This year the wind is bitter cold, and Death turns up and helps stop the traffic (an important part of the preparation for the dance). I've never seen Death at this event before, so I suspect he's a freelance.
Today my camera is not working well, so check out this old blog post with some decent film of the dances: https://chaotopia-dave.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=grenoside
The Sword Dancers’ sequence involves two songs. In the first, the dancers hold each end of the ‘swords’ in a circle, then move round and through the circle in loops, stepping over the paired swords then raising them, until the hexagram form of the unconquered sun is produced and held up.
This seems like a cheerful form of the rhythms of work and frith, endless cycles under the calendar of the sun, the tune having a steady solid cheerful pace. With the second dance, the rhythm speeds up and swords clash – this is war. In the end, the resolution is the meeting of swords upright in the centre.
The weaving together of the dancers and thereby the swords forms a moving version of Germanic knotwork, the eternally-recurring forms of humans and animals woven together on the poles of life and death, the sacrifice of the king / the fox recalling ancient midwinter layers.