New Year – Old Style

This spring I got back into (competitive-based) step-dancing class, mostly to get back in shape. I’ve been away from it for a couple years so I joined the beginners class – on one hand so I can reassess my technique but also to avoid injury. Little did I know that my sprightly friend Jelena, who teaches the class, has a very intense fitness section of the classes, which wasn’t favorable for me having joined mid-term. Summer break came just in time to heal up the feet though, and now the classes are working great for me.

On a completely different note, my favorite dance video of 2019 has been From the Floor by Jackie O’Riley and Rebecca McGowan. I was aware of old-style dancing before – shoutout to Kieran Jordan for Secrets of the Sole – but I needed to see these two do it to make it really cool and interesting for me. I guess I wasn’t aware that this style of dancing was still, well, alive. Earlier on I felt it was purely a historical form. And then I got an itch that has remained with me for the latter half of the year in one way or another.

I’ve been deliberating for months on how exactly to approach this excitement about a dance form that was so old but yet so new to me. I do try to stay aware of things but I haven’t seen this style of dancing in Mainland Europe (not saying that it’s not out there, staying in touch with these things is always a challenge). In hindsight the answer is fairly obvious.

So at the end of last year I talked to my friends at Erin’s Fiddle and here we are – starting mid-January, I’ll be teaching a class on non-competitive Irish Dance, taking in bits of two-hand dances, hopefully set dancing, some sean-nós and having the old-style dancing as the centerpiece (at least for starters – knowing myself, the focus will be moving around over time). I went back to my collection of instructional videos, and dug a bit for some more books and videos – I should be able to pick up enough before I need to start.

For some reason I haven’t been this excited about Irish Dancing in years – I’m notoriously lazy when I need to work for my own benefit. The only time I ever really dug into working outside of the class was when I was learning sean-nós back in 2014, and this was from a point of anger and spite – looking for a dance form that’s Irish but pleasing for me, unlike the competitive dance that I always found frustrating. And that worked. But this new work feels weird (albeit in a good way).

It’s been ages since I’ve felt excited to learn a fixed set of steps. I guess I got used to the idea of my mind being this chaotic place where improvising steps is the way to go. So now I’m feverishly learning these old-style set dances, practicing barefoot in my flat and looking for a hole between other people’s dance classes to quickly try to put it together to music in actual shoes. And I like it.

For years Irish Dance has been this confrontative, swimming upstream thing. A thing where I felt bad for most of the time – but couldn’t quit. Even the good times, I was so all over the place that it was stressful, it only got good after the fact. And now I suddenly feel joyful about doing this. I don’t get it yet, but the year ahead may turn out to be interesting.

Hopefully someone comes to the class 🤣🤣🤣

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