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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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 dances are from Europe.
General sword dance forms include:
Sword dances performed by the guilds of Smiths and Cutlers in Nuremberg are recorded from 1350. 16th century records of sword dances survive from all over Germany. Depictions of dances survive from Zürich (1578) and Nuremberg (1600)
An important concentration of traditional sword dances can be found in the Italian side of western Alps. Main sites are Giaglione, Venaus and S. Giorio in the Susa valley, where the so called "Spadonari" (sword -holders) dance is still now performed between the end of January and the beginning of February. This dance is also connected with the rebirth of nature and vegetation.
Hilt-and-point sword dances traditional to England include rapper sword and long sword, although both of these are now also performed by revival teams outside their traditional areas, including teams in most of the English-speaking world. English sword dancing has also been brought to the New World, initially as part of the "morris revival" of the 1970s and 1980s. Teams are now extant in most major metropolitan areas in North America. The New York Sword Ale is an annual gathering over Presidents' Day weekend that brings together over a dozen sword teams form the east coast and around the world.