The Rapper Sword Team in "Mary Anne"
The Rapper or "Short Sword" dance comes from he North East of England. The team consists usually of five men linked by rapper swords. These are flexible steel with a fixed handle on one end and a swivelling handle on the other. The dancers grip the moving handle in their right hand and the fixed handle of their neighbour's sword in the left.The swords are not supposed to be sharp, but after a few dances (where they are in sliding contact) they have a tendency to sharpen themselves and need "blunting".
The dance includes a special "Stepping sequence" that changes with the tradition. It is done to fast jigs and requires not only physical, but mental agility to avoid getting your fingers or your head cut off. We have regular vacancies in the team after practice and display sessions,
There are a number of Sequences of movements. Whether you get a back somersault in the sequence, depends entirely on the ability of the dancer at number 3 to execute it. using these swords and, as with other dance forms, they are associated with particular locations, The two traditions that Stafford have brought to "Performance Standard" over the years are from Winlaton and Newbiggin. Some figures are similar, but each has its own characteristics.
When Stafford dance the rapper in displays, they wear white shirts, black knee-breeches, long white socks and black shoes, A red cummerbund is worn round the waist with the 'tails' at the left hand side. The ends of each cummerbund sash is at a 45 degree angle and the theory is that both pointed sections go to the back. Trying to tie these in a rush is nearly as 'brain-scrambling' as the dance itself.
The figures we do for most displays are as follows:
March on, Swords up, Swords on shoulders, Nut, Rolls, Spin, Needles, Fiddler, Mary Anne and Line out.
Single guard, Moving Fixy, Changing the Guard, Reins, Prince of Wales, Princess and Open Ring.
Whether you get a back somersault in either sequence, depends entirely on the ability of the dancer at number 3 to execute it.
David Austen demonstrates the hard way of getting out of the Fiddler figure
The final show is done with the swords locked in a "Nut".
This time you have five swords locked so you may spot the shape
of the Pentacle of witchcraft.
As far as we know there is no significance in that. The five pointed star which results if the Nut is made properly is simply a mathematical fact.