sword dance


sword dance
sword dancer.
any of various dances, usually performed by men, in which swords are ceremonially flourished or are laid on the ground and danced around.
[1595-1605]

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Folk dance by men, with swords or two-handled blades, expressing themes such as human and animal sacrifice for fertility, battle mime, and defense against evil spirits.

It originated in Greek and Roman times. A sword dance appeared in Germany in 1350 and later was part of the court ballet when mock battles were staged. The Scottish sword dance is a descendant of the early crossed-sword dances, and the Morris dance retains remnants of the sword dance. Outside of Europe, such dances are found in India, Borneo, and the Balkans.

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 folk dance by men, with swords or swordlike objects, displaying themes such as human and animal sacrifice for fertility, battle mime, and defense against evil spirits. There are several types. In linked-sword, or hilt-and-point, dances, each performer holds the hilt of his own sword and the point of that of the dancer behind him, the group forming intricate, usually circular, patterns. Combat dances for one or more performers emphasize battle mime and originally served as military training. Crossed-sword dances are performed over two swords or a sword and scabbard crossed on the ground. Finally, guerrilla dances in circular formation are often performed with swords.

      Hilt-and-point dances are widely distributed through Europe—e.g., in northern England, Basque territory, and Spain. They are often performed as part of a folk play. The plays are closely related to the English mummers plays and parallel the Greek folk play in Thrace. In the dance the swords are interlocked at one point, forming a “rose,” or “lock,” that is held aloft and placed around the neck of a performer in mock decapitation. Often the “beheaded” falls “dead,” to be revived by a “doctor,” a fool, a man-woman, or other subsidiary character. The roots of these dances are in ancient vegetation rites of death and renewal, possibly in sacrifice of a leader to ensure fertility. Even today they are believed to bring luck or well-being.

      Dances of stylized battle mime survive in modern Turkey (some with rifles replacing swords), in the dirk dance of Scottish Canada, in Borneo, and elsewhere. The pyrrhic dance of ancient Greece served as an exercise of military training until late antiquity, when it degenerated into popular professional entertainment. The hassapikos, or butchers' dance, of Turkey and ancient and modern Greece—now a communal social dance—was in the Middle Ages a battle mime with swords performed by the butchers' guild, which adopted it from the military.

      Crossed-sword dances are common in Europe (e.g., Scotland, the Balkans) and also appear in India, Borneo, and other areas. Characteristically, one or more dancers execute precise, complicated steps over and between the swords. The famed Scottish solo dance Gillie Callum, which is danced to a folk melody of the same name, is first mentioned only in the early 19th century. In its close relative, the English solo Bacca pipes jig, crossed clay pipes replace the swords. There are evidences that such dances formerly included swordplay. In the Scottish Argyll broadsword dance, the four performers flourish their swords before laying them on the ground, points touching, to form a cross. Possible ancient ritual meaning is suggested by the frequent belief that if a sword is touched, even lightly, the dance must be stopped.

      Guerrilla dances survive particularly in the Balkans and Turkey, long afflicted by invading armies. Typically, they are in circular formation, beginning with the leaders whirling and making whiffling sounds with their swords. Improvised dance, often with battle mime, follows. The whiffling of swords also occurs in the Balkan rusalia, a ritual dance for healing and fertility. It also precedes several English hilt-and-point dances and possibly derives from ancient whiffling to clear the dance area of evil spirits.

      Many European sword dances were taken over by trade guilds, trade implements often replacing swords. Dances with sticks are related both to sword dances and to Morris dances (q.v.) and moriscas, ritual dances usually for a double file of men. Many dances of the Morris–morisca family employ swords.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sword dance — Sword dances are recorded from throughout world history. There are various traditions of solo and mock battle (Pyrrhic) sword dances from Greece, the Middle East, India, China, Korea, and Japan, while all known linked ( hilt and point ) sword… …   Wikipedia

  • Sword dance — Sword Sword (s[=o]rd), n. [OE. swerd, AS. sweord; akin to OFries. swerd, swird, D. zwaard, OS. swerd, OHG. swert, G. schwert, Icel. sver[eth], Sw. sv[ a]rd, Dan. sv[ae]rd; of uncertain origin.] 1. An offensive weapon, having a long and usually… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • sword dance — n. any dance, esp. by men, involving the use of swords, esp. one performed around bare swords laid on the ground sword dancer n …   English World dictionary

  • sword dance — n a dance in which people dance over swords or using swords …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • sword dance — sword ,dance noun count a traditional Scottish dance in which you dance around two crossed swords laid on the floor …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • sword dance — noun any of various dances by men who step nimbly over swords or flourish them in the air • Syn: ↑sword dancing • Hypernyms: ↑folk dancing, ↑folk dance * * * noun 1. : a ceremonial English and west European folk dance executed by men in a ring by …   Useful english dictionary

  • Sword dance — Schwerttänze sind eine Gruppe von Volkstänzen.Sie schließen Schützentänze, Scheinschlachttänze und Duotänze oder Solotänze, wie beispielsweise traditionelle schottische Schwerttänze, ein. Auch der Messertanz, ein mittelalterlicher Zunfttanz,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • sword dance — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms sword dance : singular sword dance plural sword dances a traditional Scottish dance in which you dance around two crossed swords laid on the floor …   English dictionary

  • sword dance — noun Date: 1604 1. a dance performed by men in a circle holding a sword in the right hand and grasping the tip of a neighbor s sword in the left hand 2. a dance performed over or around swords • sword dancer noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • sword dance — noun (C) a Scottish dance in which people dance between and around swords that are laid on the ground sword dancer noun (C) sword dancing noun (U) …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English


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