Irish Dance Unbuttoned

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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. Continue reading

Adults: What’s stopping you from dancing?

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Often adults talk animatedly to me about their desire to dance, finishing with a crest-fallen look and “Oh, but I didn’t learn to dance as a child”. Occasionally,  I’m not sure if this is an excuse for not dancing or a genuine regret that the potential joy of dance has passed them by. I suspect it’s the latter.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a community where dancing, singing and music-making was a normal, everyday activity. I danced at school, I sang and played my guitar on the school bus with a group of others, I danced at parties and I danced with my friends for fun in the lounge room. We were not doing any particular dance or steps, just moving to the music and enjoying it.

Fast-forward forty years, and what I see that dancing has become objectified: commodified in a way that makes it seem less accessible to people as an ordinary activity, and all about athleticism, show and performance.

The rise of TV dance shows may bring dancing into people’s homes but really not in way that makes people feel they can participate. There are dancers and there are audiences: never the twain shall meet.So-You-Think-You-Can-Dance1

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