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Dancers thrust into the limelight

Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers performed their annual Boxing Day dance in Woodhouse Market Square then at St. Mary's, Handsworth. They usually perform in front of Woodhouse Cross but the icy surface was to dangerous so they moved to a paved area thawed by the sun. Photos Peter Wolstenholme. 26/12/13

Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers performed their annual Boxing Day dance in Woodhouse Market Square then at St. Mary's, Handsworth. They usually perform in front of Woodhouse Cross but the icy surface was to dangerous so they moved to a paved area thawed by the sun. Photos Peter Wolstenholme. 26/12/13

Traditional performances by a Sheffield sword dancing troop proved a popular holiday draw – attracting some of their biggest crowds for years.

A 12-strong group of Handsworth Sword Dancers are expecting to have raised hundreds of pounds for charity Amy’s House.

A busy Boxing Day began with dancing for residents at the Housteads care home, Richmond Park Grove, Handsworth. Next came a performance in Woodhouse – but the cold conditions forced a change of plan.

Peter Machin, who has been part of the group since 1986, said: “It was so icy in front of the market cross that we couldn’t dance in the usual place – we had to move to a spot in front of the shops where the sun had warmed things through.”

The final stop was outside St Mary’s Church in Handsworth.

He said: “Our bucket was so full of money we could hardly lift it. It will be a big boost for Amy’s House, this is one of their biggest sources of income.”

This year’s performance featured a play about a king and a fool, and also included local carols.

Most of the dancers have been with the group for many years – the youngest is 35, while leader Les Seaman has been showing his sharpness with the swords for 50 years.

Peter said: “Les makes sure there are not too many changes, but there have been developments over the years – the dance has got faster and we have introduced a six-man version which means we can perform with fewer people. We always do something a little different each Boxing Day, we like to have some variety.

“We do need fresh blood, it is really difficult to find new recruits. Ideally we would like to set up a young people’s team which could do more energetic things we older ones can’t. Not that we want to stop – you don’t retire from sword dancing.”

The group’s next performance will be at a folklore festival in Edinburgh at the end of February.

Amy’s House is a respite centre for families with children aged five to 18 who have special needs. It is based at Ballifield Primary School, Handsworth Grange Road, Handsworth.

 

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