2016 Irish Traditional Music and Dance Summer Schools and Festivals

If you are anywhere near Ireland this Northern hemisphere summer, there is absolutely no excuse for not learning to play, sing or dance. Festivals and summer schools are burgeoning, with most offering opportunities to learn Irish set dancing, Irish sean nós dancing and/ or to learn to play or master a range of traditional musical instruments, as well as a wide range of concerts, céilís and lectures. And, of course, there are the four provincial fleadhanna (flaa-na), festivals incorporating competitions for traditional musicians and dancers, with the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann  being hosted by Ennis, Co.Clare in August this year.

There is a tangible increase in 2016 for opportunities to learn and compete at sean nós dancing, to attend singing classes and performances, and much more on offer specifically for children.

You can find your way around all 38 festivals listed here by either using the interactive map or by scrolling the date listing below, which also includes a brief description.

FESTIVAL LISTING BY DATE
(If you don’t see your festival here, please let me know)

JUNE 2016

Friday 10th – Sunday 12th June 2016
Craiceann International Bodhrán Summer School 
Inis Oirr, Co.Galway (Aran Islands)
www.craiceann.com

Friday 10th – Sunday 12th June, 2016
Doolin Folk Festival
Doolin, Co.Clare
www.doolinfolkfestival.com

Sunday 12th June- Thursday 16th June 2016         
Enniscrone Irish and Country Music Festival          
Enniscrone, Co.Sligo
The 5 day festival brings together some of the best Country and Western stars under one roof in the Diamond Coast Hotel but the festival also gives the opportunity for people to take part in set dance workshops, ballroom and social dance workshops, music tutorials, sessions and with music and dance taking place till late in the night.
http://www.diamondcoast.ie/Irish_Trad_and_Country_Music_Festival.html

Sunday 12th-Sunday 19th June 2016
Galway Sessions
Galway city, Co.Galway
Dedicated this year to the memory of Éamonn Ceannt, there will be lectures, music, recitals and wide range of other events.
www.galwaysessions.com

Thursday 16th -Sunday 19th June 2016
Jim Dowling Uillean Pipe & Traditional Music Festival
Glengarriff, Co.Cork
www.jimdowlingfestival.com

Friday 17th June – Saturday 18th June 2016         
All-Ireland Sean Nós Dance Festival          
Athboy, Co Meath, Ireland          
A summer sean nós festival with workshops, sessions, céilís and a competition with a top prize of €500.
http://www.discoverireland.ie/Whats-On/all-ireland-sean-nos-dancing-festival/511411

Monday 20th June – Friday 1st July 2016         
BLÁS         
Limerick, Co.Limerick     
Intensive “deep dive” workshops and master classes for experienced singers, dancers and musicians with a focus on collaborative integration of understanding between the disciplines- a residential program at the University of Limerick.
www.blas.ie

Saturday 25th-Sunday 26th June 2016 & Saturday 2nd – Sunday 3rd July 2016
Fleadh Cheoil Chonnacht 2016         
Strokestown,  Co.Roscommon 
Connacht Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians, dancers & other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).        
http://www.connachtfleadh.ie/

Saturday 25th-Sunday 26th June 2016          
Carlow Set Dance Weekend 2016
Weekend of set dancing workshops and céilís.
Carlow, Co. Carlow         

JULY 2016

Saturday 2nd July- Saturday 9th July 2016         
Willie Clancy Summer School 
Miltown Malbay, Co.Clare  
Affectionately known as Willie Week, this is probably the longest running of these festivals. There’s always a great buzz in Miltown: we call it Set Dancing Mecca! Classes for music and dance are run each morning from 10-1pm from Monday – Saturday, interspersed with a wide range of afternoon and evening set dancing céilís around the area, singing sessions & music sessions in pubs. Highly recommended for those who want full immersion, deep dive into Irish culture & craic.        
http://www.scoilsamhraidhwillieclancy.com/
http://www.armadahotel.com/events.html/armada-festival-of-music-dancing-2016

Monday July 4th– Friday July 8th 2016
The Junior Davey Bodhrán Academy
Gorteen, Co Sligo
www.juniordaveybodhranacademy.com

