#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.