Triskele

John Chambers

Message 53336 · 7 Aug 2008 00:19:52 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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Oberdan Otto wrote:
| One really interesting thing I found was a youtube Triskele Sword
| Dance video:
|
| http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZAOhIjWwSU
|
| It is a group of 5 dancers (4 men and one woman, but gender does not
| play a role) wearing red shirts, black shorts, black knee-high
| stockings, some kind of apron thing with a pouch to the side and hard
| black shoes for stomping and tap-dance-like steps. They each had a
| "sword" (obviously not sharp), would hold a neighbors sword with the
| other hand and execute a number of complex interlocking figures going
| over and under the swords. The video last 4 minutes, so they go
| through quite a few arrangements. They dance to a 2-person combo of
| fiddle and squeezebox who are playing a jig. There was also one
| apparently rude person in coat and top had haranguing the dancers and
| getting in the way of the camera. Actually he had his own sword and
| eventually joined the others for the finale. The genre appears to be
| Morris "Dancing England Rapper". There are several other videos
| featuring other sword dancing groups, with costumes varying and
| number of dancers being 5 or 6. Apparently 6 swords are needed to
| make a self-supporting hexagonal pattern of swords that the dancers
| will sometimes display.

Actually, that's standard Rapper Sword Dance. There are a few hundred
groups around the world doing that sort of dance. Most are in England
(where it originated), and over across the pond in the US and Canada.
There are also teams in other countries, mostly those that were once
part of the British Empire. That's not nearly as many people as do
SCD, but it's still a significant "trad" dance form.

The style developed out of English longsword dancing in the early
1800s, soon after spring steel was invented. In addition to vehicle
springs, one of the earliest uses was this sort of sword, which
usually has handles at both ends. Often one handle swivels and the
other is fixed. Their original use was as a flexible scraping and
shaping tool for complex shapes like boat hulls, furniture, etc. I've
seen tools like this used at dog and horse shows, to press most of
the water out of an animal's hair after a bath.

Dancers saw the interesting things that could be done with such
flexible "swords", and morphed the slower longsword dance figures
into something that worked for a small group dancing fast. Longsword
and Rapper are usually associated with Morris dance, but they really
don't share much except for their grographical origin.

That extra guy is called the "fool", and is an integral part of the
dance form. The fool in that video didn't actually do much in the
routine. They often actively take part in the dance, mostly as a
comedy figure that tries to interfere with the dance or seems to be
ignorant of what it's all about. But the fool is the part that takes
the most expertise. After the fool joined the set, making six swords,
I kept expecting a "knot" (any stable form of interlocking swords)
with triple-spiral symmetry. But they didn't do it. Sigh.

(I've played music for Rapper and Morris teams for some 40 years now.
It's a lot of fun. Rapper can be especially fun for musicians who've
never tried it. Set your metronome to 160, and try playing some of
the jigs that you know best. That's about an average speed for the
dance. It can be a bit of a challenge at first. Then you get used to
it. Then they start saying "Slow down a bit." ;-)

--
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