Monday 4th July-Sunday 10th July 2016         
Leinster Fleadh Cheoil 2016         
Kilkenny, Co.Kilkenny
Leinster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).   http://www.leinsterfleadh.ie

Sunday 10th July- Saturday 16th July 2016         
South Sligo Summer School         
Tubbercurry, Co.Sligo
This has become my favorite festival for it’s laid back nature but also the learning to dance program is excellent. Different energy to Willie Clancy, it’s more intimate, gentler and very enjoyable in this beautiful part of Co.Sligo, with very deep music & dance tradition. Set dancing and music classes are in the morning 10am-1pm, a sean nós dance program in the afternoon from 4-6pm, and a range of concerts in the afternoons, and set dancing céilís in the evenings, with sessions in the pubs to follow.         
http://www.sssschool.org/index.html

Monday 11th July– Friday 15th July  2016
Ceol na Coille Summer School of Irish Traditional Music
Letterkenny, Co.Donegal
www.ceolnacoille.ie

Monday 11th July– Friday 15th July  2016
Westport Scoil Cheoil 2016
Westport, Co.Mayo
Full summer school with tuition, concerts and recitals.
www.westportscoilcheoil.com

Monday 11th July- Friday 15th July 2016         
Sean Nós ar an tSionnan Feet and Beat Summer Camp
Ballymote, Co Sligo
A week of dance training for children from 7 to 15 years.     
http://edwinaguckian.com/dance-classes/

Friday 15th July – Sunday 17th July 2016         
Danny Webster Weekend
Meenaneary, Co Donegal         
Kilkenny’s master accordionist visits Donegal for a weekend of three céilís.

Friday 16th July -Sunday 25th July 2016         
Ulster Fleadh 2016         
Bangor, Co.Down 
Ulster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).
www.ulsterfleadh.com

Saturday 16th July – Sunday 17th July         
Munster Fleadh 2016          
Listowel,Co.Kerry
Muster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).
www.munsterfleadh.ie

Saturday 16th July – Sunday 17th July         
Céilí at the Crossroads Festival         
Clarecastle,Co.Clare
Annual céilí at the Crossroads – an opportunity to dance outside!         
www.clare.ie/event/ceili-at-the-cross-roads-festival-clarecastle/

Sunday 17th July – Saturday 24thJuly 2016         
Joe Mooney Summer School         
Drumshanbo Co. Leitrim
Drumshanbo is delightful – a similar format to South Sligo Summer School, the difference here is the focus is very much around the unusual main street, which has a pedestrian mezzanine above the lane of traffic, where you can sit out in the sun, dance, listen to music & enjoy the people going by and enjoy a number of excellent evening céilís.
www.JoeMooneySummerSchool.com

July 18th – 22nd, 2016
Meitheal Residential Summer School
Villiers School, Limerick City, Ireland
Residential Summer School for young traditional musicians.
www.tradweek.com

Monday 18th July – Friday 22nd July          
Get in Step Summer Camp         
Riverstown, Co Sligo
€60 for five classes sean nós and set dancing summer school for kids from 5 to 17 years from 10am–2pm daily         
Eimear Mulvey (086) 258 4465

Friday 22nd July- Sunday 24th July          
Kilrush Traditional Festival         
Kilrush, Co Clare         
Free outdoor céilís in the market square are the big attraction at this weekend organised by Kilrush Comhaltas
http://www.wildatlanticway.com/directory/details/kilrush-traditional-music-set-dancing-festival-2016/511986/#52.637223|-9.481393|14

Saturday 23rd July  – Saturday 30th July 2016
Scoil Acla Summer School
Achill Island, Co.Mayo
Traditional Music Courses, Art Workshops, Sean Nós Singing, Writers Workshop, Dance Workshop, Sean Nós Dancing,  Basket Weaving Workshops
www.scoilacla.com

Monday 25th July- Sunday 31 July 2016          
Kilcar Fleadh          
Kilcar, Co Donegal
A village on the wild Atlantic coast of Donegal hosts this week-long music and dance festival.           
https://donegalgathering.com/july/kilcar-fleadh/

