#TBT Musician-Dancers: Michael Tubridy and Alga Mae Hinton!

This week we will feature musician-dancer Michael Tubridy and Alga Mae Hinton, in honor of Michael Tubridy and James Keane's visit this weekend!   

 

Events abound!

Visit http://shannondunnedance.com for the full schedule and discounts!

 

 

 

 

In the wake of recent events, SDD would like to remind our dancers, families, and supporters that it was not that long ago that the Irish in America were subject to racism, oppression, bigotry, persecution, discrimination, and hatred. There are countless articles online (like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Irish_sentiment). To show our solidarity with #blacklivesmatter, we will be featuring black dancers, artists and musicians who have been inspirational to the Irish percussive dance community.

#TBT: Bill Robinson meets Róisín Ní Mhainín and the Devane brothers!

First watch the dance routine of Bill Robinson found in "Harlem is Heaven" at 22:24

Pay close attention to 24:30, and see a smilier movement in this great video of Róisín Ní Mhainín, at 0:44

Then watch the movement at 24:55, and see the same step done by Patrick and Gearoid Devane here, starting at 18:07! (To the same tune that Róisín is dancing to, btw!) 

In the wake of recent events, SDD would like to remind our dancers, families, and supporters that it was not that long ago that the Irish in America were subject to racism, oppression, bigotry, persecution, discrimination, and hatred. There are countless articles online (like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Irish_sentiment). To show our solidarity with #blacklivesmatter, we will be featuring black dancers, artists and musicians who have been inspirational to the Irish percussive dance community.

#CultureWednesday: Social Dance

I just saw this TED talk on Facebook, and thought it was a perfect jumping off point for today's blog post! 

Irish dance comes in many forms, but all of Irish dancing includes some kind of percussive element, even if the percussively is felt within the body of the dance (as in the soft shoe slip jig, or the jive). 

Here's a random sampling of Irish dancing at social events.   I included competition footage because competitions were a very important part of Irish social events, as were dance as performance. 

  • What seems continuous?  
  • What is different?  
  • How is it different than the clips of the African American dances?  
  • How is it the same?

 

In the wake of recent events, SDD would like to remind our dancers, families, and supporters that it was not that long ago that the Irish in America were subject to racism, oppression, bigotry, persecution, discrimination, and hatred. There are countless articles online (like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Irish_sentiment). To show our solidarity with #blacklivesmatter, we will be featuring black dancers, artists and musicians who have been inspirational to the Irish percussive dance community.

#MusicalityTuesday: Diane Walker and Joe O'Donovan

Today's #musicalitytuesday features the beautiful Dianne Walker and Joe & Siobhan O'Donovan!

Dianne Walker is a tap dancer, also known as Lady Di. Her thirty-year career spans Broadway, television, film, and international dance concerts. Walker is the Artistic Director of TapDancin, Inc. in BostonMassachusetts.

As a tap dancer, dancing to jazz, Dianne is expected to interpret the tune the same way a jazz musician would.  Both musician and dancer use the basic melody to solo, and create their own version of the basic melody.   With regards to musicality, it's a different approach than the way we dance Irish steps.  Her phrasing and movement continually changes, as she interprets the tune.   

Now look at this clip of Joe and Siobhan O'Donovan, Old Style Step dancers: 

 

Joe O' Donovan (1918-2008) was born in Cork city into a household filled with Irish music, song and dance.  His father, Michael O'Donovan, was the founder of the Blackpool Step-Dancing Club and Joe's older sister Mary became a registered Irish dancing teacher.  As a boy, Joe O'Donovan learnt to play the melodeon and accordion and later went on to learn a number of other instruments.  He played with the Cork Volunteers' Pipe Band and was a keen collector of recorded traditional and classical/ operatic music and of books on history, folklore and current affairs.

