Irish Dance and Tripping the Sod
Irish dance has gone through numerous changes since its inception from tan, wigs, and elaborate costumes to daring to wear pants during a competition. Such was the case in New Jersey where Breanna Broesler broke the mold of traditional Irish dance while competing in Glasgow, Scotland. It was quite a brave mood for the 22 year old, which is not unusual for women in Ireland to challenge social norms of the time. After all, Irish women have been known to take much greater risks. They challenged the authority of the British Empire in 1916.
How I would have loved to see my little girls compete but would like to see it performed more simply, without the wigs, and extravagant dresses. My hats off to Brianna Broesler! when she dared to dance wearing trousers.
By the way, the word, phony, was derived from Irish. This is one of the fascinating trivia facts in the book, 100 Things You Didn’t’ Know about Ireland.
Irish music and dancing are one, and like Irish music, the steps were taught from person to person, generation to generation, never to be written down until centuries later. Although most Irish culture was forbidden by England during Colonial times, the king of England loved entertainment.
They were both country dances performed in a ’round.’ In addition the English were fascinated by the sword dances, favored by Scots. In fact, Ireland, Scotland, and France share history with Irish dance.
The Dance Master
As far back as the 1700s or more, Dance Masters traveled through rural villages, stopping along the way to teach dance steps to country people. He brought his own musicians and stayed with a local family. Dancing took place in kitchens, barns, at crossroads or out of doors.
This later form of education was called Hedge Schools. This is where the phrase, “tripping the sod ‘ came from.
Not all Irish dance is the same. Some dances are meant as solo performances while others are meant to be with partners or in a large group. All share the frenzied jumping and often twirling to an Irish muse.
Different Types of Dance
- Set Dancing is the older type of dance with a European flare, very much like American “square dance.” Traditionally it was done at a cross roads. They were extremely popular in County Clare.
- Ceili Dances were created because someone thought other types of set dance were not Irish enough. These days no one cares and often Ceiliis and Step dances are mixed together.
- Sean-nos-dancing is the solo sort of isolated dance with the arms hung loosely at the sides. I’ve heard this was in order that dancing were secretive should a British soldier be peeing in a window but I’m not sure if this is true.
- Lastly, we have the step dance which is the more contemporary dance we see today in shows like ‘River Dance.’ and competitions.
If you enjoyed this post you may like: Why Irish Music Remains a Mystery