Sean-nós dance (Irish : Damhsa ar an sean nós, lit.old style dancing) is an older style of traditional solo Irish dance. It is a casual dance form, as opposed to the more formal and competition-oriented form of Irish stepdance.
Sean nós in Irish means "old style", and is applied to the dance form as well as sean-nós song. These now less-common forms of Irish dance and traditional Irish singing have been documented in Irish history and by ethnomusicologists, but are still alive in parts of the Irish music scene.
Sean-nós dance is characterised by its "low to the ground" footwork, improvised steps, free movement of the arms, and an emphasis upon a "batter" (which sounds out more loudly the accented beat of the music). It is counted in beats of 8. It is traditionally a solo dance form. Because sean-nós dancing is improvisational, it is not necessary for a pre-arranged routine or choreography to be decided upon by the dancer. Spontaneous expression is highly valued. Therefore, it is less common to see groups performing synchronised sean-nós dance (which requires choreography in advance). Instead, the dancers may dance in turns, playing off the energy of the other.
Sean-nós dancing is similar to the more formal, competition oriented stepdance, but is more freeform in its expression. Stepdancing is recognisable by its stylised dance clothing, high kicks, and arms kept rigidly to the side. In comparison, the sean-nós dancers generally wear street clothing and their arms usually move with the natural rhythm of the dance or are kept loosely at their side. Some dancers incorporate large arm movements in their dance. Personal style is highly valued in sean-nós dancing.
Competition oriented stepdancing can be danced with a soft or a hard shoe, depending on the type of dance. Sean-nós dancing is done with any available street shoe that is to the liking of the individual dancer. The sound of a sean-nós dancer's footwork has a rhythmic quality. Many dancers prefer a shoe that is capable of percussive sound.
Traditional sean-nós dance surfaces include a standard wooden dance floor, a door that has been taken off the hinges, a table, a barrel, or even the top of a stool. In those cases, the skill of the dancer is shown by how well s/he can produce the various steps within the narrow bounds of the dance surface.
The good dancer danced, as it were underneath himself, trapping each note of music on the floor, and the use of the half-door and table for solo performances indicates the limited area in which he was expected to perform. – Folk Music & Dances of Ireland, Brendan Breathnach
They used to say, 'A good dancer could dance on a silver tray, and a really excellent dancer could dance on a sixpence.' Now, any modern Irish dancer would fill the whole stage." But, why compare the two? After all, says Patrick O'Dea, they are two entirely different dances – one, a traditional "old style" of step dancing, and the second, a newer and less traditional outgrowth or variation.
The roots of this form of dancing pre-date modern records. Differences in style exist in different regions of Ireland. Prior to modern communication every region had its own style which was influenced over time. Notable events in Irish history can be seen through the dance, like the steps of Ulster influenced by Scottish dancing and the low steps of the west coast influenced by the Spanish flamenco. So there is no singular definitive standard.
Sean-Nós Dance: This is an old style traditional form of dancing that originated in the Connemara region (west coast of Ireland). This is a low to ground stepping out to the music, very relaxed, similar to tap dance, but it is not the stage show event like the Step Dancing you see in productions of Riverdance. Sean-nós dancing is a very impromptu, rhythmic, and low key accompaniment to a lively traditional Irish band. The footwork "battering" is great watch and listen to. These are typically done as a solo performer or in very small groups and are well suited to all ages. (oftentimes the best sean-nós dancers, are the old timers in the dark corners of the pub).
The popularization of old style dancing through competitions, stage shows and copycat teaching/learning methods has created "standard" old style steps, counter to the ideology of an improvisational, personal form of Irish dancing. Standard steps can be seen multiple times in any competition and standard tunes have emerged also, such as McCleod's reel and New Mown Meadows. Tap dancing shoes have been adopted by many prominent dancers, changing not only the sound, but also the style of the dancing.
Old style dancing may subdivided further;
With the increasing popularity of competitions in old style dancing and the desire for a polished performance, many dancers opt for fully choreographed dances.
As the Irish peoples emigrated, they took sean-nós dance with them. This form of dance has influenced various other forms of traditional solo dance extant around the world, e.g. Tap Dance or American traditional informal freeform solo folk dancing. Sean-nós dance in America may differ from how it is practiced in Ireland, because it in turn has been influenced by other cultures' dance styles there. Sean-nós dancing in America and Canada is most commonly seen at folk festivals and informal Irish music sessions, possibly mixed in with casual Irish Stepdancing and other regional styles. However, some dance workshops in America are beginning to introduce the style more widely.
