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At the heart of English folk
Rapper and Longsword Dancing

#5: Rapper and Longsword Dancing

As the historical traditions imbued in Rapper and Longsword dance evolved, new teams, or ‘sides’- through their participation- innovated and enhanced the traditional dances, diversifying and broadening their larger historic narrative.

The Flamborough Lasses, the female longsword team in Flamborough performed from 1930 till 1938, and other female Rapper sword-dance teams like The Mary and Bessie Club, Blaydon White Star and Denton Dainties Female participated in national competitions from the 1950’s. University teams like Newcastle Kingsmen took up Rapper sword-dance and later helped initiate a second revival of the dance.

Flamborough's girl sword dancers

Early attitudes towards these progressions and new approaches would’ve been met with scepticism, or harsh disapproval, reflecting a time-honoured adherence to an unchanging tradition. One female Rapper sword-dance member described such a response, ‘…One agreed to teach a womens side, then turned up heavily disguised, wearing a black hood over his head.’ (Sally Wearing, EDS 2006) Some of these teams received a high level of publicity for their innovative and fresh slant on the dances, and were celebrated and supported in their communities. The Flamborough Lasses attracted the attention of local media, 11 newspaper articles having been written about them from the thirties up until the nineties.

S. Wearing, Morris women not women’s morris, 2006 [In] EDS, 68 no.4 (Winter 2006) p 24-25

C. J. Sharp, The Sword-Dances of Northern England, Part 2, Novello and Company Ltd, 1911-13

R. Traves, T. Stone, The Story of The Flamborough Longsword Dance, 2003



National Youth Folk Ensemble

National Youth Folk Ensemble


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