last updated 11 June 2014
Set Dancing News home page: www.setdancingnews.net

Set Dancing News

Old news and reviews—Volume 84

Copyright © 2011 Bill Lynch
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Web www.setdancingnews.net
Contents: There's more to read in the collections of old news and reviews, volumes 11997-1998, 2, 31998-1999, 41999, 51999-2000, 6, 72000, 8, 9, 102001, 112001-2002, 12, 13, 14, 152002, 162002-2003, 17, 18, 192003, 202003-2004, 21, 22, 23, 24, 252004, 262004-2005, 27, 28, 29, 30, 312005, 322005-2006, 33, 34, 35, 36, 372006, 38, 392006-2007, 40, 41, 42, 432007, 442007-2008, 442007-2008, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 502008, 512008-2009, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 572009, 582009-2010, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 652010, 662010–2011, 67, 68, 69, 70, 712011, 722011–2012, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 782012, 792012-2013, 80, 81, 82, 832013, 842013-2014 (Index).

My first time in Ireland

Barbora Tuzarová is a keen dancer from Prague who wrote last year about her fulfilling experiences dancing in Erlangen and Violau in Germany. For her first trip to Ireland she made a solo journey to the Sean-Óg Weekend in Longford, 15–17 November. She wrote an article on her blog about it, which she shares with us here. Photos are by David Carolan and Barbora.

“Yes. I am from the Czech Republic. Yes, I arrived alone. Nobody is with me. Yes, I’m here just for this single weekend. No, I’ve never been to Ireland before. Yes, I’m enjoying it. Very much. Thanks.”

Well, I said these sentences about a million times. The first day I was a bit worried how people would react and whether they would accept the fact I’m still just a beginner. Sure, many people had told me not to worry before I flew, that everything would be fine and I would love Longford, but how it actually looked there across the sea was a million times better than I could ever imagine.

Technically speaking, I went all the way from crying on Friday afternoon, “I don’t know anybody here—I’m so far away from home, mum, dad” to crying on Sunday afternoon, “Why on earth do I have to go back?”

Talking about the Friday afternoon, it was like sitting in a roller coaster. At about 2pm, I was on the top of the world. I managed not to get lost at Prague airport and at Dublin airport, to catch the right bus to Longford and to find my hotel room with a cute bed and a princess-like toilet table. But as the afternoon went on, I felt lonelier and lonelier, especially when other set dancers started arriving after sunset. The hotel corridors were full of cheerful laughs, hugs, kisses and welcomes. I realised I was really alone there and I should do my best to change it.

So I went downstairs at a quarter to ten to the ballroom. And I immediately felt like Alice in Wonderland. The dance floor was about three times more spacious than I had ever seen so far. The lights were soft and glittering (or at least they are now in my memory) and you could feel the atmosphere. That was the right place I wanted to be at that moment!

Once a very friendly lady realised what I mentioned in my first sentences, she found her friends and told them about this brave lady who came all the way from the Czech Republic, and they found their friends—and this information spread unbelievably quickly. Suddenly I wasn’t alone.

During the ceili, where the Striolán Ceili Band were playing, followed by Micheál Sexton, we danced about seven sets. For me it was the first ceili without a caller (I know, who on earth would like to have a caller in Ireland), but I was proud of myself, because I had kept my word which I had given to myself after dancing in Violau, Germany, in June and had memorised another two sets, step by step, figure by figure, before I flew. I added the Connemara and Clare Lancers to my private collection, which had previously only included the Ballyvourney Jig Set. Well, it’s still not much, but as these three sets were danced at every single ceili there, it really helped me not to be nervous.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to all my partners (and even the ladies from other couples in the sets I danced in) who patiently kept pushing me in the right direction every time I wasn’t sure.

To sum up, when I went to bed after the first ceili (it was about half past two), I finally felt that feeling which I had been looking for since June (and which is almost well-known to me now)—that mixture of terrible exhaustion, your feet aching, but at the same moment, you would like to jump out of the bed and swing and house again till you die, with an absent-minded smile . . .

Saturday: the day of a morning workshop. I suppose I talked enough about how I like Gerard Butler’s way of teaching in my previous articles, so I will skip that part today, even though I have to mention—it is still great! Apart from this, three young girls from Longford showed up and it was really nice to chat and dance with them. We spent about an hour and a half with a set I forgot the name of (but was quite nice) and then we did a few basic sean nós steps. I felt like I was back in Prague at our summer school, it was nicely familiar.

In the afternoon, another ceili and country dancing took place in the ballroom. Johnny Reidy and Eddie Lee were playing. I was really pleased Johnny remembered me from Violau when we met outside the ballroom after the ceili.

The evening ceili was probably my greatest set dance experience ever—the dance floor was completely full, there was no space even for simply standing still. We were just in the middle of Clare Lancers, already after midnight, when I realized that this was simply unbelievable. I was dancing in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by hundreds of people I had never met before, and I almost couldn’t hear the music for the battering of the others. The rhythm was so catchy, I loved listening to it! What’s more, I was in Ireland, surrounded by Irish dancers, me, just a little girl from Prague. And I couldn’t be happier.

In fact, it was a bit weird. You know, for young people in Prague it’s normal to go to a pub or music club on Saturday night, to get drunk and then fall asleep somewhere on a couch. But the more different my Saturday was, the more I loved it.

By the way, during the Saturday night ceili, when Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band were playing, followed by Micheál Sexton, I was asked by organiser Gabrielle Cassidy to help her with a surprise for one of the girls in her club. I was supposed to give her a birthday cake in front of everyone, a girl I had never seen before, when everyone was waiting for a next set. Hundreds of people! I was so shy, and afraid I would either drop or simply destroy the cake, how left-handed I am. But in the end, everything went well and I am still moved by how Gabrielle and the others behaved to me.

Sunday: the day of the table dancing competition. I was really looking forward to watching it. But in the end, it turned out a bit differently. It was 11:45am, Sunday, November 17th, and I was standing on the table, waiting for Stephen and Tommy Doherty to start playing. Me, a girl who had started with sean nós dancing a few months ago, and “started” means I took six workshops with Gerard at our Prague summer school. But he just insisted on me going, so I tried it. And I must admit it was a great experience. Thanks to everyone who clapped. It was amazing.

As the day went on, the thought “it’s almost over” became bigger and bigger in my head. But I really wanted to keep my great mood as long as possible. I have to say my new friends helped that a lot. (Hi Stephen—see, you got a mention.) The afternoon ceili with the Johnny Reidy Ceili Band and the last one with Salamanca Ceili Band were again—amazing. Okay, I know you’re probably starting to get sick of this word, but I just can’t help it!