Monday 25th July – Sunday 31 July 2016         
Summer Festival of Dance          
Ballyfin, Co Laois
Maureen Culleton, one of Ireland’s best-known dance teachers organises this festival for the love of music, song and dance.
http://www.midlandsireland.ie/events/maureen-culleton-summer-school-and-festival-of-dance

Monday 25th July 2016          
O’Carolan Summer School and Harp Festival         
Keadue, Co Roscommon         
The Irish composer Turlough O’Carolan is the inspiration for this summer school and festival in this gorgeous town.
http://www.ocarolanharpfestival.ie/

Monday July 25th- Friday 29th 2016         
Liffey Trust Studios, 117-126 Upper Sheriff Street, Dublin 1       
Rince 2016-Treblehop 
Irish step dancing intensive tuition including solo technique, stage performance, céilí, show style and injury prevention.       
http://www.treblehop.com/rince_2016

Friday July 29th –  Sunday 31st July  2016
Ballyshannon Folk Festival
Ballyshannon, County Donegal
www.ballyshannonfolkfestival.com

Saturday 30th July 2016          
James Morrison Traditional Music Festival         
Riverstown, Co Sligo.    
A full trad festival with open air céilís, concerts, sessions and more in the home village of a fiddler who became famous in the USA.
http://jamesmorrisonfestival.com/author/admin/

AUGUST 2016

Saturday 31st July – 7th August 2016         
The Irish Dance Festival         
Carlingford, Co.Louth   
Spend a week learning from some of the world’s best Irish dance masters of three styles – step, set and sean nós – and connect with fellow lovers of Irish dance by immersing yourself in Irish culture and heritage.      
www.irishdancefestival.com

Wednesday 3 August-Monday 8th August          
Feakle International Festival of Traditional Music          
Feakle, Co Clare  
The big festival in the small village of Feakle runs for seven days from Wednesday to Monday with many concerts & sessions in addition to the dancing events shown here.       
http://www.feaklefestival.ie

Monday 8 August – Friday 12 August          
Get in Step Summer Camp         
Kilcummin, Co,Kerry      
Sean nós and set dancing summer school for kids from 5 to 17 years.   
Adrian Moriarty (087) 933 0768

Monday 8 August- Friday 12 August 2016         
Sean Nós ar an tSionann Feet and Beat Summer Camp
Drumshanbo Co. Leitrim         
A week of dance training for children from 7 to 15 years.
http://edwinaguckian.com/dance-classes

Sunday 14th August- Monday 22 August 2016          
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann         
Ennis, Co Clare
Nearly two weeks of fabulous music, dance and a wide range of concerts and other events celebrating Irish culture. Don’t miss it!
http://fleadhcheoil.ie

Wednesday 17 August – Sunday 21 August 2016         
Masters of Tradition         
Bantry, Cork
Celebrating traditional music in its’purest form through a series of concerts and performances, directed by Martin Hayes.
www.WestCorkMusic.ie/MastersOfTradition

Thursday 18th August- Sunday 21st August 2016
Coleman Traditional Festival
Gurteen, Co.Sligo

The Coleman Traditional Irish Music Centre is a celebration of Irish Music, Culture and Heritage as expressed in the South Sligo Style of music played by Michael Coleman and other musicians of his time.
This community based enterprise in Gurteen, Co.Sligo, Ireland is dedicated to ensuring that the tradition of Irish music remains a living one ‘an traidisiún beo’ and that it continues to be enjoyed by all ages and nationalities.
www.colemanirishmusic.com

Enjoy the craic!
Nora Stewart
www.EasyIrishDance.com
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From Clare to Canberra: The Jack Canny Story Part 3-The Half Set

This half set began it’s life in Canberra over 3 years ago at the King O’Malleys music session with Libby and Richard Conrick, amongst others. Richard and Libby knew Jack well : in fact, one of their sons is named after him, and Jack Conrick is now a fabulous fiddle and concertina player himself.

Go directly to each figure of this set:

Figure 1: The Clare Cosy

Figure 2: The Bridge

Figure 3: The Canny Chase

Martin and I would often go to the session on Tuesday nights, and occasionally, we would get up and “throw a few shapes”, as they say, just the two of us in a very small dance space, enjoying whatever music they were playing.

