As a child, Gene Kelly was my on-screen dance hero. I loved his athleticism but mostly, it was his mega watt smile and that extra bit of spontaneous lift that really made him unmissable. He radiated joy when he was performing (even though, according to his wife, on the day he filmed the famous Singing In The Rain dance number, he was extremely unwell with a temperature of 104ºF!)
So, it’s with these images in my head that I sometimes wonder how so much Irish dancing became so stiff, so formal and so obviously lacking in delight. I have often had friends and others telling me how, when they were small, they were sent off to learn the irish dancing only to be whacked with a stick to make them straighter, shouted at to jump higher and to pay attention. I know that these stories mostly come from a different era of extreme discipline and unquestioning respect for institutions. Still and all, I find it hard to equate the inner freedom I find in the music & dance with that kind of buttoned up approach.
Of course, there will always be people who follow instructions to the letter, no matter how ridiculous. And then there’s wee divils, contrary folk who delight in doing the exact opposite of what they’ve been asked to do – just for the craic. And, boy, do I love them when they come dancing!
Take Michael Walker, for example. Dancing with Michael only serves to remind you you are really ALIVE! He can clear a floor in a single glance and it’s only the wildy courageous and the unwitting that can ride out the dance with Michael.
He’ll have the set completely re-organised in seconds, everyone heading in the opposite direction, ducking and diving in and out of other sets-complete madness which I find simply divine. I start giggling from the off, in delicious anticipation of 2,400 volts: I liken dancing with him to latching on to an electric fence, sparking and arcing the whole way – the energy courses off him and no better time in the world can be had than in those few minutes. A wonderful person, he is truly one in a million.
So, despite the fact that I appreciate the structure and discipline that Irish dance has to offer, I’m always on the lookout for those dancers with a glint in their eye – expect the unexpected – pop goes the weasel! Spontaneity has to be nurtured, as it seems it’s a dying art in this age of everything needing to be so predictable and certain. I love being organised myself but the wit and charm of someone undoing that in the nicest way possible – I miss that. I think that’s true Irish bliss:) What are your most memorable, fun experiences dancing? Love to hear from you with your stories. Happy new year to you, thank-you for reading and happy dancing!
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