Irish Dance Showcase
The rich cultural heritage of Irish Dance
For many centuries, Irish culture was systematically suppressed and outlawed.
During that time much was lost and, for those of us scattered in lands distant from Ireland, our music, songs and dance are the portals we use to return and embrace our heritage.
Irish Dance is a rich weave of solo and social dance forms which reflect that heritage. It keeps traditions alive, bonds a community in strange lands and celebrates Irish culture.
I love to see the children dancing, just as I danced those many years ago. The sight swells my heart.
This showcase is dedicated to my friend, Sandra Farrell, and to Mrs Brennan who so patiently taught me to count to seven.
Irish dance lessons in the 1950s
In the 1950s we had Irish dance lessons in the Church Hall on Saturday mornings.
As Mrs Brennan pounded the old piano, I pounded the floorboards trying to get my head around the tempo of a set dance. Instead of the conventional 8-bar structure, set dance tunes generally have a one or two part structure with 8 or 12 bars in the first part and 12, 14, 16, or even more bars in the second.
Every couple of months the parish priest, Father O'Neill, would call in to watch as we jigged and reeled around the hall. On those days we wore our Irish dance costumes. The colours of our outfits were predominantly green, white and saffron, but never red (although I now see red worn by dancers).
Until recently women wore a cape which covered their backs while men used to wear an unpatterned kilt and a jacket with a folded cloak draped from one shoulder. Now, anything goes.
Traditional Irish Dance
This is the style of dance we learned as children. Watching the Boyle O'Dowda Irish Dance Academy brought instant memories of my childhood.
Irish Dancers of the World
A clever little mashup of various Dance Groups.
The music is phenomenal!
When I think of Irish Dance today I think of Jean Butler.
Jean is the Grande Dame of Irish dancing, her stunning performances have made an international phenomenon out of the formerly niche cultural dance.
At the age of 17, on St. Patrick's Day, she debuted with The Chieftains, a successful relationship which lasted several years, touring extensively throughout America, Canada, Europe and Japan. Jean appeared on their video 'The Chieftains - Live From Belfast,' with Roger Daltry and Nanci Griffith and her taps can also be heard on their album, 'The Long Black Veil' with Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones.
Whilst studying drama at the University of Birmingham, Jean received an invitation from producers Moya Doherty and John McColgan to star in a ten-minute stage production called "Riverdance" and, as they say, the rest is history.
In 1996 after performing for Popes, Presidents, Kings and Queens, Jean left Riverdance to pursue other solo projects. In 1999 she teamed up with Colin Dunne, who had replaced Michael Flatley in "Riverdance", and together launched a show called 'Dancing on Dangerous Ground'. Choreographed with Dunne the show was based on the ancient Irish myth of Diarmuid and Grainnea tale of love, death and vengeance.
Dangerous Ground has an element not usually associated with the world of Irish dance - sex.
Jean Butler with the Chieftans, 1991
A very young Jean Butler dances a traditional hornpipe at the Belfast Opera House.
Avalon Dance School
Irish dance has come a long way since I was a child with dreams of mastering a switch leap.
A short compilation from the Avalon Dance School highlighting the different styles for the modern dancer
Eirerobics! Irish Dance Aerobics - Just what I wanted!
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