Guise Dancing

Guise dancing is an ancient tradition from west Cornwall performed during the twelve days of Christmas. It is a form of mumming, whereby participants disguise themselves (hence the term ‘guise’) and entertain people through music, dance, drama and games. Guise dancers go from house to house, pub to pub, or process through streets and lanes bringing merriment during the darkest time of the year. The activities that guise dancers perform has changed through the years, but the one constant is complete disguise.

We have been researching guise dancing for many years, but we began as participants of guise dancing without knowing much about it. Here will outline what we have learned through taking part, as well as our academic and historical research into the tradition.

This section will grow as we add information.

Historical guise dancing and its music

Read our paper on Historical guise dancing and its music, delivered at the Cornish Music Symposium at Lowender Peran, November 2018. We draw on as many historical sources as we can find, explain guise dancing, and the music we know to have been used by historical guise dancers, as well as proposing some likely tunes they may have played.

Guise dancers entertaining in a house in Sennen, Cornwall, 31 December 2017

Sources: guise dancing in newspaper archives

A very long page of transcriptions of articles related to guise dancing that we have made from trawling 19th and 20th century newspapers. Huge amounts of detail, first-hand accounts, and even court reports. An absolute mine of information about guise dancing in the past. If you use these transcriptions in any publication, article or online we would be grateful for an acknowledgement and or link to

Image from a newspaper from 1908
Extract from the Cornubian and Redruth Times – Thursday 23 January 1908 – with a short piece on guise dancing at Newlyn.