Mystery Photos of Fenestrelle Sword Dancers

Dear Readers,

I write to you today with a mystery. Specifically I have two  mystery photos that I would appreciate any help in identifying. I spent the beginning of July in London doing lots of social dancing (ahh, how I have missed it!) and doing research in the archives of the Cecil Sharp House, home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. During this time I came across two photos of the Fenestrelle Sword Dancers that stood out. 
These pictures are interesting for a couple reasons. The main thing that sticks out are the costumes. In 1935, the Fenestrelle team went to England for a International Folk Dance Festival that included teams from several countries. For this event the government of Italy required that their costumes be in the Italian national colors and thus the kit was changed to more or less the current form:

These obviously different costumes and I would love to know if these were the standard kit. The photos must have been printed (and I am guessing taken) between 1930 and 1945, based on the brand of paper, and the address of the company stamped on the back, but very little other information is given. I also assume they were taken in Italy, as it is an Italian company that printed them. If anyone has any information or leads as to date, location, situation or if these were the standard costumes pre-1935 that would be great!

The second question is simply, what is the top photograph of? It is not a particular figure in the dance (though it resembles the lift of the harlequin) and is in a very strange, semi-posed form. No one is looking at the camera, but there is a gap in the circle towards the photographer. Theories welcome.

The two historical photos were reproduced courtesy English Folk Dance & Song Society and I would like to thank the librarians there who were extremely helpful in helping me find texts and photos, even looking through uncatalogued archives in search of sword dances! You guys are the best!



About Jeremy Carter-Gordon

My blog of a year studying point-and-hilt sword dancing on a Watson Fellowship. Enjoy reading, tell me your thoughts and leave me a comment, or visit my website at
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1 Response to Mystery Photos of Fenestrelle Sword Dancers

  1. shag graetz says:

    Hey, Jeremy. This is a bit roundabout, but I’d like to know what’s best to bring Friday for the sing.

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