Traditional sword-dancing performance marks 52 years

Crowds gathered in the streets of Greatham to see a traditional sword-dancing performance.

Wednesday, 26th December 2018, 4:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 4:13 pm
Dancing with longswords

The annual Boxing Day Greatham Sword Dance delighted a crowd of about 100 people who gathered outside of the gates to The Hospital Of God at noon.

The “unique” plays saw six traditional folk dancers perform the traditional routine – marking the group’s 52nd performance of the Boxing Day dance.

The play is unique to Greatham

The group of the Redcar Sword Dancers revived the tradition back in 1967, but it is believed to date back more than 150 years.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The performance combines longsword dancing with accordion music and the performing of a play unique to Greatham – only performed on Boxing Day.

The 30-minute performance saw dancers put on a play which centres on one of the dancers who loses his head during the sword dance.

He is brought back to life by a travelling “quack” doctor and one of his remedies.

Around 100 spectators attended the event

Performers wore military-style uniforms with red jackets and carry steel swords, performing intricate longsword dances from the North East of England.

During the last dance, the performers are showered with coins from the crowd.

Folk dancer Brian Pearce, who has been taking part for 50 years, said he was delighted at the size of the crowd and is keen to keep the traditional dance alive.

He said: “It’s be a nice day today and we’ve had a good turn out here today.

“The days when it’s been throwing it down with rain or snowing, this is our 52nd year and we’ve never missed a year – we won’t miss a year.

“We come regardless of the weather. It’s unique. It’s the only one still surviving where the play and the dance are performed together. Lots of sword dances had the play, but they’ve lost it over the years.

“We’d like to keep it going for as long as we can – none of us are getting any younger. It’s not something that young people seem to be interested in taking up.”

Over the years, the Redcar dancers have performed at many different events and festivals both at home and abroad.

However, they only perform the play element in Greatham on Boxing Day.