Your Top 5 Sets for 2016

Thank-you everyone for your 669 votes over a 2 week period…and the winners are:

RANK SET NAME
VOTES
1 Merchant 52
2 Ballyvourney Jig 47
3 Clare Lancers 44
4 Connemara  (aka Connemara Reel ) 34
5 Clare Plain (Reel) 33
6 Cashel 26
7 Caledonian 22
8 West Kerry 20
9= Antrim Square 18
9= Aran 18
9= Claddagh 18
9= Moycullen 18
10= Borlin 14
10= Clare Orange and Green 14
10= Corofin Plain 14
10= Kilfenora Plain 14
11 Croisloch 13
12= Caragh Lake Jig 12
12= Paris 12
12= Sliabh Luachra (aka North Cork Polka ) 12
13= Labasheeda 11
13= Metal Bridge 11
14= Newport 10
14= Rinkinstown 10
15 Camp 8
16 North Kerry 7
17= Black Valley Square Jig 6
17= Boyne 6
17= Connemara Jig (aka Freres Nantes) 6
17= Derrada 6
17= Hurry the Jug 6
17= South Sligo Lancers 6
18= Auban 5
18= Ballycommon 5
18= Sliabh gCua 5
19= Armagh 4
19= Corballa 4
19= Kildownet Half 4
19= South Galway Reel(aka South Galway Half & South Galway Half ) 4
19= South Kerry 4
20= Ballyduff 3
20= Borlin Jenny 3
20= Clare Plain Polka 3
20= Dublin 3
20= Glencree 3
20= Mazurka 3
20= Melleray Lancers 3
20= Roscommon Lancers 3
20= Sliabh Fraoch 3

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Your Top 3 Irish Céilí Dances

“Well, that was embarrassing!” Not a great start for a blog post but that is about the size of it. The results are in from the global poll and I received a grand total of 91 voters, the lowest response by far of the three polls I have conducted.

This is despite the fact that almost 3 times that many people read the blog post, two-thirds of you readers did not vote.

However, my thanks to those who did vote, and the High Cauled Cap was in front all the way. Continue reading

Your Top 5 Irish Céilí Bands 2015

What an amazing response we had to this poll – the amount of interest far exceeded my wildest reckoning.

10,030 votes from 40 countries far and wide, with 128 bands on the list which  expanded over the poll week to include 171 bands, suggested by you.

I’m not sure if this is the first poll of Irish céilí bands, but the purpose of holding a popular vote was to try increase the level of interest in Irish dance music.  I can see that it doesn’t need a huge amount of help but I hope it has added something extra. I’d love to see the day where every country in the world has at least one céilí band.

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Vote for Your Top 5 Irish Céilí Bands

Great music is the partner to great dancing, and to celebrate the vibrant music we lucky dancers and music fans have available, I thought it was time have a poll to find out what you think.

Putting this list of 157 céilí bands* together has been a real eye-opener, with your suggestion to include bands from as far back at the 1950’s, some I’ve never heard of but have won All-Ireland places in the Fleadh Cheoil  over the years or come from the USA, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Japan and yes, even Australia!

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Irish dance health: Kerry fast!

My loveJanet + Nora Sneem affair with the Kingdom of Kerry started back one dark, cold winter around New Year Eve in 1989 when I found myself in Sneem, near Kenmare with a group of newish friends I had met in Australia a few years earlier.

They had invited me to join them in a rented house and we had a great time out walking, playing board games and inevitably ended up at the local pub on New Years Eve.

Two important things happened for me that night: a random connection that led directly to my long-term & current friendship with Con Moriarty from the Gap of Dunloe, and I saw my very first Irish set being danced that night in the pub.

Fast friends: Pat Falvey with me on the Skellig Michael 1997

Fast friends: Pat Falvey with me on the Skellig

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Your Top 5 Irish Set Dances

Well, the results are in and by popular vote, it looks like the classic sets are still the most popular. We had 1,469 votes altogether from many different parts of the globe-thank-you!

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Irish Dance Unbuttoned

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!)

https://www.youtube.com/watchv=w40ushYAaYA

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. Continue reading

Irish Dance: Real Women DO Batter- The Race Is On

I had the pleasure of teaching a sean nós & battering workshop in October with a group of 13 dancers from Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne and Canberra, on the 10th annual October set dancing weekend here in Canberra. We went through and learned our 3 step sean nós routine to hornpipes (see below), which was nervously but well performed to an expectant crowd the next day.

Not surprisingly though, the highlight was really getting stuck in to the battering steps, particularly the Clare battering step. This is a name that is loosely used for steps that are popularly danced in Clare to reels, and experienced dancers will recognise that very familiar tattoo immediately, as heard below:

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How to get a party crowd Irish dancing

6 TIPS FOR WORKING WITH A PARTY CROWD

Dancers036

  1. Have a leader someone who knows what they’re doing & a few more. Preparation is important- know the steps and have the music ready.
  2. Be heard: have a microphone so people can hear you.
  3. Make the moves really big & easy:
    1. Make advance & retires into the circle 4 bars, not 2 bars: in once, out once.
    2. Substitute swinging for right arm or left arm hook
  4. Music:
    1. Not too fast – Try to pick music that’s not too fast at the beginning – give everyone a chance & make it reasonably safe.
    2. Not too long – Music length for each dance at about 2- 2 1/2minutes – most people won’t dance longer than that.
  5. Fun: Get as much clapping and stamping in as you can – we’re all kids at heart!
  6. If- and when- the dancing all goes a bit pear-shaped, laugh as hard as you can. That’s the whole point 🙂Crowd018

Happy dancing this Christmas.

Nora Stewart
www.EasyIrishDance.com
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Irish dance basics: The heel of the reel

The Paris Opera Ballet School celebrated over 300 years of dance tradition in 2013,  and I recently saw a lovely documentary focusing on the experience of young dancers starting out and doing an orientation of the company. I was entranced by their passion and commitment, particularly their gentle and considered approach to every aspect of the school and it’s tradition.

Part of that tradition is where all the youngest & newest members of the ballet school participate in the annual défilé– a parade of all balleParis Opera Ballet School -defileballett school and company members prior to a proper ballet performance. Everyone is on show, and careful attention is paid to all aspects of the défilé slow walk. One young dancer said her teacher told her to imagine that our heels light up the room.”

I’m quite taken by that idea- every time you lift your heel there’s a bright shining light that illuminates.

However, it’s all very well to do that in a slow, deliberate ballet walk but trying to light up the room at a fast Irish reel pace can be quite a challenge. Here is some information about reels that might help you.

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