Irish dance partners: Dancing under your own steam

Some of the nicest, most pleasurable dance experiences I’ve had in Irish set dancing have been with partners who are… how can I say it? Comfortable. It’s like moving on in the set and arriving at your favourite armchair – aaah, a space that is obliging, giving and freeing, all at the same time with the added pleasure of moving exactly in rhythmic time with another.

Sadly, that’s not always the case. Many will have had the experience of being tackled by a smiling partner who seems to have wandered in off the sporting pitch, is full of energy and enthusiasm that’s just bone crackin’. Or collecting the demure-looking woman who’s leans on you and is like 20lbs spuds to get around the floor.

So, despite being convinced that all dancers are doing their best to dance, enjoy and have a good time, I think sometimes there’s a small lack of technique, knowledge or thought about what kind of experience it might be for the other person. It doesn’t mean completely changing your dance style but simply being mindful of others and making small accommodations to suit.

1. Dancing under your own steam – as much as your partner may be comfortable, their job is not to carry you. Your two legs will do that and all your weight needs to be on them, not your partner. To see if you’re already doing that, challenge yourself. Have a look at the dance practice exercise on the film  (below) and see if you can dance at home, and then do a full house with your partner with only your palms touching palms as you dance.

2. Flat resting hands, light touch – Pulling, yanking, poking, gripping hands are most unattractive and are usually evident in the excitement of brilliant music and fast moves – we’ve all done it. Taking care also applies to moves like turning the lady under where all you need to do is use the tips of your fingers to touch, not using your whole hand. People carry all sorts of injuries and pains – arthritis, bruising, sprains – and it pays to take care with all hand holds. Continue reading

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Irish dance: 5 tips for keeping your dancing healthy

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Staying healthy takes more and more of my time, and it seems obvious to try to enhance the benefits of dance by paying attention to a few basics. This is not an exhaustive list: I have already written about some of these tips but ’tis always good to have a reminder.

1. Dance floor – seems an odd kind of thing to put top of the list but flooring is critical to reducing knee, hip and ankle injuries and sore backs, ideally, sprung floor is the best or at least something with some bounce or give in it. You should be able to see the floor moving when someone walks or dances on it. The floor also needs to be very clean- swept first then a very hot, dry-damp squeezed-out mop over the top to get all the grease and dirt off.

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Dance and music: Wake up to a healthy, rosy glow

Falling into bed at 4am after a brilliant night of music and dancing in Sydney, followed by a long 3 hour drive home, my head barely hits the pillow and I’m asleep. I wish I could say that happened every night, but for me, it doesn’t.

The effects oawake + clockf an over-active brain, the combination of mental exhaustion & not being generally physically tired from sitting, too much screen time & effects of screen light, and now the creeping menopause effects of hot flushes and arthritis, all conspire against good sleep.

The other undesirable element is the potential for weight gain- not helped by a cold winter and the desire for lots of lovely “comfort” food – beautifully braised lamb shanks with lots of potatoes, baked rice pudding, pumpkin scones (with tons of butter, of course) – need I go on?

My typical downward spiral goes something like this:

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