We danced all the sets we had done before during the festival, such as the Clare Lancers, Caledonian, Corofin Plain, Connemara, Plain Set, Ballyvourney Jig and Cashel, and even though the dance floor was smaller at night because there were less people, it was by no means less great. I danced with brilliant dancers, which was again a great experience, and suddenly the last set was called—and danced—and time for final goodbyes came.

I am really glad I went back to Prague on Monday, because it gave me some extra time to deal with the feeling that the weekend I had been looking forward to for months was already over. However, I was still almost crying when boarding the Airbus and then watching Dublin getting smaller and smaller from the air.

I was thinking about two things: thanks to everyone who helped me to enjoy the Sean Óg Festival and welcomed me so nicely. And I’m definitely coming back next year!

Barbora Tuzarová, Prague, Czech Republic

See Barbora’s blog at my-set-dance-diary.blogspot.cz.


Westport’s charm factor

Stars and other celestial bodies aligned themselves at the very end of November for a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence—my visit to the final set dancing weekend of the year organised by the branch of Comhaltas in Westport, Co Mayo. I lost track of how many dozens of years it has been in operation, but I have only been able to attend once before, as it usually coincides with my magazine deadline weekend. This time the magazine was early and the weekend was late, so on Friday, November 29th, I found myself gawking at the awe-inspiring Croagh Patrick through the windscreen as I neared Westport. The town’s charm factor was undiminished, with loads of inviting shops and tempting cafés, as I wandered for a couple of touristy hours before devoting all the rest of my time to dancing. In fact, I met a couple of the organisers on the street at a café where I found them loading trays full of fresh-baked cakes for our forthcoming tea breaks into a tiny little car!

In the years since my last visit the weekend had moved to the Castlecourt Hotel, a much more spacious venue than the hotel we danced in on my last visit. In fact, it’s actually two adjacent hotels in one, with a grand, elegant ballroom. But invitations were required to dance there on the Friday night, as it was occupied by a wedding, and even though it was a big occasion, they would surely have noticed if a dozen sets crashed the reception. So we danced in a smaller hall with extra floor laid on carpet to accommodate as many as possible. Swallow’s Tail Ceili Band played excellent music which progressed in stages. For the opening Derradda Set they had three musicians, Tommy Doherty, Michael Sheridan and Maria Lynn on box, percussion and piano, then John McHugh joined in on fiddle for a few more sets, and finally Michael Hurley completed the lineup when he arrived with his flute. The small band was every bit as enjoyable as the full size one! The advantage of a big crowd in a small hall is that the atmosphere gets pushed to the max, and there was great fun among the heterogenous dancers from all parts of Ireland, plus France and Belgium. Just when I was expecting to hear the national anthem, another set was called, for a total of ten sets plus a waltz.

A last minute change to the workshop brought Pat Murphy back to his former home town to teach the sets on Saturday. Mick Mulkerrin had been the scheduled tutor, but a family bereavement necessitated the altered plans. We kept Mick and his family in our thoughts during the weekend. Today we had the advantage of the main ballroom, which showed no traces of the wedding occupying it only a few short hours previously. Pat introduced us to a couple of new sets, the Camp in the morning and the Merchant in the afternoon. Both are newly composed, by John Stack and Pádraig McEneany respectively, and are destined to vie for our attention at future ceilis. The Camp may be a Kerry set but it’s also 50% reels, as well as 25% each jigs and polkas, so it’s a mixture reflecting John’s Monaghan origins and his Kerry home. The Merchant Set is a variation of a classic reel set, simple, clever and fun, and during the workshop Pat paid tribute to Connie Ryan for establishing a tradition of set dancing workshops as enjoyable in their own right. Everyone was in stitches when Pat recalled some of Connie’s pithier sayings. In his set, Pádraig brings together basic elements of sets and ties them together with a unique way of taking turns by moving each couple into first top position. Pat played music by the Michael Sexton Ceili Band, one of the top bands of the 1990s, and spoke highly of Michael, a box player who made Clare music popular with dancers across Ireland before his untimely death ten years ago. With just two sets for the day, there was plenty of time for repeated practice (much appreciated by the many new dancers) and also for the most welcome morning and afternoon tea breaks.

What a difference a great ballroom makes at a ceili! Right from the first set on Saturday night dancers filled the vast floor as far as the eye could see, with space for all. In fact there were over 300 admissions on the night, over a hundred of which had come on two coaches from Belfast and Co Louth. The hotel staff outdid themselves in setting up the ballroom by providing plenty of tables, chairs and jugs of water. They even placed a pair of candles on every table, and candelabras in selected places. The big attraction was a rare appearance by Westport’s own Heather Breeze Ceili Band, who only play for a couple of ceilis a year, and they’ve never missed playing at this weekend since it began. The music was as appealing as ever—pure trad with a steady pace and bouncy lift. There was a classic collection of sets as well—ten again!—with the Rinkinstown and Merchant sets included to challenge our brain cells. The entertainment didn’t stop after the national anthem concluded the ceili—the visiting gang on the coaches arranged a late session on both Friday and Saturday nights, and even brought along Eamonn Donnelly of the Copperplate Ceili Band for a piano-accompanied singsong tonight. They shifted tables and chairs to the back of the ballroom for a cosier setting where the voices kept going until the not-quite-so-small hours of Sunday morning.

Pat squeezed two good sets into a two-hour workshop with tea break on Sunday morning, the Birr Set and the Set of Erin. The first of those has been a workshop favourite in recent years, but the Set of Erin is a rarity from Cork I haven’t danced in many years. The first four figures are simple and repetitive, each one a new variation on changing partners, and we made time for the final ‘floating reel’ figure common to a number of Cork jig sets. A satisfying weekend of workshops!

If there was a prize for the world’s liveliest ceili band, a leading contender would be the Glenside Ceili Band, Tom and Aidan Flood and Ann Adlum, who played for us at the final ceili on Sunday afternoon. The dancing was quick, one figure after another, and almost no waiting between them. The sets were similar to those we danced the rest of the weekend. I noted that of the four sets danced at all three ceilis, three of those were polka sets, sometimes even danced back to back. This led me to wonder if Westport has been twinned with Sliabh Luachra—which in fact was the second set in today’s programme. A few teenage dancers came along with the coach group from the northeast, one of whom was Declan Moore, a dapper young lad who wore a dickie bow at the ceilis. He found a brush for himself and danced some energetic and entertaining solo steps as his last farewell before departing for home. The visiting group was missed when we continued dancing while the coaches headed home, but the atmosphere of fun and excitement was undiminished. During the final Connemara Set words of thanks were provided by a representative of the hotel and by the organisers, and we danced Maggie in the Woods with tired legs and complete contentment.

