Irish Dance History: A Contrary Tale: Part 2

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Irish dance history is difficult to pin down for many reasons, most likely because the culture was primarily oral – passed down through stories, songs and dances- with very little being written down.

Indeed, there are no less than four versions of the greatly loved Caledonian Set from Clare, and despite differences between districts, it appears that most dancers had difficulty recalling all aspects of that dance clearly.* (I will write more about why the Caledonian Set is the most perfect of all sets  sneak preview below with some absolutely fabulous dancing:)

Indeed, Fintan Vallely in his book The Companion to Irish Traditional Music proposes that tunes, songs and dances that lasted the test of time were mostly those that were written down, and it appears that much of that was done, ironically, by the English.

In 1775, the Dr. Rev.Campbell wrote:

“I was at a dance in Cashel (Co. Tipperary) and the Irish boys and girls are passionately fond of dancing and they dance beautifully.

We frog-blooded English dance as if the practice was not congenial to us, but here in Ireland, they dance as if dancing was the one and only business in life. **

Continue reading

Irish music and dance: The Ard Macha (Armagh) Fleadh

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keady

I was cleaning out some papers today and I came across this little poem I wrote over 12 years ago when I was living in Ireland. It brought a smile …

“How’s about ye?”
They say with a grin
“One more couple needed…”
“…You’re welcome in” Continue reading

Best foot forward!

Home in the snow

Our home in winter here in Australia

 

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Woke early this chilly winter morning in the bush, the sky is that very pale and deep blue on the horizon with snow threatening, forecast confirmed by the knowing birdsong of magpies.
Can’t dance today because I am recovering from a very badly scalded right foot- result of dropping a kettle of boiling water nearly 2 weeks ago and the healing has been slow. However, it’s coming good with the help of a regular covering of honey – Martin’s honey- and I am confident it will be good as new.
Then I can get on with practicing “The Priest & His Boots”, a gorgeous little old-style jig that I tried to learn from Celine Tubridy all those years ago in Ireland but without success.  Frustrating because I couldn’t follow what she was doing but also I didn’t have the skills developed for the basic moves that would have helped make it easier, like doing the shuffles.
But now with the help of YouTube and technology to slow it down, I’ve been watching her husband Michael dance it  beautifully with Maureen Culleton, really inspired to see such gentle, elegant dancing from people of an age where many are not advancing, but retiring.
I’ve been using the Amazing Slowdowner software to slow down a jig by Mary Macnamara to about 80% of it’s speed, and broken the dance into five parts. I don’t have each move exactly right yet but that will come with practice, when my foot gets better – I hope!
See you soon – dancing at home.

Nora Stewart
EasyIrishDance.com

21 July 2013