Siobhán O'Donovan (1918-2013) was born Hannah Twomey in Cork city as one of thirteen children.  She later adopted the name Siobhánto distinguish herself from a school friend also called Hannah Twomey.  Siobhán and her eight sisters were all accomplished step-dancers.  Friendly with the O'Donovan family, two of the Twomey girls, Breda and Siobhán, married two of the O'Donovan boys, Mike and Joe, in 1948 and 1949, respectively.  Joe worked for an engineering firm and was heavily involved in the trade union movement but in his spare time he taught Irish dancing classes at An Grianán under the auspices of Sceim na gCeardchumann, a society run by trade unionists promoting an interest in all things Irish.  For the remainder of his life, Joe O'Donovan played a significant part in the revival and preservation of many of the country's regional and national dances through workshops, lectures and articles.  Joe and Siobhán O'Donovan were heavily involved in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (an international movement engaged in the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music)  and travelled extensively across the globe participating in festivals and teaching Irish dancing. Their unparalleled contribution to Irish music and dancing has been acknowledged by a number of tributes and awards, including the TG4 Sé Mo Laoch Tribute and Gradam Ceoil Award.

 

When Joe and Siobhan dance, they dance "steps", 8 bar repeating phrases (L and R).   This mirrors the way Irish music is played: in most cases, each A and B part repeat, and smaller variations/ornaments happen within the repeating melody of the tune.  (Note: they are not Connemara sean-nos dancers, which has it's own way of approaching musicality.)

Ways your might use these videos for deeper study:

  • Watch the videos, and note movements that repeat and movements that seem unique to each dancer.  
  • Watch and see what qualities you think each dancer exhibits.    
  • Look one-at-a-time for: drums/cramprolls, cuts, toe knocks, flaps/tip-down.  Listen to the way they apply those movements to the music, rhythmically.   (A good way to do that is to sing along with the tune and listen for their rhythm). 

 

 

In the wake of recent events, SDD would like to remind our dancers, families, and supporters that it was not that long ago that the Irish in America were subject to racism, oppression, bigotry, persecution, discrimination, and hatred. There are countless articles online (like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Irish_sentiment). To show our solidarity with #blacklivesmatter, we will be featuring black dancers, artists and musicians who have been inspirational to the Irish percussive dance community.

 

 

 

#TUNE OF THE WEEK: The Boys of Blue Hill meet Chuck Brown!

During the creation of Washington Sound Museum: Hip Hop Meets the Music of Ireland, Christylez Bacon noticed that Shannon's old style hornpipe steps fit right in the "Go-Go pocket".

Go-go is a subgenre of funk music developed in and around the Washington metropolitan area in the mid-70s. Brown is called the "Godfather of Go-Go" and was considered a local legend in Washington, D.C. Darryl Brooks, a local promoter who worked with Chuck Brown during his career, stated, "He was a symbol of D.C. manhood, back in the day, because of the authority that he spoke with. He just spoke from a perspective that black men could understand." Andre Johnson, the leader of the go-go band Rare Essence, said that Chuck Brown "influenced generations of people—not just one—a few generations of musicians around here." Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said Brown was "Go-go's creator and, arguably, its most legendary artist."

Today's challenge is to take your hornpipe steps and dance them first to the Boys of Blue Hill, and then to Chuck Brown, and see what feels the same and what new inspirations strike! 

 

If you don't remember the Boys of Blue Hill, this is a GREAT video for both dancing and learning some nuances in the melody:

Then take those same steps and dance them to Chuck Brown: 

In the wake of recent events, SDD would like to remind our dancers, families, and supporters that it was not that long ago that the Irish in America were subject to racism, oppression, bigotry, persecution, discrimination, and hatred. There are countless articles online (like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Irish_sentiment). To show our solidarity with #blacklivesmatter, we will be featuring black dancers, artists and musicians who have been inspirational to the Irish percussive dance community.

 

PRACTICE TIP: Clean Your House to Irish Music

"What do you do before you go onstage?" "I improvise, and try to get out of my own way."
-Michelle Dorrance, Tap Dancer and MacArthur Genius Grant Award Winner 2016

I hate cleaning.  I just have a hard time getting that excited about the activity.   I do love the result though, so I find that having the right conditions is key.   Irish music is great for that.  It's fun, upbeat, and keeps me naturally moving forward.    It's like a "whistle while you work" phenomenon.  (People have a told me the same thing about when they run, but you won't catch me doing that nonsense.)

I've notice there is a secondary benefit to cleaning your house to Irish music:    you're only half listening.    

Imagine a true session or party where there's great music: you aren't sitting with your hands folded in your lap as if in church or at a concert.  You aren't actively listening.   You are moving around, talking, socializing.  If the music is good it will grab your attention.  

