Rapper dancing is sword dancing. Not, of course, the effete style of sword dancing beloved of the Scots, in which they put the swords on the ground and prance around them at a safe distance. No; Englishmen keep firm hold of their swords -- and of their neighbour’s swords -- and dance linked togther by their swords. Indeed, it’s often said that it’s the swords that do the dancing.
This “Hilt-and-point” style of sword dance was found all over Europe. The first definite reference in England is from 1715 but, as with all activities of the “folk”, little notice would have been taken of such things by Authority, and the tradition probably goes back a lot further. In England linked sword dancing was found very largely in the north and east; the area of the Danelaw, and in the rest of Europe this style of dance is mostly found where the Danes settled. So, blame the Vikings for it.
In our style of dance, the Rapper dance, we use a flexible steel “sword”, the “Rapper”, rather than the stiffer“long-swords” of the older style of dance.These were probably cut down bits of broken worn-out pit gear in origin and only became available with the advent of much cheaper better steel from the Bessemer Converter in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
There is no tradition of Rapper Sword in Dorset, apart from our own that is. As with the Ladies team we've borrowed our dance from the north of England. But we do wear clogs for our dance, and in that we are probably more traditional than most other Rapper teams. Clogs would have been the working footwear of the miners who did these dances. They would crtainly not have worn the soft tap-shoes favoured by most contemporary teams.
For much more on this style of dance; its history and current state see this web site.