The Rapper Sword Dance
The dance was originally performed by miners in the pit villages of Tyneside and has gradually spread with revival groups worldwide. It is performed at speed by a team of five people continuously linked by flexible swords, called rappers, which are woven in and out of figures for display. The dancers step vigorously between and during the displaying of figures. The dancers are often accompanied by one or more comic characters, usually Tommy and Betty, who introduce the dance and collect the money. It is a fairly recent tradition which has evolved over less than two hundred years from much older traditions. This unique style has as far as we know no recorded parallel.
The dance is intended to be performed indoors, specifically in the pub bar, where rival teams would dance to collect money to support the families of those injured in the pits or impoverished by strikes and lockouts, or simply for beer money. The team raising the most applause would claim ‘The bag’! The dance has always had a competitive dimension. Historically, teams from neighbouring and rival collieries would compete to produce the most intricate and complex figures.