Some of the signature moves came from experimenting at the session. But mostly, the influences have come from my years dancing in Ireland, and in Clare, reflecting many of the Clare dance moves we know and love, with a few twists.

martin and Nora O'Malleys

Martin and Nora dancing with Jack Conrick playing concertina in the background at King O’Malleys, Canberra.

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Irish Set Dancing: 3 Sets For Beginner Classes-Ease Them In Gently

I remember my first set dancing experience in early 1989 as a blur – a great fun, sweaty, frustrating blur of people, heat and amazing sound. I have no recollection at all of the sets I learned but the remainder was a great sense and wonderful feeling of what it was all about. And that is an important thing to reflect on when you are preparing to teach a group or a class who have no experience of dancing sets.

What you, as a teacher, are doing initially is trying to create a good positive experience – one that hopefully will inspire & encourage new dancers enough to keep them coming back, as learning set dancing is a long-term pursuit, not a quick fix.

And predictably, as a dancer making the transition from doing to teaching, I made lots of mistakes – still making them, actually! I started teaching my new class what I had started with-the Caledonian Set, the Ballyvourney Jig Set, the North Kerry Set, the Clare Plain Set, as examples.

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2015 Irish Set Dancing Summer Festivals Céilí Planner

Calling all dancers: the Irish summer is only weeks away now- get ready to dance!!!

Calling all dancers! It's summertime!I’m getting very excited about all the dance, music, fun, friendship and cráic ahead. It really is the best fun you can have standing up!I I have updated the Irish Summer Dance and Music for 2015 dates and information about a range of Irish, US and German dance festivals. This year  I have also put together this schedule of brilliant dance céilí choices below to help me decide what to go to and where… I need to grow two more pairs of legs to stretch myself across all these fabulous offerings!

IRISH SUMMER FESTIVAL CÉILÍS
You can click on the table below to make it bigger or you can download a Word document version here Irish set dancing summer festival ceili planner 2015.

2015  Summer Irish set dancing plannerHope to see you somewhere out there on the dance floor!
Best wishes and happy dancing!
Nora Stewart
www.EasyIrishDance.com

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Green Beer and Wigs Are Not Irish

After my blog post last year, I promised myself that I was going to be as positive as possible leading up to this St.Patrick’s Day but I find myself increasingly dismayed at the lack of thoughtful, intelligent or genuine opportunities to celebrate the best of Irish on this day of days.

Some weeks ago, I received a phone call from a local establishment enquiring if we were interested in “bringing some of our girls to dance on St.Patrick’s Day”. I patiently explained that we are a group of mature adults, not kids and we don’t get dressed up or wear wigs and also that our styles of dance- Irish set dancing & Irish sean nós dancing – were a bit different to the Riverdance style. To his credit, he listened to what I had to say and was open to the idea of our group dancing.

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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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6 simple Irish dances for your Christmas party

Video

Sharing Irish dancing with my friends and non-dancers is something I love to do, AND it needs to be very, very easy.

Here, I am featuring three of the 6 different Irish dance styles with videos and instructions that are linked to each dance name so you can follow along.

  1. Irish set dancing figures
  2. Irish two hand dancing
  3. Irish céilí dancing

If you’re really keen and this is your first time getting people dancing, see my next post How to work with your party crowd who are keen to dance (and have probably had a few drinks)…

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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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Learning Irish dance steps from YouTube

I often see lovely steps on YouTube I’d love to learn – like this one from Mick Mulkerrin:

But for someone like me, this is just a bit too fast to start learning from.

Technology not only allows generous dancers to film and post great steps, but also helps  to S-L-O-W it all down – both the images and the sound- like this:

It does sound a bit strange with the slowed down audio- a bit like a horror movie- but don’t mess with this as you’ll need the sound of the feet to help guide you with the rhythm of the steps.

TIP: The key to learning new steps is to break it down into simple parts but ALWAYS do it with the rhythm of the music – even if you just hum the music to yourself rather than having the music playing.

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