What is rapper?

Northgate Rapper in mid-flow during their final practice for DERT 2013.

What is Rapper?

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. The dance requires five performers who coordinate themselves whilst using “rapper swords” made from flexible steel.

The accompanying music is traditional folk music (usually jigs in 6/8 time) and the dancers wear specially-designed shoes that allow for percussive foot movements. Both mental alertness and physical agility are required in order for the dancers to effectively utilise the swords without causing harm to themselves or the other performers. For more of this – click to read the wikipedia article HERE

What is a rapper sword?

A rapper is a strip of flexible steel about one inch (2.5 cm) wide and 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) long which has a handle or grip at each end. Any suitable strip of metal could be and was adapted for use as a rapper sword. Filed-down saw blades, bed laths and hoop iron were among the sources of flexible metal strips used to make rappers in the 19th century.

The Rapper Sword

A badly drawn example of a rapper sword

It is not known when the flexible rapper was first used, but it was certainly in use in 1880. Royal Earsdon’s oral tradition suggests they were using rappers by 1850. The earliest reference is is an anecdote from 1902 recollecting the use of flexible swords in around 1830, but such sources are very unreliable. To learn about the tools of the trade, please click to the Kingsmen’s site just HERE.

Early rappers had fixed handles at each end, although the modern design has one mounted on bearings to allow it to rotate. Purist sides such as Northgate and Black Swan prefer the traditional rappers as they give more control in the dance, but they are very much in the minority today.

The DERT Competition

Every year Northgate Rapper attempt to take part in DERT, the Dancing England Rapper Tournament. The dancing comes after the standard bickering about which dance we’ll do, who’s in what position and who’s called Shotgun for the car journey up there.

DERT 2019 goes back home! To Newcastle, and will be organised by the Newcastle Kingsmen, Star and Shadow, and Sallyport Sword Dancers.

Dates are 5th to 7th April 2019, and Northgate are definitely aiming to go (please see below). Martin does not want to be the sole Northgate member in kit, wandering around aimlessly like a Billy No Mates. Like he did in Sheffield.

Much more information to be disseminated in due course, and yes, we’ll keep you updated and posted as and when we know what we’re doing. Hopefully a rapper dance of some sort, but with Northgate you never actually know.

2018 saw the peripatetic sword-based roadshow taken over the Northern powerhouse that is Sheffield and was very ably run by the women of Sheffield Steel.

Sadly, as Edwin decided he’d prefer to be a judge Northgate weren’t able to compete. Bad Edwin. He’s promised never to be asked again.

Bristol - DERT lushIn 2015, the DERT competition was run in the the marvellous city of Bristol by the the shy and retiring lads of Northgate Rapper (yep, us), and what a splendid event it was.

Yes, we organised it! The pubs of Bristol turned out to be excellent for both rapper and beer. And there were only minor injuries. What more could anyone want?

A bit about the competition

The Dancing England Rapper Tournament is a continuation of the most significant rapper sword dance competitions that were held in Newcastle upon Tyne, the centre of the coalfields where the dance originated.

The modern annual weekend event, held at different venues in the UK, brings together teams and dancers from around the country and occasionally abroad.

While the element of competition is important, the social aspects are just as fierce. The essential idea behind the tournament was then and is now that teams have to practice well and develop their skills, giving their performance a polish and their audiences a treat.

Please read the rest of the Wikipedia article

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