What is rapper?

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

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