In 1981, a group of twenty-something women were having a beer at the Corner Bistro in New York City when they decided to form a sword–dancing team: Half Moon Sword.
“When we were in our early twenties we had no idea what we were getting into or that we would still be doing it today, so many decades later,” said a founding member of the team Deirdre Bialo-Padin.
In 1986, Half Moon held their first Sword Dance Festival in New York City. At the time, there were no other sword dancing teams in North America. They inspired others to form teams all over the U.S. and even in Canada.
Sword dancing is a winter celebration performed in northern England, where the annual visit of the local sword dancers to the villages was thought to guarantee good luck for the year.
There’s been dancing of this nature for about a hundred years in New York City. Some of the members learned it by attending classes with the Country Dance & Song Society.
Half Moon women have traveled together, hung out together, and attended each other’s weddings. “It’s kind of like being part of an all-women’s baseball team,” Bialo-Padin said.
All of the four musicians on the team are married to one of the dancers. “We tend to marry musicians…so that they could play for us,” Bialo-Padin laughed.
Now even some of their children are part of the team. The tradition continues from generation to generation.
Half Moon Sword will host its 33rd annual sword dancing competition next year.