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The Sword Dance Union is proud to support the tradition of sword dancing in the UK. There are two main styles of dancing; rapper sword and longsword, both are related but look very different. Teams consist of either men or women or are mixed.


The two main styles of sword dancing in the UK

Handsworth Longsword team c. 1910

Handsworth Longsword team c. 1910 (EFDSS)

The Longsword dance is a hilt-and-point sword dance recorded mainly in Yorkshire. It is related to the rapper sword dance of Northumberland and Durham, but the character is fundamentally different as rigid metal or wooden swords are used, rather than the flexible spring steel rappers used by its northern relation. For more information try HERE and HERE.


Rapper sword (also known as the “Short Sword” dance) is a variation of sword dance that emerged from the pit villages of Tyneside in North East England, where miners first performed the tradition.


Gaorsach (their website)

The dance requires five performers using “rapper swords” made from flexible steel. Accompanied by fast traditional music, the dancers wear shoes designed to make their loud stepping part of the performance. Mental alertness and physical agility is required in order for the dancers to effectively use the swords without causing harm to themselves or the audience. For more information about rapper try HERE and HERE.


Aims of The Sword Dance Union

  • Encourage and maintain the tradition, evolution and development of sword dancing
  • Strive for excellence of performance
  • Provide a social network giving support for any interested parties
  • Widen the public understanding of sword dancing
  • Being a point of contact for a network of knowledge and resources
  • Promote research relating to sword dance
  • Develop and maintain archives
  • Work alongside, together and support other organisations and individuals to achieve the objectives

The Committee are all volunteers who work to support any teams or individuals who need advice, encouragement or the benefit of long experience in the research and performance of these traditions.


Contacting The Sword Dance Union

You can contact a member of the Committee by using the email links below or by filling in the handy contact form. Or you could find the facebook page or contact us on twitter @SwordDanceUnion


Current Officers of The Sword Dance Union (click name to send an email)

Chair – Sally Wearing – overall responsibility for the SDU and main point of contact

Secretary – Phil Heaton – maintaining membership lists, meetings convenor and minutes

Treasurer – Sue Kiddler – memberships, financial transactions and statements

Rapper – Aubrey O’Brien – technical enquiries, workshops and instructionals

Longsword – Richard Bojanowski and Ian Davies – as above but for longsword

Archive – Phil Heaton – creating and maintaining an archive of sword dance material

Website – Edwin Dyson – online and social media activity and communications



“The Sword Dancers” by Joseph Crawhall


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