There was one last session in Mat Molloy’s pub that evening before everything was officially over. It ran from 7pm till after midnight, with more music, song, stories and sets—and tea breaks! That’s what they were at when I called in briefly before heading home, and having already had a good fill of dinner, music and dance, I drove south in moonlight hoping the stars would look kindly on me again and arrange another weekend in Westport for me.

Bill Lynch


Killarney’s magic circle

Darby O’Gills Hotel on the Mallow Road, Killarney, Co Kerry, hosted their fourth workshop and set dancing weekend 22nd to 24th November. With a lineup of three of the best ceili bands in Ireland, dancers thronged to the ceilis. Johnny Reidy, the uncrowned king of Kerry, set the mood for the weekend with his exuberant music on Friday night. The Abbey Ceili Band gave us music to die for on Saturday night, and the Striolán Ceili Band completed the magic circle on Sunday afternoon.

Our set dancing workshops on Saturday saw eight sets gather for the excellent instruction of dancing master Timmy Woulfe. The first set he taught was the Borlin Jenny, a lovely little set danced to reels. This was followed by the Camp Set, a sweet set danced to two reels, a polka and a hornpipe. It was composed by dancing teacher John Chambers, who lives in Camp, Co Kerry, and was one of the entries in The Sweets of May new set competition last May. We were privileged to have John at our workshop and dancing in the demonstration set. Timmy taught the Charlestown Set after lunch, another newly-composed set by Julia Smith from Australia and one of the sets awarded runner-up status at the competition. It is danced to a reel, jig, polka and hornpipe. We danced the first three figures of the Limerick Tumblers composed by Terry Moylan. Connie McKelvey with his partner Sally Sweeney from Donegal taught us a selection of two-hand dances. Triona Mangan taught a fabulous sean nós class to the joy of all the dancers who still had buckets of energy.

Sunday morning Timmy taught the Hunter Valley Set, danced to three reels, a jig and a polka. This fantastic set was composed by James Garner, Sydney, Australia, and was the winner of the new set competition last May. I was especially delighted to see it get an airing as I have been teaching it by request from dancers all over Munster and the sunny southeast.

Over the weekend the only sets repeated were the Sliabh Luachra and the Plain. I called the less familiar sets and Timmy called the Borlin Jenny and Camp from the earlier workshops. It was fantastic to see dancers from all over Ireland and across the pond attending the festival, and heartening to see dancers returning each year. A coach load from Donegal brought an extra sparkle to the weekend.

The music in the bar on Friday and Saturday nights was brilliant. Dancers stayed up until 3am enjoying the craic, dancing and singing. Complimentary scrumptious finger food completed the party atmosphere.

Mark your diaries for November 21st to 23rd, the same bands and tutors are already booked, and be there—a weekend not to be missed.

Joan Pollard Carew


Birmingham October Weekend

It’s early October in Brum and in the set dancing world that means only one thing: the annual visit of Pat Murphy. The occasion marks the tenth anniversary of this event organised by Sharon and John Holian. In celebration, the usual suspects are joined by a coach load of 36 from Mulranny, Co Mayo, led by (who else?) Mickey Kelly. The visitors are welcomed with a Friday evening of dancing (sets and ballroom) and conviviality at Our Lady of Lourdes Social Centre in Yardley Wood.

Saturday October 5th arrives mild and sunny and the action moves to St Anne’s Community Centre in Digbeth, the venue for Sharon and John’s Wednesday classes. To accommodate the extra numbers, an additional area of dance floor has been laid courtesy of the salsa group that also uses the centre. In addition to the locals and the ‘Mulrannys’, there are folks from Hexham, Manchester, Bristol and other exotic places too numerous to mention.

Pat starts the day with the Foilmore, a sedate six-figure jig set from the village a couple of miles northeast of Caherciveen. He stays in Kerry for the next dance, but moves north to the Dingle Peninsula, to the townland of Camp some six miles west of Tralee. The Camp Set (Irish an com, the hollow) was composed by John Chambers, a Monaghan man resident in Kerry for a number of years. At four figures (two reels, polka and hornpipe) it is an unchallenging but pleasing set, a mixture of the styles of both counties.

Lunch! An immense cold buffet prepared by Wednesday class members and one of three provided over the weekend. Prior to this, at strategic intervals, Celia McCullagh, foregoing the dancing, has been dispensing and continues to dispense tea and biscuits.

In the afternoon, having danced one established and one recently-composed set, Pat moves on to one which has been recently revived, the Black Hill, a polka set of five figures, straightforward and enjoyable to dance, named for the Dungarvan pub where it was danced regularly in the 1980s. More challenging is the Rinkinstown, a recently-composed Co Louth set of four figures (three reels, hornpipe) with which Pat ends the workshop.

A much-needed break and then the evening ceili with mighty music from the Ivy Leaf Ceili Band. Sunday morning and back at St Anne’s. Pat devotes most of the morning to the Coomhola, a seven-figure set from the Borlin Valley area of west Cork. Having tested our stamina with this, to finish the workshops Pat switches attention to the little grey cells and takes us through a couple of figures of the Hunter Valley. This five-figure set, composed in 2009 by James Garner of Sydney, earlier this year won the newly-composed set competition at Tralee’s Sweets of May Festival. Interesting to dance but unlikely to be a ceili favourite! Lunch (yet another splendid buffet!) and then the afternoon ceili with the Ivy Leaf, again in great form.

Overall, an excellent weekend. All the dances new to me except for a brief introduction to the Rinkinstown at a previous workshop. Well done to Pat, Sharon, John and the helpers from the Wednesday class. I am reliably informed that expenses have been covered and, as usual, profits from the event will be donated to a local charity.

Ted Sheehan, Bournville, Birmingham, England


Excitement and energy in Enniscrone

Huge crowds came to the Diamond Coast Hotel, Enniscrone, Co Sligo, for the fifth annual set dancing weekend organised by Oliver Fleming from 1 to 3 November.

The Friday night kicked off with a lively jiving workshop by Oliver, which was followed by a ceili with the Brian Ború Ceili Band. There was a lot of excitement and energy on the dance floor, an ideal kickstart to the weekend.

On the Saturday morning Kathleen and Michael McGlynn took to the floor for their sean nós workshop which was enjoyed by everyone. Another set dancing workshop was taught in the afternoon by Oliver. The basic steps were covered to allow everyone take part in the sets throughout the weekend. In the evening Stuart Moyles entertained the crowd with some top quality country and western music. At 10pm that night, the Abbey Ceili Band took to the stage. The atmosphere was electric and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone present.

