The Longsword Dance
The earliest written record of sword dancing in England - discovered so far - comes from Nicholas Blundell’s Diaries, written between 1702 and 1728. Nicholas was the Lord of the Manor of Little Crosby in Lancashire. The earliest record of sword dancing in Yorkshire dates back to 1789, although it is highly likely that it was practiced quite widely well before those dates, and still is.
The dance itself is a hilt-and-point sword dance recorded mainly in Yorkshire and neighbouring counties. Hilt-and-point refers to the fact that each dancer has the hilt of their own sword in one hand, and the point of their neighbour’s sword in the other, so forming a circle. The dancers then proceed to perform the dance weaving under, over and through the swords without breaking the links. Of the English sword dances Longsword is probably the more ancient dance style. Rigid metal or wooden swords are used, rather than the flexible swords used in the rapper style from Northumberland and Durham. The number of dancers is usually 6 or 8, although dances with 5 people have been recorded.