Rival Sheffield sword dancers from Handsworth and Grenoside break with tradition for thrilling display

In a team-up fit for the finale of a West End play, two rival sword dancing troupes joined forces to thrill crowds in Sheffield.

Friday, 31st December 2021, 12:31 pm
Updated Friday, 31st December 2021, 12:32 pm

For the first time in decades of competing, in a display that broke with tradition, the Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers united with their eternal rivals, Grenoside Swords Dancers, for two stellar performances on Sunday and Monday.

Our pictures below capture how more than a hundred residents turned out on the wet and windy Boxing Day to watch the traditional performers show off their complex choreography, culminating in the captivating ‘locking’ of the dancers’ six swords.

The ancient sport has been performed in the Woodhouse and Handsworth area for more than 160 years.

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Handsworth, Woodhouse and Grenoside were treated to a daring display of traditional sword dancing from two rival teams on December 26 and 27.

The Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers dress in military uniforms and stage a public performance every Boxing Day.

But tradition states that the troupe also never performs on a Sunday – so when December 26 fell on the sabbath, the groups decided this was the year for some radical changes.

Not only did they strike out and put on the show in the face of convention, they also – for the first time ever – teamed up with their rivals, Grenoside Sword Dancers, for the benefit of the crowd.

The former adversaries performed on Sunday in Woodhouse and then Handsworth, as well as on Monday in Grenoside.

Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers perform in Woodhouse.

The two teams’ performances were captured on camera by photographer Peter Wolstenholme, but as our other photos show, the groups have a rich history of dancing in the Sheffield area.

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Grenoside Sword Dancers and Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers, who for the first time ever teamed up to perform together for the crowd.
The dancers broke tradition to perform on Boxing Day. They hold a performance every December 26, but it fell on a Sunday, which they traditionally also never dance on... but they put on their show all the same.
Grenoside Sword Dancers, pictured here with an excited child from the crowd who got himself involved, and almost stole the show.
The two rival teams pose for a group photo.
The Grenoside dancers.
A historic photo of Grenoside Sword Dancers, year unknown. Sword dancing has been performed in Handsworth, Woodhouse and Grenoside for over 160 years.
Sword are held by a member of the Grenoside Sword Dancers ahead of their performance in Grenoside. A Longsword dance has been performed after Christmas in the village of Grenoside since the early 1800's.
Grenoside sword dancers, by John Scholey.
Members of the Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers perform in Grenosid, a suburb of Sheffield, South Yorkshire. A Longsword dance has been performed after Christmas in the village of Grenosid since the early 1800's. The tradition, that now sees several sword dancing troupes perform alongside traditional morris dancers, usually takes place on Boxing Day, but this year it was the date was moved because boxing day fell on a Sunday.