After being reinstated last year, Dancing England will be coming to the Nottingham Playhouse stage on Saturday 26 January 2019 to showcase the finest in traditional dancing. With it, comes Nottingham’s own Whip the Cat Rapper and Clog…
Merged and melded with music, downright oddities and folkloric acts, films, exhibitions, workshops, stalls and merchandise and plenty of real ale, Dancing England finishes with a kick-ass ceilidh.
One of the groups dancing next January are Nottingham’s very own Whip the Cat Rapper and Clog, so we spoke to their squire better known as “the Cat’s mother”, Linda Sullivan, to find out what all this rapper dance lark is about.
Linda, who had a background in Morris dancing, founded the all-women’s rapper group in 1999 after she decided that she wanted to give rapper a go.
She says: “We founded it in 1999 and we were aware of the fact that it had been going on for quite a few years before we set up, so we went along to our first in London in 2000 just to spectate and see what it was all about and we just got bitten by it.”
Rapper sword is a variation of sword dance that emerged from the pit villages of Tyneside in North East England, where miners used their tools to first perform the dance. Originating from the nineteenth century, the dance requires five performers who co-ordinate themselves while using “rapper swords” made from flexible steel. It is also generally accepted that the dance was originally performed in the mining villages of Northumberland and Durham.
In March of 2018 Whip the Cat won and pretty much swept the league boards at the Dancing England Rapper Tournament (DERT).
Linda says: “We just hit lucky this year, we just absolutely peaked, and we did it and it’s taken us a very long time, but it was the most thrilling thing ever and to top it off all women’s teams came first second and third and that’s never happened. We not only won we pretty much swept the board.”
Whip the Cat Rapper and Clog however didn’t just rise to success overnight, it was only after competing in DERT for sixteen years that they finally won.
“It was just wonderful because we took a long time, we took lots of years to get there and we were pretty crap to start with, but we just kept going, kept learning, kept getting better. We didn’t give up,” says Linda.
When talking about how much it meant for Whip the Cat to be chosen to perform at Dancing England Linda says: “It’s an absolute honour and, personally for me, it’s a very special thing because I’ve danced at Dancing England, one of the original ones in 1986. I danced there with my Morris team. It was at the Derby assembly rooms and it was one of the most thrilling and prestigious things I’ve ever done and then to be asked to go back is just wonderful for me.”
Whip the Cat Rapper and Clog are a very inclusive rapper group and take on women of all ages and abilities and encourage people who want to get involved to not be afraid to do so.
“We’re very proud of the fact that we have a complete mixed age range. We have students that are from eighteen and nineteen, all the way to a few of us knocking on sixty and over. That’s quite unusual.”
Dancing England will take place at the Nottingham Playhouse on Saturday 26 January at 6.30pm.