We Dance …

Hear my cry,
In my hungering search for you,
Taste my breath on the wind,
See the sky as it mirrors my colours,
Hints and whispers begin.
I am living to nourish you, cherish you,
I am pulsing the blood in your veins,
Feel the magic and power of surrender,
To life. Uisce BeathaEvery finger is touching and searching,
Until your secrets come out,
In the dance, as it endlessly circles,
I linger close to your mouth.I am living to nourish you, cherish you,
I am pulsing the blood in your veins,
Feel the magic and power of surrender,
To life. Uisce Beatha(These lyrics were written by the award-winning Bill Whelan for the opening song to Riverdance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mC0rWgUqTc  )

It is not possible to say when dance became part of the human culture but it is possible to say, without any doubt, that we dance,

There is no doubt that music and dance has helped to define the culture of Irish people world wide, I am not the first to write that nor will I be the last. Every country and nation has its own dance and Ireland is no different, or are we?
You may have see excerpts of Riverdance or you may have been lucky enough to see the show itself?
I remember watching it when it first appeared on our screens during the Eurovision Song Contest of 1994. It left as powerful an impression on me as it did on the audience who jumped up and roared with pride while they applauded.
Dance did that.
It’s almost 20 years later and it’s only now I’m getting the time to question ‘why’, what is it about dance in our culture that helps to define us?

Gay Byrne had John Conneely on ‘The Late Late Show’ (apx 1970) and he started the conversation by saying
“You broke your back John”
“That’s right yea,” John replied …. but Gay went on to say “Right, but let’s have first things first”… and John got to show us how he danced ‘the fastest reel in the west’!      (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-duDKzm3mY)
Watch it – you’ll see John trying to keep up with his legs as they take him around the floor like he had no control over them!

We’ve heard stories of dancing at the crossroads and after the harvest threshing but it’s only until I began studying our history that I realised how important dance became after the curfews of the civil war. The men and women of rural Ireland made time to gather with their music and the best place to meet was at the crossroads where people cycled from miles around just to … meet up and dance.

I’ve been listening to people for a long time, observing body language and the intricate ways we communicate and one thing I have observed is how we dance while we are about our every day lives … keep an eye out for it and you’ll see the different styles, whether it’s a slow reel of the farmer who’s slogging along behind the cows or the busy housewife who’s doing a jig around the supermarket, the steady hornpipe of the office staff as they go through their day, the rhythm is everywhere … we dance without knowing it.
And our older people, I’ve seen them at it too!
I’ve listened to the banter and even joined in and I see their eyes dance with divelment at times and I know that they dance when they are at home in the kitchen.
We dance when we’re happy and we dance when we’re sad, we dance around each other when we’re not sure of who of who we’re talking with.
We dance with our words on the internet and we exhaust ourselves as we ‘rave’ about our ‘leaders’.

Do you remember the first dance/disco/rave/concert you were allowed to go to?
Do you remember how excited you were and dreading the first dance? … Did you practise much and feel a fool when you couldn’t get the timing right and then thought ‘to hell with it I’ll just stand here and shake myself’ … and that became a dance all of its own! 

From ceílí dancing to set dancing, from step dancing to the Sean-nós – there’s the soft shoe and the hard shoe and if you feel like no shoes then that’s fine too! So long as you dance.

Zach Klingenberg and Ciaran Plummer are keeping an old style and giving rhythm to the music as they turn out some new moves, some new vibrancy as they dance like the rest of us can only dream about.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jlJH65KR14#!

When you see where you’ve come from you can decide where to go and you can put a skip in your step as we go there.


4 thoughts on “We Dance …

  1. Well said! Dance is an amazing, wonderful release for anyone, anywhere! John Conneely was well able to step it out…some unusual step combinations in that routine for sure 🙂 (did I see a young Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine & Liam Og O’Flynn + 1 more I couldn’t see properly waiting for their turn in the background?) How about those 2 lads Zach & Ciaran? – WOW! Proof that Irish dancing is versatile and will last forever. How many other traditional styles have you seen being danced to the latest music? I’ve been to countless ceilithe here in Sydney (Cam is a member of both of our Ceili Bands) and I’ve watched so much step dancing and Sean-nos and, yes, I was on my feet and breathless that year Riverdance made it’s debut at Eurovision (I was speechless thousands of miles away from it). I’ve been lucky enough to see it live twice – as well as Lord of the Dance. I’m now hoping Prodijig will eventually find it’s way to Australia…fingers crossed! Watching all forms of Irish dancing and listening to Irish music has brought me so much joy for so many years…may it continue forever. Now…round the house & mind the dresser!!

    • Wasn’t he brilliant. I laugh when I see that clip and I’ve shown it to nearly everyone. Yep, you did spot a young Lunny, that musical genius has been on the scenes for years.
      As you said Therese – Irish music and dance is surviving and thriving. It’s just in us.
      Now … ’round the yard and mind the chickens! (it’s a soft evening, so we’ll take the dance outside 😉 )

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