Goodall House Make it Three in a Row at Traditional Dance Competition at Teesdale School
Teesdale School’s Interhouse Longsword Dance Competition has been won by Goodall House for a third successive year at a ‘Strictly-style’ final dance-off held in school just before Christmas. The Goodall team, captained once again by Ebony Grace-Morgan, held off stiff competition in the final from the school’s two other houses, Faraday and Newton, to retain the John Browell trophy. The trophy is named after a traditional folk musician and collector from Yorkshire, who gave the school a set of steel longswords on permanent loan. The competition was judged by John Browell himself, who has been dancing longsword for more than thirty years.
“In the run-up to Christmas there is perhaps nothing particularly unusual in an afternoon of entertainment with music, song and dance in a school, you may say,” said dance tutor Patrick Langdon, “but a youth longsword dance competition as part of that is certainly unusual, if not unique in the country!”
Longsword dancing is a traditional ritual dance that was common in northern England more than a century ago. Mike Bettison, researching on behalf of the Music at the Heart of Teesdale project (or ‘M@HoT’ for short), discovered references to sword dance in and around Barnard Castle. It would typically take place around the New Year when it was danced by young farm labourers who would have little employment and could earn a few coppers dancing round the big houses in the dale. Mike and fellow musicians Helen Bishop and Edward Hart-Davis, together with Patrick and Neil Diment of M@HoT, have been teaching a longsword dance to students from the school.
“We’ve run a full day of dance workshops for year 7 students as part of their music and dance curriculum at the school for the past five years now,” said Mike. “It’s great that we now have a group of youngsters in the school who meet to practise regularly, a sort of lunchtime longsword dance club,” he added. “The idea behind the interhouse competition was really to get more youngsters involved and give them something to work towards.”
John Browell was helped in the judging by Teesdale School Headteacher, Clare Ellis, and Dave Bradford , who is founder member of the Spen Valley Longsword dance team in Yorkshire, which Patrick Langdon and John both formerly danced with. John and David both travelled up especially for this event from Yorkshire.
Ms Ellis was particularly impressed with the standard of each of the house teams’ performance and commented, “It was lovely to see a Dales tradition thriving in our School. The winning team from Goodall House showed how team work, commitment and practising can help you win.”
Each dancer in the winning team also received a specially engraved medal. In presenting the trophy and medals, John said, “Youth teams are rare. To come to a school with three teams is really unusual. The enthusiasm and commitment of the pupils was great to see.” The newly-engraved trophy will be presented to the victorious Goodall team by Patrick and Neil at a special Achievements house assembly in school on Thursday, 10th January, and Goodall House now get to keep the trophy for another year.