If you have been following Irish dancing outside the bizarre world of competitive stepdancing where the powers that be allow wigs, overdone makeup and garish designs to dominate what is world class stepdancing underneath its masquerade aspects, you will know that a significant new (well not so new really) trend has blossomed in the past decade or so.
We are talking about sean nos dancing (old style step dancing) where spontaneity and individual creativity form a close union with live Irish music playing at normal tempos in the manner that one would have discovered in Connemara or other pockets deep within the well of tradition long ago.
You can find it at all the festivals and workshops for people of all ages, and this year it even became a competition as part of Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in Cavan for the first time.
The dance form has migrated to the U.S. where there are now practitioners from coast to coast teaching sean nos steps like Kieran Jordan, Malden Meehan and Shannon Dunne for instance.
Given its relatively easy style, workshops come together very handily. In the greater New York area there are two such classes coming up this weekend organized by Mary Beth Taylor visiting from Dublin. Originally from the U.S., she now runs a dance school in Dublin with classes in regular Irish stepdancing and sean nos, the more relaxed free form style growing in popularity.
Her first sean nos class is in Rockaway, New Jersey at the Irish American Association of New Jersey clubhouse on Saturday, September 17 from 10 a.m.-noon (www.iaanj.com).
On Sunday she will be joined by Shannon Dunne, a New Jersey native living and teaching in the Washington, D.C. area in workshops at the Irish Arts Center in New York from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. For this class call 212-757-3318, ext. 209 or visit www.irishartscenter.org. Taylor’s number is 352-348-3270...
One of the great services coming out of Ireland in the past couple of years has been the launching of an operation called LiveTrad which transmits high quality performances over the web from live venues, and even provides an archival podcast for some of those shows on their website. It is a great opportunity to see and hear a lot of wonderful musicians in different settings, and the presence and availability of LiveTrad enhances the featured venues and events and even provides for interactive comments from people watching around the world.
You can get a first-hand look this coming Friday, September 16 when LiveTrad.com streams a concert recorded at the Hawk’s Well Theatre in Sligo on Tuesday, September 6 on the current Cherish the Ladies tour of Ireland. It will be shown at 10 p.m. Irish time (5 p.m. EST) in high definition on light. Having viewed a couple of clips on YouTube already, the clarity is pretty good...
On a personal note, I would also like to pass along congratulations to Clare musician Martin Hayes and his new bride Lina Pelaez, who tied the matrimonial knot at a ceremony and celebration on the first weekend in September in Gort, Co. Galway.
And I would ask for your thoughts and prayers for the Galway flute player Mike Rafferty who just passed away. We are so grateful that a National Heritage Fellowship Award came his way a year ago while he was hale and hearty enough to enjoy it.