On the final day, the sun shone over Enniscrone, which gave the dancers the opportunity to experience the beauty of Sligo the coastline. Marie Garrity still managed to draw dancers back into the hotel for some two-hand dancing. After the mid-day break, Johnny Reidy once again provided outstanding music for the afternoon ceili. Stuart Moyles and Medicine Bow provided the social dancing entertainment for the weekend’s finale, which was an apt way to finish off this fantastic weekend of dancing.

Jennifer Mullarkey, Bonniconlon, Co Mayo

The next weekend’s dates are 31 October–2 November.


Nenagh’s unusual treasure

Club Rince Aonach Urmhumhan, the set dancing club in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, celebrated 25 years of set dancing with their annual set dancing weekend in the Abbey Court Hotel, Nenagh, 10th–12th January 2014. Organiser Danny Morrissey welcomed everyone from far and near, briefed us on the programme and wished us all a good weekend. He said he was proud that the club was celebrating 25 years of set dancing with so many old and new friends gathered together. This weekend is dedicated to the memory of the late dancing master Connie Ryan.

The ceili got underway with magic music by Ger Murphy and Ken Cotter. At the tea break members of the committee were presented with medallions to thank them for their contributions to the club over all the years. Some have been involved from the very beginning of the club, while others joined in recent years. All these ladies and gents have contributed not only to Club Rince but to set dancing in general, by attending festivals, workshops and ceilis, and promoting set dancing all over Ireland and far beyond.

Saturday morning at 10.30am Pat Murphy began his set dancing workshop. The first set Pat taught was the Merchant Set. He told us he got it from Pádraig McEneany who also composed the set. Pat said he was delighted to teach this set and praised Pádraig on his wonderful composition, which is danced to three reels and a hornpipe. Pat then taught his own newly-composed set, the Templebeg. We were privileged to be the first dancers to have the opportunity of dancing this set. It has five figures, polka, slide, polka, hornpipe and a jig, and requires a bit of thinking while dancing, but it is a treasure with some unusual but not difficult moves. Pat told us that he wrote this set to celebrate his home place of Templebeg, a rural townland about 10km west of Thurles.

After lunch Pat taught the Camp Set, composed by John Chambers, who is a Co Monaghan man but has been living in Camp just outside Tralee, Co Kerry, for many years. This little gem of a set has four figures, two reels, a polka and a hornpipe.

Mass was celebrated in the ballroom immediately after the workshop. I arrived back for the ceili a bit early as the programme promised music in the bar to get us tuned up for the night. The seisiún was in full swing with music, song and dancing. Our Saturday night ceili was fantastic with brilliant music by Brian Ború Ceili Band and the large crowd that attended rose to the occasion.

Sunday morning at 11am Pat Murphy taught us the Lakyle Set. Pat told us that he learned it from Pat and Liz Moroney and that it was originally taught by the late Dan Furey. This set was danced in competition and is similar to the Paris Set, but the figures are shorter. Pat said that Dan came from Lakyle, a townland near Labasheeda, Co Clare. Pat also said he had this set on an old tape danced by Dan. Pat concluded his workshop with a circular waltz called the Summer Morning Waltz.

Our final ceili of the weekend was thronged for another superb ceili from 2.30 to 6pm. The music from the Glenside Ceili Band energised our tired feet. Our MC all weekend was Thurles dancing master Michael Loughnane, who did a brilliant job as usual, and the committee gave us a fantastic selection of sets to dance. Pat Murphy called the Merchant and Lakyle sets from the workshops.

The hospitality was superb, the music magic, workshops sublime, the goodies at tea break divine. Congratulations to the organising committee for a professionally-run event, with smiles, warm welcomes and wonderful friendship.

Joan Pollard Carew


Malahide 2014

Once again the Slievenamon set dancers can be proud of the very successful weekend at the Grand Hotel in Malahide, Co Dublin, recently. This was the 24th year of the event, first organised by Connie Ryan and now taken over by his friends with Betty McCoy at the helm. To date over €100,000 has been raised for cancer research.

Five teachers tutored dancers through sets, steps and sean nós, and four bands played for the ceilis throughout the weekend. Dancers travelled from all over Europe, and as far away as Japan, America and Argentina.

The weekend opened with Aidan Vaughan from Milltown Malbay, Co Clare, who patiently showed how the steps for sets should be danced. The Slievenamon group of musicians, who were first brought together by Connie in the early 1980s, continued the night with their distinctive style of music which brings dancers back year after year.

On Saturday morning classes began promptly when Tony Ryan taught the Williamstown Set. Pat Murphy took over for the second half and introduced his newly composed Templebeg Set. He wanted to represent his home area and this set reflects some memories of his early life. The set has aspects of the Castle Set and he remembers steps his father showed. He used the term ‘shape’ to go round the house and talked about the late Jack Slattery from the area, who went to New York and taught dancing there. Pat is a passionate Tipperary man and wants his county to be recognised as a font of set dancing. Let’s hope the Templebeg Set will establish itself in the ceili scene.

The Four Courts Ceili Band took to the stage on Saturday afternoon for their annual visit to Dublin. Their lovely steady music delighted the crowd.

There was a quiet moment when Mass was celebrated and friends talked about Connie and his contribution to set dancing. His passion and enthusiasm were always evident but it was his dedication to an overall culture that marked him out. His respect for the tradition has left us all a remarkable repertoire of old dances.

Later on at the session, chat continued about this remarkable man. Gabi Vadanyi, who had returned from Budapest for the weekend, came to his classes twenty years ago. She remembered his kindness in finding partners for her. His enthusiasm enthused her to teach set dancing when she returned to her own country. Now married with three daughters, she hopes her children will develop her passion and learn to dance.

Saturday night continued with the Brian Ború Ceili Band. Although at this stage some dancers were flagging, once the music started the energy came back and a wonderful night of dancing was had by all.

Sunday morning is when Michael Tubridy and Mairéad Casey taught traditional step dancing and sean nós respectively. As always these are well-attended classes, mostly by dancers who have travelled long distances. Six Japanese women came from Tokyo for the weekend! The emphasis on these classes is to learn the basic steps and interpret and develop an individual style.

Mat Cunningham’s band played on Sunday afternoon. Matt brought his own unique sound and is a great favourite with the dancers.

Betty McCoy and her friends organised a brilliant weekend. This is a hugely expensive undertaking and entails a great level of commitment from all involved. Thank you all for a wonderful weekend.

