Here (thanks to Vera for giving me the correct Czech phrase to search with) is a Czech longsword dance.
Note the shape of the swords with the hole handle. Also, can you see the rings attached to the swords. This has a definite impact on the form of the dance. See how the dancers bounce the swords up and down on their shoulders to make the rings jangle. I rather like this aspect.
The stepping (on the evidence of this dance) is a more energetic single step than English longsword dancers use - it gives the dance an energy.
However, (and this is a sample of very few dances) I think the rings have another impact on the dance. Looking at the swords, they appear thicker than the typical English longsword, hence less flexible. But the key point about the rings is that, combined with the less flexible sword, they make it impossible to weave the swords together. They can't form a nut.
What is a nut? (Or 'knot' if you prefer, or 'lock')
Watch this video below. Right at the end, the men form a nut (the big star that they lift into the air). Also, compare the style of stepping. See the much smaller step of English Longsword, almost a slow running step - and the music reflects this. English music for both longsword and rapper tends to be very even and monotonous (that's related to the nature of the figures which don't fall easily into multiples of four bars).
Then, look at the similarities. Apart from stylistic differences in the way the swords are moved through the figures, the first two figures are identical in the English and Czech dances. Essentially, going under swords and going over swords, with each dancer repeating the move in turn.
Now, the other really fascinating comparison is the mock execution. I suspect folklorists really have a field day with this one. In the Czech version, the victim kneels down and is 'executed' with a headman's axe by each dancer in turn. In the English version, the victim is placed in the centre of the nut and 'killed' as the swords are drawn out.
Is this some obscure pagan survival or simply the fact that a dance using swords logically leads the dancers to think that executing someone would be part of a good performance?
I suspect the second is far more likely. (There was a loose association historically between mumming plays and longsword dances with one of the characters in the play sometimes being 'killed' in this manner.)
The distribution of Longsword dances can be seen here
- they're very much from the North East of England.
This last clip is Czech again. It shows the rings on the swords in much better detail, but otherwise it's pretty much like the first clip.
The generic term for dances of this kind is 'linked sword dances'.
I may do a later post looking for examples in other European countries.