The origin of sword dance can be traced to Western Europe during the late Middle Ages when trade guilds staged exciting displays of swordsmanship for public festivals and religious holidays. The form migrated throughout Europe and evolved in different venues during succeeding centuries. It is a popular element of Mardi Gras celebrations in Eastern Europe and remains a living tradition danced throughout England, Europe, and North America.
New World Sword follows the longstanding practice of adapting the culture and customs of the old world to the spirit and sensibilities of the new. Rather than reconstructing history, we mix traditional European dance figures with modern American theatricality. Our dances spring from historical sources, personal observations, and conversations with dancers from Antwerp to Zürich.
France - (Short Swords and Shields) - appears in Thoinot Arbeau's Orchesographie, a dancing manual published in 1589. It is said to contain elements of the Pyrrhic dances from ancient Crete in which warriors perfected their swordsmanship to musical accompaniment.
Inn River District Style Sword Dance
Austria - (Long Swords) - comes from the salt mining country around Salzburg. Our interpretation draws on early 20th century descriptions as well as elements from Bohemian dances.
USA - (Wooden Swords) - is an original New World Sword dance. Done in English style, it includes figures and sword locks from a variety of dances from Northern England. The unfurling of the flag is a tradition borrowed from Continental sword dancing.
Moravia (Wooden Swords) - [pronounced: Pod SHAH-bleh] - Czech for "under the sword." It is derived from a dance seen in the town of Strani in southern Moravia.
Our swords were forged by Maciej Zakrzewski of Starfire Sword. They are made from high-carbon steel, one inch wide and ¼ inch thick. Zak supplies weapons for theatrical productions and Renaissance festivals throughout North America.
Long Swords have been the favored weapon of men-at-arms for centuries. Ours weigh three pounds each, have solid mounted pommels (a pommel is the knob on hilt of a sword) and plain quillions (either arm of a transverse piece forming a guard for the hand between the hilt and blade of a sword [pronounced: kee-yawn]) with leather and copper accents on the hilts.
Short Swords are actually daggers. Each weighs one and one half pounds. They are perfectly balanced and designed for quick, clashing movements.
Shields are twelve-inch splash cymbals stolen from trap sets found in attics, basements, and garages in the tristate area.
Wooden swords are often used in Central and Eastern European dances. This practice dates to the Austro-Hungarian Empire when nervous authorities periodically purged villages of all weaponry. Unwilling to abandon their traditions, the dances continued with wooden swords.
Text Source: Stephen D. Corrsin. Email Steve