Deirdre Morrissey, Bray, Co Wicklow


Remembering December

In December, an intrepid set dancer could probably find a Christmas party or ceili somewhere in Ireland every day of the month, excepting Christmas itself and the day or two before. Your editor wasn’t quite as adventurous as that, still managed to visit a dozen ceilis, which are shared with you in the following pages. Afterward there are also reports from Joan Pollard Carew and Shane Creed.

Four points down

Monagea, Co Limerick, a few miles outside Newcastle West, is not a place widely known among set dancers, but classes have started here in the last couple of years thanks to local teacher Ita McQuinn. They take place in a fine community hall converted from the old school house. It was my first visit here on December 6th and so I made sure to come early to find the hall, which I did with an hour to spare. However, it didn’t seem right that the car park was unexpectedly full with another event, so I made a quick phone call to Ita and she cleared up the confusion. The annual kids’ music concert was on and so the ceili was following half an hour later than advertised.

The old school house looked too small for a ceili from the outside, but inside it was spacious, clean and modern—even the loos were well done with the best hand dryers I’ve used in any community centre. There was music to match by Micheál Sexton, beautiful solo accordion lightly accompanied by drum machine. The pace was relaxed, so much so that Micheál asked if we wanted it faster, and he even pointed out that the speed of his reels was 121, four points slower than any other ceili band! Many in the ceili were beginners and Ita wanted steady music for their sake, and she also called most of the sets for them. Apart from the reels, the programme began and ended with polka sets, and had plenty of variety in between with the Slosh, Shoe the Donkey and other two-hands. Micheál mixed in waltzes and jives, which he played in a lush orchestral style on his keyboard. And after the final Ballyvourney Jig, he gave us one last waltz before the national anthem.

Summer all over again

Excitement always accompanies me on the journey to Ballyfin, Co Laois, thanks to a couple of great August bank holiday weekends I’ve spent there dancing at Maureen Culleton’s Summer Festival of Dance. She runs ceilis regularly throughout the year with the same great bands, sets and supporters, and when I arrived there on December 9th it felt like summer all over again—except that in addition to the complimentary fresh fruit available on arrival, Maureen was dispensing cups of tasty hot punch.

Maureen is courageous when it comes to new sets, and her regulars fearlessly dance anything at all, no matter how complex. Today’s programme was full of challenging sets, with the pièce de résistance being the Hunter Valley Set. With a limited knowledge of it, I kept to the sides hoping to have a chance to study the moves before dancing it myself, but it’s not that kind of a set. Everyone mostly moves together, tops and sides doing their own things, so I’m afraid any lack of experience on my part was quite evident. Still it was a learning experience and I know I’ll do better next time. In fact, two of the sets we danced afterward, the Sliabh Fraoch and Boyne, once baffling and mysterious, have now moved into my list of top favourites, and all it took was lots of repetition—and courageous MCs! Brian Ború Ceili Band accompanied all the sets with brilliant music, with some fantastic Kerry-style polkas for the Sliabh Fraoch in addition to all the lovely Clare-style reels. We also danced two-hands and waltzes, and then to end the ceili, Maureen had everyone join hands around the hall for a big circle dance where all the gents danced with all the ladies, a great way to get in the holiday spirit!

A thirty-year record

I couldn’t have picked a better time for barging in on Séamus Ó Méalóid’s class—on December 9th they were celebrating thirty years of classes in Scoil Oilibhéir, an Irish-language primary school in Blanchardstown, Dublin. Séamus thought this was a record for a set dancing class in a single venue, and no one was able to dispute his claim. It was a relaxed party night with just three sets danced, Corofin, Boyne and Connemara, with music, singing, solo dancing, socialising and, most of all, eating. There was enough food and drink for a week of parties! Music was provided by Séamus’s brother Micheál on box and Michael Tubridy on flute, and it was both traditional and lively. Men were in a distinct minority, so most of the ladies did without them entirely, but luckily I found three good partners for the sets, all of which Séamus called in a spirit of frivolity. Many of those here tonight had been attending for the full thirty years, or even longer, as the class began a couple of years earlier in another venue. One of those original members was a neighbour from a house a few doors away from me outside Kilfenora, and another was Gráinne Uí Chaomhánaigh, the school’s head teacher. Gráinne was presented with a bouquet in thanks for the use of the beautiful school hall since 1983, soon after it was built. Other class members entertained us with music, song and steps, including Séamus himself, but the highlight was an hilarious comedy routine by the oldest gent in the class, who detailed a lengthy list of problems encountered merely by growing old. For the Maggie in the Woods figure of the final Connemara Set we formed one big circle and danced long enough to have at least two turns with half the people on the floor.

The unbeatable combo

The monthly ceili in Carrigaline GAA Pavilion, Co Cork, is always worth the journey, but especially so for their December ceili, on the 14th this year. You’re always assured of great music, dancers of every age and an electric atmosphere, but when you add Christmas decorations, a festive spirit, a birthday party and the Abbey Ceili Band, it’s not to be missed. The programme of sets featured the West Kerry Set and the High-Cauled Cap back to back, and there probably are no other places in Ireland where you can dance that combo in one night! The Abbey Ceili Band are hard to beat for the sheer beauty of their music, with shouts and cheers of pleasure rising from the floor while we danced. Even the Siege of Ennis was a joy, as were the Christmas carols for the second figure of the Sliabh Luachra, and a couple of special waltzes were stunning.

The birthday celebration was for the ceilis themselves. The hall lights went out and a cake with seventeen candles emerged and marched through the darkness up to the stage. The Carrigaline Céilí Mór has been operating monthly for seventeen years and spokesperson Barry Cogan said a few words to commemorate the occasion before pieces of cake were distributed to all. The thorough organisation is evident at the conclusion of the tea break when two people are needed to sweep the floor—one to push the brush and one to clear the already forming sets out of the way.

Carrigaline ceilis are remarkable for the many young people always in attendance. They aren’t youngsters who were raised with dancing all their lives, but rather they chose to take up set dancing while still in their twenties! Whatever the secret, it’s something that ceilis around the country and beyond would love to emulate!

On my way home I happened to see a shooting star while driving past Mallow, which I took to be a good omen. Whenever I’ve been lucky enough to spot one while driving it has always been on the road home from a ceili in Cork.

The biggest raffle of the year

Another venue with a long history of set dancing is the Claddagh Hall, located right on the River Corrib opposite Galway city centre. The sturdy stone building looks as though it has been there for centuries, and on the doorstep there’s an idyllic view of the city and a resident colony of swans. Ceilis here are usually on one or two Fridays a month, but today’s was a Sunday afternoon charity ceili, which gave an extra air of excitement, especially so as the Five Counties Ceili Band were providing music. I mostly chose my partners by looking out for raised hands or raising my own, and so met a foreign student, a local lady back dancing for the first time in nine years and some lovely regulars.

