• Upcoming trips

    September 7 to 15 Tony and Jo will visit us from the UK

    13-23 January, 2018 Cruise out of New York around the Caribbean on the Norwegian Gem

  • theatre and Concerrts

    July 1  Saw “Napoli, Brooklyn” by Meghan Kennedy at the Laura Pels Theatre. It is based upon a real-life disaster, the surprise staging of which, is mind shattering! However, the story line has a surfeit of themes added; religious brain-washing, the effect of a bullying husband and father and lesbian freedom. None of these is fully convincing in spite of the excellent acting of the cast.

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Sword-play in Central Park!

As an ex-Londoner, I am a little ashamed to admit that my knowledge of sword dancing was confined to the Scottish variety in which, two or four men with hairy legs and kilts a-flying do a fast tip-toe over a couple of sharpened swords laid crosswise on the ground.  Being apprenticed in the City of London, my father was a freeman of the City and was theoretically entitled to carry a sword within its limits.  But he never got round to owning a sword–I suppose he thought it would have been too awkward to buckle on in the subway. However, the Bar, where non-freemen would have been challenged, still exists in London’s Fleet Street.

I was, therefore, completely surprised to learn that there is a very lively interest in the United States, in English sword dancing and that the number of performing groups is expanding rapidly. On the 18 and 19th, February, 12  teams from six States and Canada gathered in New York to perform in the 27th Annual English Sword Dance Festival. Teams from various groups gave performances in Manhattan and Brooklyn with a grand finale at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

I went to a performance in the Dana Discovery Center at the north end of Central park. The dances, based on ancient rituals , perhaps, have many distinct forms and are, I imagine, best performed in the open air with lots and lots of space; which the Dana Center didn’t have. The sponsers  were probably surprised by the size of the audience which was “standing room only”.  But the enthusiasm of the performers and their serious dedication could not be denied. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience:

Enterprising gate-crasher

But, before the show begins, an explanation of the origins of the various forms of dance by Sarah. And questions to be answered by the kids squatting on the floor in the front rows

On with the dance . . . . . .

. . . . to the left . . . . .

. . . . and all around!

. . . . the concentrated musicians keep strict time so that no swords are misplaced.

Eye shadow was inventive in those days

Touche - Don't mess with these ladies!

Flexible swords called rappers (?)

Truce!

This is a right tangle . .

Eureka! this star is the end-game.

As is common now, men were disposed to dress up as ladies in those days. The object then, was, firstly to hide their identity and secondly to have more luck in their efforts to con the rich into supplying them with free beer between dances!

Lone fiddler gave a Western feel to some of the dances

This lady supplied the vocals

Men wore eye shadow too

Spectators' Gallery - The gate-crasher was too embarassed to face the stage! Watch that seagull gentlemen!

This young lady from the audience was delighted to be invited for the finale and was delightful in her intricately coiffed and decorated hairstyle

The New York  team is called: “Half Moon Sword”, a name borrowed from Henry Hudson’s ship, the Halve Maen, on which he sailed  to America in 1609. You can read all about the Half Moon Sword, Traditional English Sword Dancing on their website: www.halfmoonsword.org

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2 Responses

  1. Lovely pictures. Thank you!…as someone who is in a few (and just arrived in London).

  2. David, Thank you. I was glad to be able to recognise you from your avatar as the second dancer in on pictures 3 and 4. Best wishes for your team. Ben Thompson

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