Sheffield sword dancers show their mettle

Grenoside Sword Dance team
Grenoside Sword Dance team

It has quite a brutal beginning, but that should not deter anyone from taking up sword dancing, and keeping an age-old tradition alive.

So says seasoned sword dancer John Scholey, a member of the friendly Grenoside team that recently completed its annual ‘traipse’ around the village.

Grenoside Sword Dance is one of only five remaining traditional sword dances remaining in England, and can be traced back to the 1750’s, explained Mr Scholey.

Annually, on the Saturday after the first Sunday in January, the team tours the village on foot, dancing at different locations.

The first ‘traipse’ as it has come to be known, took place on January 8, 1994 as an attempt to recreate, in a modest way, the well-documented walking tours of teams from previous eras. Then, they would have walked for many miles.

This year the dancing started in the village reading room and following stops at several venues, ended at the Norfolk Arms public house

With about 10 active members aged anything from 30 to mid-seventies, the group is in no danger of folding but they would like new faces to join them and ensure both dance and tradition continue to thrive.

They execute just one dance, and it does have a bit of a dramatic start with a pretend beheading, said Mr Scholey.

He added: “It’s a ritual beginning, when the captain, who wears the furry cap, has his head encased within the swords. He then collapses and pretends to die.

“It’s not a difficult dance, although there is a clog step that is a bit tricky. It can take a few weeks to learn but then it sticks. I enjoy the dancing but also the fact that you are keeping tradition alive - I think that’s important.”

The meaning of the dance has been lost in the mists of time. The men wear traditional floral jackets in red and black, and one member has a wardrobe of costumes from down the years. The current ones were made by the Crucible after the team received a heritage grant.

Practice nights are held fortnightly on Thursdays with around six public appearances a year.

For more information contact Ray Ellison on 0114 245 3361.