The rapper sword dance is a fast traditional English dance whose origins lie in the mining and pit villages of the Durham and Northumberland coalfields and involves five people connected by short, two-handled, flexible sprung steel swords called rappers. The dancers are connected in a chain, and without breaking this chain they weave in and out of one another twisting the swords to form presentation locks and breastplates, sometimes jumping or even somersaulting over the swords.
Accompanied by traditional folk music in the form of 6/8 jigs, rapper sword dancers wear shoes that allow for special percussive foot movements. Being mentally alert, in addition to having some physical agility, is necessary in order for the dancers to effectively utilise the swords without causing harm to themselves or the other performers.
Across the UK there are approximately 95 sword dance teams, both of the rapper tradition and it’s relation; Yorkshire longsword. There are men’s team, women’s and mixed teams, and the whole scene is vibrant and active. Regular competitions take place every year, including the Dancing England Rapper Tournament, where 30 or so teams dance in front of their peers and judges to win prizes and titles.
There’s a new men’s rapper sword team in Cardiff, called Taff Rapper. Consisting of an ex-Northgate Rapper dancer from Bath, a couple of lads from Newport, Charlotte the Caerphilly fiddler and 3 Cardiff students, the team has just started and is practicing in the Owain Glyndwr on a Thursday from 7:30pm.
Chaps aged 16+ with a sense of adventure are required, this dance activity is moderately dangerous but extremely rewarding. Rapper sword dancing develops teamwork, mental and physical agility and allows you to show off in public. Below is a video of Northgate Rapper from Bath, showing off in public!