found
at Rapper Online

International Sword Spectacular
The logo.

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