The sets were all the old favourites, though I was doubly intrigued to see the North Kerry Set on the programme after the tea break. First of all, in previous years ceilis at the Claddagh never used to offer tea at the break, but they now provide a generous one with sandwiches and baked goods. And second, I hadn’t danced the North Kerry Set in years and was looking forward to it. But when most of the sets danced around the house at the end of the first figure I suspected we were actually doing the Sliabh Luachra, and by the third figure there was no doubt of it.

Squeezed into the second half was what must have been the biggest raffle of the year, with over twenty prizes, on top of the numerous spot prizes the band awarded during the sets. But the biggest prize of all was the music itself, which made every set a thrilling pleasure, inspiring feats of fun and festive frivolity all afternoon. And did you know Santa was a sean nós dancer? He showed up with an elf to dance a few steps, joined by teacher and organiser John Henchy. Latest word has it that over €1,000 was raised for a young cancer patient.

Learning from the Merchant

Clare set dancers have a home away from home in Ennis—Cois na hAbhna. I always get a genuine welcome here and meet plenty of friends. The occasion on December 18th was the Christmas party for Mike Mahony’s popular Wednesday night class, and is one of the highlights of the year at the venue. The Star of Munster Ceili Band have built a loyal local following and their music tonight was everything you could want when dancing sets. We did the most popular sets without calling, and Mike helped us out with the Moycullen Set, and his newest one, the Merchant. The band played it beautifully and even received an ovation afterward. However, my own knowledge of that set is still incomplete, and with varying levels of experience in my set, we made something of a hames of it despite the calling. I’m always learning, especially from my mistakes. I sailed through the other sets on autopilot, hardly taxing my brain at all and so was able to concentrate on pure enjoyment of music, dance and partners!

Rousing dual fiddles

A hotbed of set dancing is located in the little town of Castlerea, Co Roscommon, where on Thursdays in Tully’s Hotel, Mildred Beirne has a loyal following at her classes, and her mostly monthly ceilis are enthusiastically supported by dancers from a wide area. At her Christmas ceili on December 19th everyone entering was offered a ticket for a door prize drawing and a glass of mulled wine. Beautiful uncluttered music was played at a lively pace by Matt Cunningham, daughter Ita and Larry Cooley—with the only sour notes coming from the electronic Christmas tie Larry wore. The sets were the usual favourites, with a Plain Set memorable for the rousing dual fiddles played by Matt and Ita, and because I partnered a lady who was dancing for the first time in a number of years. Initially she feigned fear about dancing with me, but she was such a good dancer and we got on so well that we were both thankful to each other at the end. There was a surprise announcement at midnight—it had just become Ita’s birthday and we all gave her a rousing cheer! For the last figure of the final Connemara, we made a big circle so we could change partners with as many as possible, singing Jingle Bells as we danced. Before the national anthem, Matt asked us to sing Silent Night, which we did holding hands around the circle.

Forgotten for a few happy hours

If ever there was a night to stay home for some quiet post-Christmas book reading or box-set bingeing, St Stephen’s Night was the one when I really should have stayed put. A storm was raging outside yet I had my mind made up to dance at a ceili two hours journey away. I thought that surely all the wind and rain couldn’t possibly last all the way to Four-Mile-House in Co Roscommon, but it never let up and seemed stronger the closer I got to my destination. Nevertheless I was relieved to arrive without any difficulty and found myself first into the hall. More braved the night to make up two sets for the first dance and then four for the rest of the ceili. In fact the weather was totally forgotten for a few happy hours thanks to Rise the Dust Ceili Band and the ten sets and waltzes they played for us. There was hope the return journey would be easier, but the storm never relented. Twice on the way back I had to stop and drag branches off the road, and one road was obstructed by a tree, but I was able to pass it on the verge. It was quite late when I went to bed but I slept soundly, unaware that a tree had fallen on another part of the house!

Longing for more

My next ceili was close to home, so the continuing stormy weather didn’t concern me, and by the time I got to Ennis, any wind and rain were gone. I was attending yet another in a series of party ceilis, this one arranged by Maggie Hutton for her Monday night class featuring her favourite band, the Five Counties. Tonight they were playing in their full configuration of nine musicians, with a contingent of their fans following from deepest Cork. Joining them were many more from Clare, Galway and Tipperary, unable to resist some of the most exciting music ever played for set dancing. The venue was the Holy Family School auditorium, which makes an ideal dance venue with a spacious smooth floor and soaring ceiling. The ceili was free for the class and the usual tenner for the rest of us, and included a sumptuous tea break. Maggie was unable to prepare the hot food items in the school, so she had been busy immediately before the ceili getting them ready. The final set was the Plain Set, to which the band added on a few extra minutes of reels for dancing any set that came to mind, which in our case was the Kilfenora Set. By the time the national anthem played I was still raring to go. It felt as though I’d only danced six sets but we’d actually done ten plus a waltz. There’s nothing like a superb night of effortless, inspired dancing to keep you longing for more! Outside the stars were shining brightly, my car was covered in ice and the doors were frozen shut. But I was grateful for a calm night.

Absolute certainty

Perhaps ten sets weren’t enough for me yesterday, but I had bigger plans for today, beginning with a return visit to Ennis for an afternoon ceili with the Johnny Reidy Ceili Band in the Auburn Lodge Hotel. Johnny’s band is an absolute certainty for a great ceili. Not only is the music pure bliss, but the happiest dancers always show up and together we all generate the warmest atmosphere. Spare shirts are essential! It was my first time in many years dancing in the Auburn Lodge, and dancers packed the cosy hall wall to wall. Extra boards were laid on carpet to relieve the pressure on the main floor. Johnny chose the sets everyone wanted to dance, four and a waltz and jive (with a Christmas theme today) before the break, four after, a predictable pattern that makes it easy to book sets in advance. I was guilty of having half the sets booked before arriving and the rest were taken before the music began—I blame the band! Every set was pleasure, but there wasn’t much space for doubling, and when we did, my partner’s hair brushed the faces of the side couples. The extra overflow boards appeared to have more room, but when I tried a set there so many other people had the same idea that it was even more crowded! The floors evened out eventually, each set better than the last, and by the final Connemara, I was once again left in need of even more sets.

