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Thursday 3 January 2013

Set Irish Dance Terms

In our last post, we explained what Irish Set dancing is, here we mention some of the most common dance terms. They are much easier than it sounds:

'1st Top' couple: The most basic description is that this couple is always closest to the band, with their backs to the band.

'2nd Top' couple: Opposite to the 1st top couple, facing the band.

'1st Side' couple: Couple to the right side of the 1st top couple, and across the 2nd side couple.

'2nd Side' couple: Couple to the left side of the 1st and 2nd top couples.

Advance and Retire: Two couples or two lines of dancers walk towards each other 4 steps, then back 4 steps.

Christmas tree: Where four, six, or eight dancers come together with crossed hands joined behind their backs to swing. Nowadays, for reasons of safety, most dancers adopt a standard hold, with L arms going over and R arms under those of the dancers either side while the L hand grips the wrist of the next-but-one dancer as the R wrist is gripped by another L hand. R hands should be held flat against the back of the adjoining dancer rather than with bunched knuckles to prevent causing hurt to the small of the back.

Dance at Home: Dancing, one, two (or more) full clockwise turns, normally in waltz hold*, while remaining in the 'home' place. It is done in either of two ways; partners can start shoulder to shoulder and facing in opposite directions and simply dance around each other (this is the high revving version) or, facing each other, dance a series of short forward (for the gent) and backward steps with a 1/4 turn on each step to complete one or two turns.

Do-si-do: Pass right shoulders till you are back-to-back then return passing left shoulders. Some dances add optional spins as the partners travel around each other. 

Gypsy: The couple rotates once around each other but without touching hands. Maintain eye contact. Flirt if you wish.

House: The verb 'to house' is now generally accepted as the act of moving in a general anti-clockwise direction while simultaneously turning clockwise one full turn in each 2 bar sequence.

House around: The progress of all four couples around the space occupied by the set, with couples turning clockwise one full turn into each place (2 bars) as they go, thus making four full turns to get back home. Each dancer steps around his/her partner on the step beginning with the L foot and turns in place on that beginning with the R in order to achieve a smooth circular movement. (8 bars)

House around each other: When opposite* or corner* couples dance the 'House around'* movement into each other's place and back home.

Ladies Chain: Ladies take right hands in a handshake fashion and pull past each other to give left hand to the opposite oncoming Gent. Repeat if it’s a full chain over and back.  

Lead around: A movement normally danced by all four couples, using one of a range of hand or partner holds, partners side by side and facing anti-clockwise around the set. All dance 3s around the set and back home. 

Promenade: Partners join right hands and left hands in either skaters position or raised to shoulder height. 

Opposite: Opposite sex person in your circle of four (who is not your partner.)

Star (left or right): Put designated hand on wrist of the dancer in front of you and circle four places.

Swing: Partners, in either waltz* or ceili* hold, spin around each other making four (or more) complete turns in 8 bars. To accomplish the movement safely, partners' R feet should be placed together. The R foot carries the weight on counts 1 and 3 of each bar while the L foot, held behind the R heel, propels the dancer round on counts 2 and 4.The aim should be to keep the R foot turning in as small a space as possible and as flat to the floor as possible to produce a smooth, flat swing. 
  • *Waltz hold: More properly called, I suppose, ballroom hold.
  • *Ceili hold: Partners face each other, take L handshake hold and pass their R hands inside their partner's L elbow to lie flat against the small of the back.

You can see the CCE set dancers this time performing the third figure of the Claddagh Set.

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Until next time / Go dtí an chéad uair eile!