The practice of sean-nós dance and song, lilting ("mouth music"), and playing "the bones" (a simple percussion instrument convenient to carry in a pocket) represented a minimalist means of preserving musical and dance heritage; one which anyone could take part in with a minimum of experience and expenditure but which had the possibility for developing considerable levels of skill with further practice.
On Saturday 5 October 2013 a group of up to fifty sean nós dancers took over Shop street, Galway in the form of a sean nós flash mob. As many as fifty dancers, in a wide range of age groups, wowed the gathering crowd with their display. The flash mob was organised by the yearly festival known as Oireachtas na Samhna. The idea was to promote the 116th Oireachtas Festival.
With music by Johnny Óg Connolly Connemara, the first step was performed by Róisín Seoighe Connemara in her trademark red shoes before she was joined by up to 60 dancers at the pedestrian crossroads, aged between 5 and 80. The dancing lasted about eight minutes before the group dispersed as quickly as they had begun.
The reel is a folk dance type as well as the accompanying dance tune type. Of Scottish origin, reels are also an important part of the repertoire of the fiddle traditions of the British Isles and North America. In Scottish country dancing, the reel is one of the four traditional dances, the others being the jig, the strathspey and the waltz, and is also the name of a dance figure.
The jig is a form of lively folk dance in compound metre, as well as the accompanying dance tune. It developed in 16th-century England, and was quickly adopted on mainland Europe where it eventually became the final movement of the mature Baroque dance suite. Today it is most associated with Irish dance music, Scottish country dance and the Métis people in Canada. Jigs were originally in duple compound metre,, but have been adapted to a variety of time signatures, by which they are often classified into groups, including light jigs, slip jigs, single jigs, double jigs, and treble jigs.
Irish dance is a group of traditional dance forms originating from Ireland, encompassing dancing both solo and in groups, and dancing for social, competitive, and performance purposes. Irish dance in its current form developed from various influences such as Native Irish dance French quadrilles and English country dancing. Dance was taught by "travelling dance masters" across Ireland in the 17th-18th century, and separate dance forms developed according to regional practice and differing purposes. Irish dance became a significant part of Irish culture, particularly for Irish nationalist movements. From the early 20th century, a number of organisations promoted and codified the various forms of dance, creating competitive structures and standardised styles.
Tap dance is a type of dance characterised by using the sounds of tap shoes striking the floor as a form of percussion. The sound is made by shoes that have a metal "tap" on the heel and toe. There are several major variations on tap dance including: rhythm tap (jazz) tap, classical tap, Broadway tap, and post-modern tap. Broadway tap often focuses on formations, choreography and generally less complex rhythms; it is widely performed in musical theatre. Rhythm tap focuses on musicality, and practitioners consider themselves to be a part of the jazz tradition and as such, Improvisation is essential to their work. Many of the most influential rhythm tap dancers were members of the Hoofers Club or Original Copacetics. Classical tap has a similarly long tradition which marries European "classical" music with American foot drumming with a wide variation in full-body expression. Post-modern or contemporary tap has emerged over the last three decades to incorporate abstract expression, thematic narrative and technology.
A solo dance is danced by an individual dancing alone, as opposed to couples dancing together but independently of others dancing at the same time, if any, and as opposed to groups of people dancing simultaneously in a coordinated manner. Solo dancers are usually the best dancers in a group or dance school. Most solo dancers start after about 6–7 years of dance or sooner. Most soloists are company kids of their dance school. They are usually in more than one dance.
Irish set dance, sometimes called "country sets", is a popular form of folk dancing in Ireland.
Step dance is the generic term for dance styles in which the footwork is the most important part of the dance. Limb movements and styling are either restricted or considered irrelevant.
Slip jig refers to both a style within Irish music, and the Irish dance to music in slip-jig time. The slip jig is in 9
8 time, traditionally with accents on 5 of the 9 beats — two pairs of crotchet/quaver followed by a dotted crotchet note.
Highland dance or Highland dancing is a style of competitive solo dancing developed in the Scottish Highlands in the 19th and 20th centuries, in the context of competitions at public events such as the Highland games. It was created from the Gaelic folk dance repertoire, but formalised with the conventions of ballet', and has been subject to influences from outside the Highlands. Highland dancing is often performed with the accompaniment of Highland bagpipe music, and dancers wear specialised shoes called ghillies. It is now seen at nearly every modern-day Highland games event.