The thing is, "good" can mean a lot of things, and it can mean different things to the head and the body.   The head, for example, might respond to a virtuosic fiddle tune with 97 parts and 43 accidentals.  But the body might really respond to simpler things, like a good groove or a simple tune with lots of room for extra rhythm.  

Everyone is different, and its important as a dancer that you know what kind of music grabs your body.  


IT'S PERSONAL

When you are half listening, you are honestly responding. You are not efforting a dance or making an analysis.  By half listening, your essence and/or body are able to respond to particular triggers from the music.  It's primal.  

This is the kind of response we want to embody in our sean-nos dancing.  The best sean-nos dancing comes from that place.   The place where the music has grabbed us and we have no choice but to move to the dance floor.  When we are on the dance floor before we even know what's happening.  

It's the expression of a personal connection.  By listening to that body-voice, we can support and develop that connection.  This leads to better, more creative and confident improvisations, and the development of genuine personal style.  

Note: Practice is important.  But as improvisors we practice our skills so that we have a  range of rhythms/moves in our aresenal. We practice so that those moves are second nature, and in the moment we can access those skills to help us express what we are hearing/feeling. 


MAKE THE MOST OF HALF-LISTENING!

1) Don't listen.   Or rather don't actively listen.  Put on Irish music while you are doing something that requires so level of basic focus so that the mind can't respond but the body can. 

2) Let the music grab you.  When you find your body responding, do what it wants to do.  Even if it's just a little step in your imagination. 

3) Be the observer.  How do you feel?  What elements are you using?   How do you naturally move to this music?    Being able to access this place will be important in developing your own personal style. 

4) Take note.  Either in your head, or in a notebook.  Take note of instrumentation.  Style.  Players.   Tune names.   

5) Observe patterns.  Chances are the same players, instrumentation, or tunes will come up time and time again.  For years I loved the Old Blackthorn, but only when I started asking "what tune was that? I LOVE that tune" did I realize I was getting the same answer repeatedly.  


REMEMBER: the point is to let your body respond and tell you what IT likes!   Your head might like the idea of minor complex tunes that have 17 parts, but your body might like a good solid single reel in G.   You never know!





PRACTICE TIP FRIDAY: Listening for Repetition

“You want to be a sean-nos dancer?   Just dance the tune!” -Anonymous Dancer, Miltown Malbay

In an ideal world, all sean-nos dancers would grow up in the following manner:  Irish music present from day 1 and the only musical experience, and as they unconsciously absorb the nuance of traditional tunes and ornamentation they develop an inherent need to express the particular character articulated in each tune with their feet through rhythm. 

This isn’t the case for most of us.  But the good news is that you can easily develop an ear for the nuances that make each tune unique through active and critical listening

You want to make sure to keep critical listening tasks manageable. Don't try to bite off too much at once. And so...

This week's challenge: Listen for 3 different kinds of repetition: 

 

First, identify part (8-bar) repetitions.

Ask: Do the parts (8 bar melodies) repeat?

In Irish music speak: Is it a single or a double?

In the Connachtman’s Rambles, the 8 bar segments repeat in an AABB pattern.  It is double. 

Next, identify repetition within the parts.

Ask: Does anything repeat within the 8 bars?  What is it, how long does it last, and how many times does it repeat?

In Connachtman’s Rambles, the opening phrase happens every 2 bars.  This happens 3 times and then there is a 2 bar ending phrase.  

Finally, identify repetition across the parts.

Ask: Does the A part sound, in rhythm or melody, like the B part?   

In the Connachtman’s Rambles, the B part echoes the A in the melodic structure:  in each set of 3 notes, one note is followed by 2 repeating notes.    

A part: F-A-A D-A-A

B part: F-B-B F-A-A 

This keeps the groove and the rhythm the same.    

 

Note: If you find listening and identifying difficult, print out the sheet music or the ABCs from the session.org.   Looking at the visual structure of the tune can help demystify the tune structure.  

Some other great classic tunes that are hellarepetitive, and great for this exercise!

  • Humors of Tulla
  • Silver Spear
  • Come West Along the Road
  • Kesh. Jig 
  • Lilting Banshee

 

GOOD LUCK!