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Dancing with swords

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Michelle Michelle | 15:52 UK time, Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Hi I'm Michelle. I've been away from the Learning English team for a while but I'm glad to be back and am excited to be writing for the staff blog!

I hope everyone enjoyed a lovely festive period. Being back at work can be a bit of a shock, but at least I was lucky enough to have a lovely long break over Christmas, which I spent with my family in Newcastle.

One of my favourite things about going 'back home' for Christmas is getting to see the group of 'sword dancers' who, every year, jig their way around all the pubs in the village where my mum and dad live. It's a popular annual event and brings out all the locals to watch the spectacle.

The 'Northumbrian rapper sword dance' is a traditional folk dance with its roots in the north east of England. It's a lot of fun to watch as it involves a troupe of dancers prancing around in a circle and clashing swords!

It's quite an intricate dance and a lot more elegant than it sounds. To the untrained eye, it looks a bit like morris dancing, but with swords instead of bells and sticks.

I wasn't able to get hold of any sword dancing photos, but here's a picture of morris dancers - another type of traditional dancing in England.


The Northumbrian rapper sword dance is a tradition that apparently started in the north east of England as a recreational activity in mining villages. Work conditions were very tough for miners so they threw themselves into hobbies such as dancing and singing.

I think it's lovely that there are still some groups today which take sword dancing seriously - even if they do enjoy one or two beers in the pubs they perform in along the way!

Northumberland is quite a rural part of England and that might help the area to keep its folk traditions alive. As well as the sword dance, we've got clog dancing, folk singing, and once when I was younger I even tried to learn the 'folk cello' - although I wasn't very good!

Historic Bamburgh Catle in Northumberland.

I'd love to hear about any interesting folk traditions where you live. Maybe you've tried your hand at folk singing or dancing yourself? Do people in your area make an effort to keep these kinds of traditions 'alive'?

Hoping to hear back from you soon.


Jig - dancing around in a quick, lively manner
Prancing - jumping around or moving in a lively way
Intricate - detailed
To the untrained eye - to people who don't know a lot about the particular subject
Morris dancing - a form of English folk dancing
Threw themselves into - getting wholeheartedly involved


  • Comment number 1.

    Very intersting

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Michelle,
    First and foremost I just want to say ´Thanks Michelle´ for share with us the beauty of English traditions and music.In my country we have lots of rhythms, dancers, music and traditions. Just for today take a look on
    Hope to hear from you soon.
    All the best,

    Colombia, South America

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Michelle!

    I´m Alejandra and I´m from Colombia!

    I loved your pics and your story :) I´m a fan of the traditions because memories are a kind of parallel life that never ends.

    In my country we have a lot of dances, rhythms, songs, art creations, happy people and god attitude :D

    I´ll be in touch!"

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Michelle!
    thank you for your story.
    In Spain we've been spending most of our traditions but we've keep the tradition to eat twelve grapes at New Years Eve.

  • Comment number 5.

    hi Michelle!
    thanks for sharing ur traditions
    we have got similar dancing in some part of our country(iran.middle east)
    ur story was intresting
    wish u the best

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Michelle,

    Welcome back to the Learning English team and want to give you a big thanks for your wonderful post. Like you, I believe most of the people visit there native home to celebrate the special day with their friends and families. I am also one of them who always pass his days in Village with FNF and neighbors.

    Generally the people who live in the rural are carrying out traditional activities like folk song, dancing etc. In my country, Bangladesh situated in East Asia has a lot of traditional activities which diverse it from other county. Though almost 80% people of this country educated with remarkable contribution in the World in various section however they are also aware about their tradition. Where ever they are living, they try to come those special days in their native country. Though it is not possible sometime but they celebrate there, wherever they are with traditional activities.

    One of the tradition is folk song, called group song. Singers sit in round where general people also stay behind them and enjoy the songs throughout the time. Normally it start from 8pm/9pm and continue till late night. It’s really amazing and enjoyable.

    I love this kind of traditional activities besides the modern life where we are busy all the time with various activities that directly effect on our financial condition, however we hardly think about our mental refreshment. I believe this kind of traditional activities definitely help us for our mental refreshment.

    Thanks again and look forward to hearing from you more interesting post.

  • Comment number 7.

    Michelle, I liked your post and it make me think the true meaning of culture and traditions of a people. My country is Brazil, a big country with differents songs, dances and older children's play. Unfortunately it's impossible to know well all the Brazilian folklore. Always I can travel to another regions in my country I try to find new cultural knowledge.
    Thanks a lot, Michelle.

  • Comment number 8.

    Dear Michelle,
    I liked your post very much. It was my first time at "Learn English Blog", and it began with such a wonderful story.
    As for me, I live in Kazakhstan, Almaty. But I'm Russian. So there are mixed traditions in encirclement near me. For example, my mother cooks either Russian 'bliny', or Kazakh 'beshbarmak' for a supper. Livin' in Kzakhstan, all people become generous and hospitable, b'coz it's the main attribute of Kazakh people. Whereas Kazakhstan took from Russia the language, system of education, culture. We live there, learning pbligatory three languages-kazakh, russian, english, but it's a great fun for me to get to know more about cultures of another countries.
    That's all for now.
    Best wishes,


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