"They broke a sword this morning, and from the look of the stress marks on the one they replaced it with, it's going to break soon, too," said a friend on Charles River Rapper and Velocirapper. Those were two of the thirteen rapper and longsword teams to attend the 15th Annual Half Moon Sword Ale, hosted by Half Moon Sword in New York City, 19-20 February.
I drove up with fellow SwarthMorris dancer Andrew Stout from Philadelphia to watch all thirteen teams perform late Saturday afternoon at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal next to Battery Park, Manhatten - partly to see friends I rarely see outside of camp sessions and partly to see some great dancing and get inspirations for Swarthmore College's fledgling morris and longsword (and eventually rapper) team.
In theory, the drive should have taken two hours, and we would have been able to take in an afternoon stand in Central Park with three of the teams beforehand, but a two-hour traffic jam leading up to the Holland Tunnel ended those hopes. New York City traffic doesn't really let up on a Saturday afternoon, we discovered.
We still had a much easier time getting there than many of the teams, most of whom came down from Boston. New England had just been snowed, sleeted, and iced the day before, as many folks were trying to drive down. Most of Charles River Rapper made the (normally for them) 4 hour trip in a little over 8 hours on Friday evening, while one of their members didn't make it down until mid-day Saturday! A little clogging helped fill out their early morning time.
Meanwhile, all of Velocirapper made it down from Boston, and former team member Andrew Marcus came down from Cornell University (in Ithaca, New York) to join them. The teenaged rapper side discovered their youthful vigor was stronger than their spring steel at their first stand of the morning, when they broke a rapper sword in the middle of a rose-lock! They kept dancing, with a dancer grabbing the new, rougher end of the now-shortened sword, and during the next ring a new sword was substituted in mid-dance.
"We only came with six swords, and when we broke that one, we borrowed one from another team," said Andrew. "And then ... at the next stand, we broke another one ..." Velocirapper brought swords down from Pinewoods, which were about 40 years old - twice the age of the dancers - so it's not unheard of that they'd break like that, but it certainly is unfortunate for the team that they lost two at one ale. Their performance at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal went without a hitch, though.
The most unique performance, and one of the most polished, was Orion Longsword's dance to Dave Brubeck's "Take Five", as played on saxaphone, electric guitar, and an upturned pasta pot, while Long Tall Sword took the prizes for most amazing kit and most flexible wrists, wearing rag suits and adapting some rapper figures into their longsword dance.
There's no better place to see sword dancing, but if you plan to come next year, leave extra time for traffic and weather, and bring a spare sword or two, just in case.
Long Tall Sword
Half Moon Sword Ale
©2000 Will Quale, Shave The Donkey