It was ten years ago now in 2004 that I went to my very first Irish dance workshop to learn the sean nós or old-style of Irish dancing from Kathleen McGlynn. Kathleen has an inclusive and encouraging approach to teaching and she put everyone at their ease – as much as you could have with about 50 of us keen learners crammed into the smallest space imaginable at the venue An Grianán in Co.Louth (the workshops have since been moved to bigger venues).
Curiosity about this lovely loose, rhythmic traditional dancing had begun to rise in Ireland about this time, particularly amongst the Irish set dancing community. I’d put this down to dancers who were reasonably competent set dancers wanting to stretch their horizons and give themselves more of a challenge, something to stretch their skills a bit and have a bit of unstructured fun.
Our biggest challenge came at the end of the workshop when we were invited to “throw a few shapes” and dance on the very traditional half-door, that was set in the middle of the floor. This comes from days when most houses in the Irish countryside were made of rammed earth – not very good for making a good sound. So, for those country house that had a door with two halves, the top half would be taken off the hinges, laid on the floor and the dancing would begin.
As you can see from the film (my very first film made from my ordinary photo camera), dancers took turns at doing few steps and I can tell you, it takes quite a lot of confidence and practice even to get to this stage! (no pun intended).
Popularity of this style of dance has lifted to the heights of now being part of an Irish TV dance competition program aptly name An Jig Gig.
However, I can guarantee you – stage or no stage – it’s worth trying sean nos dancing for the sheer joy of moving everything- feet, hips, arms- in time with the rhythm of the music – Irish, country, bluegrass – whatever rings your bell.
And, as our friends in Co.Laois at the Half Door Club say
” A light heart lives long”
What’s not to like?