The Rapper Sword tradition (which has no connection with rapping in the sense of rap music) was traditionally performed in the mining villages of the Northumberland and Durham coalfield in North East England, especially in Tyneside. The dance involves five people (often accompanied by two Tommy and Betty characters) connected by short, two-handled, flexible swords (called rappers) forming an unbroken chain. The dance is related to the Long Sword dance of Yorkshire, as well as other sword dances in Europe.
The dance is a fairly rapid one, performed at around 100-160 beats per minute, with different team styles using different rates. It should nonetheless be performed in a smooth and graceful manner, with one figure flowing seamlessly into the next. A number of acrobatic figures can be employed, including forward and backward somersaults over swords held at waist height. It is beyond reasonable dispute that rapper is the most exciting of England’s traditional dances to watch.
Scally Rapper dancing at the Boxing Day Revels, Willaston, 2012.