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History of Manx dance revealed

Thu, 05 Nov 2020

‘…while the others did some capers’: the Manx Traditional Dance revival 1929 to 1960 By Cinzia Curtis

Manx Dancing: The Sword Dance is an ancient ritualistic Manx dance. As with Manx music, one can see the Irish Scottish and Welsh influences, yet they remain defiantly Manx! (www.celticnationsworld.com/Culture_celtic_dance.htm)

This quote appears on a website titled ‘Celtic Nations World’. Typical of many Celtic websites, this site purports to be a central information base for all of the Celtic countries, with the flags of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Galicia, Brittany and the Isle of Man emblazoned above every page. When the words ‘Manx Dance’ are entered into Google, a commonly used search engine, this site appears in the top few choices. But is the information given above true?

The Sword Dance is singled out, although this dance is only performed once a year by one man, so why does the site not mention any of the other dances; those now popular with all of the Manx dance groups and which are performed at every Manx cultural event on the Island? While Manx dance does have some very obvious similarities with Irish, Scottish and Welsh dancing is it true to single them out as influences? And if so, why were Manx dances not influenced by England, as it is geographically as close as the three Celtic countries mentioned? Furthermore, if the dances are influenced by outside cultures, why and how do they ‘remain defiantly Manx’? The tone of the last remark implies that the dances are in some way having to assert their identity in the face of some disbelief as to their origins. All of the above queries lead to one over-arching question that must be answered in order to understand the quote on the website; where do Manx dances come from? It is this question that lies at the heart of this study. 


This dissertation was submitted in partial fulfilment of the degree of Master of Arts in Manx Studies, Centre for Manx Studies, University of Liverpool. By Cinzia Curtis, September 2006