Continuity, conflict and change : a contextual and comparative study of three South Yorkshire longsword dance teams
This thesis is the result of an historical and anthropological investigation of the thrae longsword dance teams of South Yorkshire: the Grenoside Sword Dancers, the Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers and Barnsley Longsword. Longsword dancing is a form of traditional dance found throughout Europe and, with few exceptions, is historically specific in Britain to Yorkshire and the peripheral areas of adjoining counties. The approach is both diachronic and synchronic. Established anthropological research techniques (participant-observation combined with questionnaires and interviewing) were used during twenty-eight months of intensive fieldwork. Considerable library and archive research was also conducted. This study examines continuity and change in the dance, the dancers and their communities and draws attention to the role of conflict -- opposition between ideas and interests -- in the process of tradition. It presents detailed descriptions of the dances and traces changes in costume, style and structure. The nature of the dancers and their communities are explored from the 1880s up to the present, and the dance is considered as a dynamic product of group behaviour. Having previously received no serious academic attention, this study represents the first interdisciplinary exploration of the tradition of longsword dancing in the United Kingdom. It adds to the growing body of knowledge surrounding the history, development and current practice of traditional dance in England and provides the groundwork for future research in the field.