Tea and biscuits were included in the admission price, but that message was missed by the hotel staff who charged a couple of euro. But Imelda Reynolds, the ceili’s organiser, offered to refund the amount to anyone who paid, and said she’d donate any leftover to charity. Afterward she was able to contribute €150 to the same cancer patient who benefitted from the Claddagh Hall ceili before Christmas.

A severe case of déjà vu

I hit the jackpot with ceilis today, with a second one awaiting me in Kilcoona, Co Galway, so I headed away from Ennis once I’d cooled down a bit. Kilcoona is where Matt Cunningham is from and his home is literally around the corner from the little social centre where they dance. Matt organises and plays for ceilis here several Sunday evenings throughout the year. Once before I attempted to come here on a very wet day when several roads were blocked by floods. Despite the detours I made it to the hall only to find that the ceili had been cancelled. As I drove there tonight I suffered a severe case of déjà vu—there was constant rain and bad flooding on many roads, especially as I got closer to the hall. When it comes to flooded roads, no county in Ireland can hold a candle to Galway!

I was in luck this time as there were no detours and the ceili was still on as advertised. Matt had a great welcome for me and sent me off to his house for a tea and scones with his wife Kathleen. His seven-year-old grandson even entertained us on accordion. When I returned to the hall the Corofin Plain Set was already in progress, and we collected enough dancers to form a half-set, then three-quarters and we achieved a full set in time to dance the last two figures. And it was mostly full sets for all the rest, with about four sets of locals and two Italian visitors who spend Christmas in Connemara every year. Matt knows all the regulars and called out birthdays and anniversaries. One of my partners surprised me by remembering the names of my two cats and asking after them having spotted them in the last issue of the magazine. The band consisted of just Matt and Larry Cooley, who were perfect for a little local ceili. The final Connemara Set included the ever-popular Jingle Bells in the last figure, and we sang Silent Night and the national anthem to end the ceili.

I think I had just about reached my quota of sets for the day. There was more pouring rain and flooding to contend with on the way home, the deepest of which was encountered in the Burren, so perhaps I was wrong about that candle!

Impatient for 2014

New Year’s Eve offered a lull between storms long enough to allow easy entry to the party in Vaughan’s Barn in Kilfenora. I wore my Donegal tweed jacket for the occasion, and also for the warmth, as the Barn can be cool before the dancing begins. It was rather too long since I was here last, but the music by the Four Courts Ceili Band, the sets and the dancers were as enjoyable as ever. It was a relaxed night, with the tea and sandwiches offered after three sets. In the final minutes of 2013 we danced the Ballyvourney Jig Set and the taxi dance, where ladies and gents lined up separate sides of the hall, met at the top, danced to the bottom and rejoined the lines for the next go. Joe Rynne did his best to be accurate with the final countdown, but the crowd was impatient for 2014 and counted down as fast as they possibly could. We sang Auld Lang Syne (I must learn the other verses!) and everyone either kissed or shook hands with everyone else present. We kicked off 2014 with two more sets before the party ended, and outside Kilfenora sparkled in the peaceful night as I made my way home.

Bill Lynch

Tons of Christmas ceilis

Christmas time is busy for me but this year I was delighted to attend some of the wonderful ceilis in Kerry, Tipperary and Kilkenny.

December got off to a good start for me when I attended an afternoon ceili in the community centre in Fossa near Killarney. This was hosted by Fossa Comhaltas as a fundraiser towards the Munster Fleadh which is in Killarney in July. Neily O’Connor gave us magic music to keep our feet happy and we danced a great selection of sets.

My next outing was on December 13th in Toomevara, Co Tipperary, for a ceili by the Nenagh set dancers. The Five Counties Ceili Band played some of the best music I have danced to for a long time. What a superb night and fabulous selection of sets! Feár an tí Michael Loughnane kept everyone comfortable by calling most sets, as is par for the course at these ceilis.

On Monday the 16th the community hall in Urlingford, Co Kilkenny, was my next venue. We had a brilliant night’s dancing to Mr Accordion Man, Danny Webster. Our MC was Declan Doocey, who teaches a class here every Monday night with live music by Danny.

To round up my December dancing, on the 17th I went to Mick and Kay Doyle’s Christmas ceili in Crosspatrick Community Hall, Co Kilkenny. Again Danny Webster played superb music and we danced another great selection of sets with calling by Mick, and Paddy Martin called the Claddagh. Mick teaches a class here every Tuesday night.

We were greeted with hot punch, both alcoholic and fruit, at all events and treated to scrumptious food at the break. I was happy to find the time and energy to attend these events and only regret that I could not attend all the tons of ceilis on all through December—but there is always next year!

Joan Pollard Carew

Red and Green

December for set dancers means only one thing—Christmas ceilis. Set dance teachers reward their students’ hard work with a ceili and do their best to get as many dancers as possible to mix both beginners and seasoned pros. Dancers step it out from venue to venue to support the hard work of all the organisers.

This was certainly the case for our Christmas ceili in the Abbey Hotel in Ballyvourney, Co Cork, on the 19th December. Over eighteen sets danced in the hall to the outstanding music of Uí Bhriain from Kenmare, Co Kerry. This duo have played the last couple of years for our Christmas party and their energetic music certainly did not disappoint again this year.

To bring something different to our Christmas ceili, we have incorporated a dress code the last number of years. Previously we have gone with a Black and White theme and this went down very well. This year we wanted to try something different and we decided to go with Red and Green as they are the typical Christmas colours. As the saying goes, ‘A picture paints a thousand words,’ and as the pictures from the night show, everyone went to great effort to adhere to the theme. Between the outstanding music, delicious hot food, ferocious dancing and quaint theme the night was a fantastic occasion. The atmosphere in the hall was electric.

An organiser can go to great lengths to try to deliver a great Christmas ceili but it is the dancers that create the atmosphere. This was certainly the case in the Abbey Hotel and we appreciate it very much; as we do every Thursday night of the year. There is something special about Christmas ceilis but a lot of work goes into them; so it is favourable that they only take place once a year!

Shane Creed, Ballyvourney, Co Cork


Much sought-after position

Letters and emails

Hi Bill,

Is this unique? The lady’s and gents’ captains of Stackstown (Co Dublin) Golf Club for 2014 are both set dancers and have danced as partners for a number of years.

Pat McCrohan is a native of Co Kerry and now resides in Rathfarnham. Alice Shaughnessy Hynes is a native of Co Kilkenny and now resides in Templeogue. Both captains have a lifelong interest in Irish music and dance and both are keen golfers. They celebrated their launch at the annual Christmas dinner, social and dance held recently.