Clogging is a type of folk dance in which the dancer's footwear is used percussively by striking the heel, the toe, or both against a floor or each other to create audible rhythms, usually to the downbeat with the heel keeping the rhythm. The dance style has recently fused with others including African-American rhythms, and the Peruvian dance "zapateo", resulting in the birth of newer street dances, such as tap, locking, jump, hakken, stomping, Gangsta Walking, and the Candy Walk dance. The use of wooden-soled clogs is rarer in the more modern dances since clog shoes are not commonly worn in urban society, and other types of footwear have replaced them in their evolved dance forms. Clogging is often considered the first form of street dance because it evolved in urban environments during the industrial revolution.
Clog dancing is a form of step dance characterised by the wearing of inflexible, wooden soled clogs. Clog dancing developed into differing intricate forms both in Wales and also in the North of England. Welsh clog dancing mainly originates from various slate mines where workers would compete against each other during work breaks. Northern English traditional clog dancing originates from Lancashire, Yorkshire, Northumbria and Cumbria.
Irish stepdance is a style of performance dance with its roots in traditional Irish dance. It is generally characterized by a stiff upper body and quick and precise movements of the feet. It can be performed solo or in groups. Aside from public dance performances, there are also stepdance competitions all over the world. These competitions are often called Feiseanna. In Irish dance culture, a Feis is a traditional Gaelic arts and culture festival. Costumes are considered important for stage presence in competition and performance Irish stepdance. In many cases, costumes are sold at high prices and can even be custom made. Males and females can both perform Irish stepdance but for the most part in today's society, the dance remains predominantly female. This means that the costumes are mainly dresses. Each dress is different, with varying colors and patterns, designed to attract the judge's eye in competitions and the audience's eye in performance. General appearance besides the costume is also equally important. Dancers would typically curl their hair before each competition. Many dancers invest in curled wigs that match their hair color. Poodle Socks are worn with the dresses and shoes. These are white socks that stretch to mid calf with distinctive ribbing.
Oireachtas na Gaeilge is an annually held arts festival of Irish culture, which has run since the 1890s. Based on the Welsh Eisteddfod, Oireachtas na Gaeilge runs for one week, featuring performances, demonstrations and competitions. The festival is held in two portions: a visual arts festival in April/May and the festival proper on the last weekend of October or the first of November, when more than 10,000 people attend the seven-day event. In 2007, the festival was held at Westport. The 2008 festival took place in the Cork city suburb of Douglas, the local support committee was under the chairmanship of Peadar Ó Riada, son of the composer and founder of the male choir Cór Chúil Aodha, Seán Ó Riada.
Irish traditional music is a genre of folk music that developed in Ireland.
American traditional informal freeform solo folk dancing is a form of dance oriented to spontaneous individual dancing, where self-expression and creativity are expected.
Sean-nós dance in America has its roots in Irish culture, but may be practiced differently from how it is danced in Ireland. When Irish people emigrated to America in great numbers during the early American Colonial period, or when escaping The Troubles in Ireland, they brought their dance culture with them. One of the many forms of Irish dance is sean-nós dance, which is an informal, spontaneous, solo form of dance. Sean-nós dance has both modified, and in turn been modified by, similar forms of traditional vernacular solo dance in America.
Sean-nós is a highly ornamented style of unaccompanied traditional Irish singing, and in the singing of Ireland's Gaeltacht.
Festival Irish Dance is one of the oldest communities of Irish dancing, emerging when Irish folk dancing was added to musical festivals in the late 1920s in Northern Ireland. Most Festival Irish Dancing schools belong to the Festival Dance Teacher's Association, but some are independent. Educational establishments and youth organisations also participate in Festival Irish Dancing competitions. The Festival Irish Dancing community is found mainly in the eastern part of Ulster, but it is ever increasing in its geographic reach.
Canadian stepdance, also known as Maritimes stepdance, is a unique style of stepdance in Canada, stemming from European origins including France, Scotland and Ireland. Canadian stepdancing involves fast dancing to fiddle music using shoes with taps designed to accentuate the dancer's rhythmical, drumming foot movements. Dancers generally require little dance space to perform their routines. Some styles of Canadian stepdancing include upper-body postures that are relatively relaxed compared with older stepdance styles, allowing occasional arm movements that flow with the rhythm of the dance, or hands on hips.
Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne is an annual Irish stepdance competition run by An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha. The Worlds include competitions for solo stepdance, organised by gender and age; and for certain traditional and original ceili dances, also divided by age group and team gender composition. Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne is the top competition of the hierarchical system operated by An Coimisiún, and dancers must qualify at major Irish stepdance events across the world in order to compete.