These piece was contributed by the New 42nd Street Fall Apprentice Lauren Extrom.
At first glance, you may think that Irish dancing is as simple as letting your feet run wild as you tap and jump to the fast beat of drums and melodic lines of the fiddle. Though this is true at a very basic level, everyone who has seen Velocity
knows that there's a lot more to it than that. Here are four things you might not know about Irish dancing:
- There are many versions of Irish dancing—step dancing is just one of them. Competitive touring Irish dance productions such as Riverdance have popularized step dancing, but there are other notable styles as well. For instance, there are two types of social dances: set and céilí. Set dances (based on the French quadrille, or "square" dance) are partner dances that involve the trading of dance partners. Céilí dance is a folk dance performed in social situations, and can involve 2-16 dancers (or even an unlimited amount of dancers). Sean-nós (which translates to "old style") dancing dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries, where people would gather in local pubs and dance very low to the ground and within a confined space, since they didn't have much room to move about. They also would often dance on top of wooden barrels, to maximize the sound of their their feet.
- Step dancing has taken on many hybrid forms. It's ever-evolving, adapting to different cultural settings, while still preserving its Irish heritage. For example, Velocity features a unique combination of tap and Irish step dance which require the dancers to maintain a strong core and tall posture as they perform intricate step sequences and high kicks. However, they've brought their performance into the 21st century by incorporating a contemporary folk-rock band and using video and graphic projections as backdrops.
- There are two different types of shoes that can be worn in Irish dancing. Soft shoes are mostly worn in dances that include reels, slips, light jigs and single jigs, which all are steps that correspond with and are defined by the time signature of the music. Hard shoes are worn in dances that include steps such as the hornpipe, the treble jig and the treble reel. No matter the type of shoe, it's important for the dancers to maintain their own sense of rhythm, and to really internalize the beat of the music around them.
- Irish dancing is performed to (you guessed it!) traditional Irish folk music. Though the music has been modernized through the use of amps and synthesizers, it still maintains an authentic identity and uses traditional folk instruments, such as the fiddle. You can see above in Velocity, the instrumentation includes fiddle, cello, cajon and guitar. No matter the style of Irish dance, the music lays the foundation for dancers to improvise and create elaborate dance steps.
Come experience Irish step dancing for yourself! Velocity
runs through November 25 only at The New Victory Theater.
Photos: Alexis Buatti-Ramos
Lauren Extrom is the Fall 2018 Communications Apprentice at the New Victory Theater. She is a second-year graduate student in the Performing Arts Administration program at NYU Steinhardt. In addition to her work as an arts administrator and aspiring arts educator, she is an active vocalist and musician in the New York City area. She sings in the NYU Jazz Choir, and tours with VOICES 21C, a Boston-based non-profit chamber choir. In her spare time, she practices yoga and improv dance.