Teesdale Longsword Dancers Shine at National Gathering

Teesdale Longsword Dancers Shine at National Gathering

Press Release, 30 September 2014

Early on the morning of Saturday 27th September, a team of six young Longsword dancers left Teesdale School on the school minibus to perform at a “Day of Dance” in Keswick. They had been invited, along with over 30 different dance groups from around the country, as part of a national gathering for traditional dance groups held annually by the Morris Federation. The only youth Longsword team to be invited, the Teesdale dancers aged between 10 and 14 performed superbly. Their efforts were much appreciated and loudly applauded by supportive audiences throughout the day.

Teesdale Longsword dance team with tutor Patrick Langdon

The Teesdale Longsword dance team display the “Lock” at the end of their afternoon Showcase performance, as tutor Patrick Langdon leads a reluctant onlooker (and local Belfagan dancer) forward for her ritual decapitation! (Photo courtesy David Hilton.)

“It is brilliant to see the youngsters keeping the tradition alive and obviously enjoying it,” said Jan Dickins, secretary of the local Belfagan Women’s Morris dance group who had organised the whole event. It was she who had invited the Teesdale Longsword Dance team over to Keswick to take part when she had seen them dance in Barnard Cattle in May. She added, “We especially liked the audience participation part,” referring to the surprise ending of the dance when a “ritual decapitation” of a member of the audience takes place. Fortunately the children dance with wooden swords – for obvious health and safety reasons!

Teesdale Longsword Dance team perform a ritual decapitation

Tutor Patrick Langdon and members of the Teesdale Longsword Dance team look tentatively on in anticipation of the ritual decapitation of a Belfagan Lady by the team. (Photo courtesy David Hilton.)

The team performed at four different spots around the town during the morning and after a packed lunch – much of which seemed to find its way into the ducks and geese on the shores of Derwentwater – all the different teams got to dance in front of each other at a special Showcase performance near the town centre.

“Being out with the dance side at the last dance spot outside the hall in the afternoon with lots of people and lots of other dancers watching us was … Well, it was only spot in the day I had a dry mouth!” Patrick Langdon the team’s dance tutor, was moved to say after seeing the dance side that he”d coached over the past two years put on a really good final performance that was so well received.

Teesdale Longsword Dance team performing at Day of Dance event in Keswick

The Teesdale Longsword Dance team and Belfagan Lady victim seem to look upon the ritual decapitation at the end of their performance at the national Day of Dance event in Keswick as a bit of a joke! (Photo courtesy David Hilton.)

At the end of their dance, the Master of Ceremonies said, “The future of traditional dance is in good hands with young people like these.” And what of the young dancers themselves? “I loved seeing the different dances and making other people smile and having a great time,” said Ebony Grace-Morgan. Her friend Heather McLachlan agreed, adding, “We got to watch all the different groups from all around the country dancing, and perform in their different styles.”

Simon Maguire, Co-Principal at Teesdale School, said, “We are delighted that these students have given such a good account of themselves at this prestigious national event. As well as reviving a venerable local tradition, longsword dancing is making a huge contribution to the vibrancy of Teesdale School. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the adults in the community who are involved, as well as of course the young people themselves, for all their hard work.”

His colleague, Helen Bishop, who manages to combine her role as librarian at the school with being longsword dance champion and musician for the team said, “They weren’t fazed by the occasion at all – they went out and did what they had to do and did it well. It was cracking!”

The Teesdale Longsword Dance team are part of the Music at the Heart of Teesdale project (or “M@HoT” for short), which aims to revive the music, song and dance traditions of Teesdale and is primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. “It was a brilliant day and we all had fun and enjoyed ourselves. What an excellent experience!” wrote Helen Piercy-Mycock afterwards for her report for the M@HoT Newsletter. To receive a copy of the newsletter or for more information about the project, contact the project coordinator, Neil Diment at neil@ndiment.co.uk.