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Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers

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1909 outside The New Crown in Handsworth

Handsworth is a suburb of Sheffield, in recent history a mining village. In this area there developed, some unknown time in the past, a sword dance for eight men, which is still performed today to the traditional pattern. The dancers wear dragoon-type uniforms and carry long-swords of inflexible steel about one metre in length. Shortly after the beginning of the ten-minute dance, they join to form a complete ring, and perform a series of complex ‘figures’, ending with a ‘lock’ of enmeshed swords, which can be carried aloft by one man. Traditionally performances take place at Christmas in the locality, and at functions and events by invitation at other places throughout the year.

...it is certainly one of the best and most inspiriting of the dances that still survive in Yorkshire

Cecil J. Sharp, The Sword Dances of Northern England, 3 pt. (London: Novello, 1911-13), III, page 37

 


Bargin Hunt

Handsworth Sword Dancers this year were happy to show our dance to the people who watch ‘Bargin Hunt’. It’s always a privilege and good fun to do something like this.  A few years ago we were on ‘Come Dine with me’ for all of 7 seconds, blink and you would miss it. Not many people know that we have also been on ‘The Archers’ (about 2007). We are not sure that the people working on the program knew! Two of the cast were chatting on May Day while watching Morris dancing, but it was the Handsworth music and you can hear the clash of the swords and the Handsworth drop step. It was easy to recognise the musician as Danny Gallagher.
This year it is 130 years since the Handsworth team started up after the Woodhouse team disbanded. We plan to do a few things to celebrate. At the beginning of the year we welcomed women into the team and on Wednesday 30th May at Loxley, Claire Adams danced our Richmond 7 longsword dance. Handsworth now do 4 longsword dances and of cause the Derby Tup.
        

We are seeking new dancers and musicians.
From January 2018 we are a mixed team. Welcoming male and female dancers and musicians to join us. (See News page for details).
Practices take place on Wednesday evenings 8 till 10pm in the Burton Street Centre, Sheffield (then straight to the pub). Being a member of the team brings the opportunity to take part in many interesting events and above all, to contribute to this famous local tradition.