Rapper Sword Dancing is originally from Northumberland and County Durham in the United Kingdom. It involves at least five dancers, each with a two handled flexible sword, also known as a "hilt-and-point" sword. While the earliest written account of sword dancing dates back to 1715, the flexible Rapper sword was introduced in the nineteenth century. An exact date is unknown, but, according to www.rapper.org.uk, the Rapper sword was definitely in use by 1880, and anecdotal evidence suggests that they may have been used from 1820.

The Swords

The swords are approximately two and a half feet (75cm) long (but this can be varied depending on requirements). The sword itself is made of spring steel, and the handles are made of wood. One handle of the sword is free to rotate and is held in the dancer's right hand (the hilt), while the other handle is fixed to the sword and is held in the left hand of the neighbouring dancer (the point).

The Dancing

After forming a circle with each member holding a handle of their sword in their right hand and one of their neighbour's in their left, the swords are used to make shapes and figures. The dancers are numbered 1 to 5, anticlockwise. The five dancers are required to make up the basic set. There is scope for up to seven dancers, with the extra one or two performing as what is known as a 'Betty' or a 'Tommy'. The role of a Betty or a Tommy is mostly to engage the audience, make humorous comments and appear to distract the dancers in the same way as a fool does with a Morris dancing side, but also to occasionally join the dancing circle.

The dance is performed to music in a 6/8 time, either to a step or a brisk walk.

There are numerous dancing teams and competitions in and around the UK as well as abroad. More side-specific infomation can be found at the excellent and informative www.rapper.org.uk.