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.


Staying in control of the Steps

“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”

― Winston Churchill

So how exactly do we get into this improvising thing? What is it that you do? How many steps in advance do you know? Personally, I barely know a couple bars at most, and even then I’m not sure that those are what’s gonna come out. I toyed with the idea of exercising this away through attempting to memorize a four or eight bar sequence as I’m dancing it and then repeat it, either on the same or on the opposite leg, depending on where I land. Didn’t find it fun so I didn’t carry through, and also I had forgotten about it until now. My refusals of discipline aside, there is this scary idea of having to plan things ahead and probably while you’re dancing.

My day job is Software Quality Assurance, and there’s a thought I want to take from there. The first phase in Software Testing is what we call “Planning and Control”. Note the “Control” part – meaning, keeping track of how much the initial plan is not being fulfilled and adjusting both the activities we carry out and the plan itself. Cause things never go according to plan – not only in QA too, this is pretty much how anything in life goes.


Living Steps

September always ends up being the messy month. Last year it was a real emotional roller coaster ending in my amicable split with Erin’s Fiddle, after 8 years that no one would ever believe. It was an incredible time that I wouldn’t trade for anything but, with so many creative people in the same hub, well… the creative differences had to get real at some point! Now I needed a break.

So I treated myself to a “gap year” – I kept dancing in the sessions, but I wasn’t teaching and I wasn’t dealing with noooo dancing school, troupe or anything of the sort. I traveled a bit, attended some workshops, met a bunch of new dancing friends from different places. Got myself a concertina for some reason. Neighbors ain’t complainin’ yet. Overall, I must say I enjoyed it! But now the gap year was about to end. (more…)

Back to the Steps

The one thing you always get asked as a foreign Irish dancer is, well, have you been to Ireland. I was never really in a rush to visit – I figured the time will come. It was obvious I “had to” go at some point – the more I learned about sean-nós the more I understood that I needed to immerse to really be able to step it up and take things further. So, when Edwina Guckian announced that she’d do a week long adult workshop in Carrick-on-Shannon, that felt like a great opportunity to finally fly over to “THE ISLE” and see what’s up. (more…)

Changing the Set

Well, been a while since I wrote – not that there was no material! Had a great visit to Zagreb dancers, and then we enjoyed a workshop with Emma O’Sullivan in Berlin, organized by Jigs and Reels back in March. However, somehow I’m always rushing around too much to sit down and write about these experiences and I only have myself to blame.

So, to avoid this little bad habit of mine, I’m writing this one NOW – just got back home from the airport, poured a bit of scotch, and now we can talk! I came back from Prague – they had a set dancing weekend, including workshops and ceilis led by Kevin & Carol Monaghan, and organized by one of the local Irish Dancing Schools – Sona Sól. To be more accurate, it’s a yearly event and if I’m not mistaken this was the fourth year it’s been organized. The music in the ceilis was played by the relentless Rise the Dust – you can see them (and set dancing!) in action here (the music starts around the 3:20 mark) (more…)

Lilting inspirations

So, Marko and I visited the Bernard’s Summer School this summer – it was his second time, and my first. Of course, the thing that brought the event to our attention was the sean-nós dance classes. While we’ve both been practicing the style for a couple years now, we never had a teacher prior to him visiting the School in 2016. This year, however, our interest was also piqued by a lilting class – apparently the first time the school was offering that. Later on we would find out that the organizers had wanted to have it for years, but had trouble finding a teacher. The Irish seem to find that to be so intuitive and natural that they have trouble looking at it as something necessarily “teachable” – you’re supposed to “just do it”. Therefore, there’s very few actual teachers. (more…)