As captains they effectively head up the golf club for the year 2014. They chair all in-house activity and direct the financial, membership, social and, naturally, the golfing side. They represent the club at all functions and events in other clubs and beyond. It is a much sought-after position in any golf club, the pinnacle in a golfer’s life.

Ironically, Alice’s husband Martin Hynes was instrumental in starting set dancing at the club in 1991 when he was about to take over as captain for 1992.

We wish both captains well.

Regards,

Eddie Ryan, Dublin

A valuable asset

Hi Bill,

We would like to thank everyone who supported the charity ceili in Toomevara, Co Tipperary, on the 30th November in aid of Michael McGeeney’s trip to Kenya in January.

In 2011, Mike went to Mombasa, Kenya, with a charity called Building of Hope based in Ennis, Co Clare. A great lady called Olive Halpin is its founder and leader. They built an orphanage and school for blind and partially blind children. This time they are extending the school with more classrooms. Michael is a carpenter which is a valuable asset there.

To the people who came long distances to the ceili; to the wonderful people in Club Rince, Nenagh, who baked, did flyers and generally organised the event; to the people who could not attend but kindly donated afterwards; and to Danny Webster for the lovely music—we cannot thank you enough!

A sum of €1490 was raised—well done everyone.

Mary and Mike McGeeney, Ballinderry, Co Tipperary

A fortunate winner

Bill,

My CD arrived this week and I just want to say thanks for running these raffles in Set Dancing News. As a fortunate winner located in the States, it’s become a great way for me to get my hands on some terrific ceili band music that I’d have a hard time obtaining otherwise.

Paul O’Donnell, Silver Spring, Maryland

Raised and divided equally

Hi Bill,

We wish to thank everyone who supported our charity ceili in Kilmacow, Co Kilkenny. on Sunday 24th November. A sincere thank you to all who supplied food and spot prizes and helped in any way. A special thank-you to Ger Murphy and Ken Cotter for their fantastic music. To all who bought raffle tickets, we say thanks. A total of €1040 was raised and divided equally between the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland and the Waterford-South Kilkenny branch of MS Ireland.

Many thanks,

Mary and Jim Phelan, Piltown, Co Kilkenny

Competition closing date

Dear Bill,

Just a note to remind those who intend entering a set for our newly-composed set competition that the closing date for entry is February 15th, 2014.

No late entries accepted!

Sincerely,

Timmy Woulfe, Athea, Co Limerick

The competition takes place on May 9th as part of the Sweets of May Weekend in the Earl of Desmond Hotel, Tralee, Co Kerry.

Thoroughly enjoyed

Hi Bill,

We would sincerely like to thank everyone that travelled to the Listowel Set Dancing Weekend in October. Thank you to the bands, the Striolán, the Five Counties and the Johnny Reidy Ceili Band; to John Joe Tierney for a fabulous workshop which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone that attended; and to the band Sound as a Pound for fantastic sessions with top class music. Thank you, one and all, for making it a hugely successful weekend and we are looking forward to organising our weekend in the Listowel Arms Hotel for 2014.

Jerry O’Rourke, Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, and Mary O’Rourke Philpott, Currow, Co Kerry

Keep getting better with age

Dear Bill,

Through the medium of your wonderful magazine can I please take this opportunity to thank all the people who contributed to the fantastic success of our fourth annual Éigse Oriel workshop weekend, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, from the 8th to the 10th of November.

Firstly, to everyone who travelled from the four provinces of the country, the UK and USA, without you it wouldn’t be possible to hold the event. To the management and staff of the Glencarn Hotel who did everything possible to ensure everyone enjoyed their hospitality, which included a touch of first aid to a very special birthday cake. To Marie Garrity and Gerard Butler for their excellent workshops in sean nós, two-hand, set dancing, steps for set dancing, and step dancing.

Music is one of the most important components of a successful weekend and let me tell you we were blessed with amazing music that raised the roof. On Friday night our good friends, Ceili Time, got us off to a flying start. On Saturday night we had two hours of social dancing with the versatile Family Affair, followed by the fantastic eight-piece Striolán Ceili Band on their second visit to Monaghan. On Sunday afternoon we danced to the Abbey Ceili Band, no strangers to the Monaghan set dancing scene (their first visit was in 2001), who like good wine just keep getting better with age.

A special word of thanks to everyone, from club members to friends and relations, who contributed in so many way to ensure the success of the weekend. The club wishes to acknowledge receipt of funding from Monaghan County Council through the 2013 Community Development Fund Grants and thank the council for its continued support.

The good news is that we are going to do it all over again, 7–9 November.

Kindest regards,

Marie Curley, Monaghan


Emma’s new DVD

Lovers of sean nós dance who like to learn and practice at home have the benefit of an increasing number of instructional DVDs. One of the brightest stars in sean nós, Emma O’Sullivan, released her first disk last year, Step by Step, which combines tuition for fourteen steps with performances in several scenic locations.

Emma became an all-Ireland sean nós champion in 2009, and achieved wide recognition because of her appearances on RTÉ’s All-Ireland Talent Show. She dances in a natural and almost effortless way, and her teaching on the DVD has steps which most experienced set dancers will be able to master. Each of the fourteen steps is broken down slowly and carefully, with a clear view from behind for easy practice. Emma then dances the step to music, slower at first to hornpipes, and then at speed to reels. Half the steps are basic and easier, and the rest are advanced.

While all teaching is indoors, Emma visits some beautiful places in the west of Ireland—the Burren, Galway city, the isle of Inishbofin, and a Connemara beach where she performs all fourteen steps in sequence. Most of these performances also feature live music by Johnny O’Halloran, who supplied the reels and hornpipes for the instruction.

Step by Step is available from Claddagh Records, Dublin; Custy’s Music Shop, Ennis, Co Clare; and from Emma’s website www.emmaosullivan.com.


Articles continue in Old News Volume<>83.

There's more to read in the collections of old news and reviews, volumes 11997-1998, 2, 31998-1999, 41999, 51999-2000, 6, 72000, 8, 9, 102001, 112001-2002, 12, 13, 14, 152002, 162002-2003, 17, 18, 192003, 202003-2004, 21, 22, 23, 24, 252004, 262004-2005, 27, 28, 29, 30, 312005, 322005-2006, 33, 34, 35, 36, 372006, 38, 392006-2007, 40, 41, 42, 432007, 442007-2008, 442007-2008, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 502008, 512008-2009, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 572009, 582009-2010, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 652010, 662010–2011, 67, 68, 69, 70, 712011, 722011–2012, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 782012, 792012-2013, 80, 81, 82, 832013, 842013-2014 (Index).

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Bill Lynch   Set Dancing News, Kilfenora, Co Clare, Ireland
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