St. Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching. For our family that means a month of celebrating all things Irish. That includes my love affair with Celtic Dancing.
I first saw a performance of River Dance in the late 90’s. I was immediately struck by how impossibly fast the dancer’s feet move and how lightly the dancers travel across the floor. It’s an impressive sight to witness first hand.
It’s not just professionals that achieve an awe inspiring performance. During my travels to the West of Ireland I saw many informal performances at local pubs and impromptu performances at large family weddings. The most memorable of those dances was with a man of notable girth nimbly moving across the floor opposite his very young son. The entire wedding reception were on their feet cheering the duo on.
There isn’t a great deal of history on the origins of Irish Dance. I was told that the dancers only use their feet, so as the oppressive English Soldiers passed the tiny pub windows they would not notice the illegal dancing. I later learned it’s just a story passed on to naïve American tourists.
There is however evidence that the Druids practiced Irish dancing in religious rituals honoring the oak tree and the sun. Traces of their circular dances survive in the ring dances of today.
In modern history, when King James landed at Kinsale, County Cork, in 1780, he was welcomed by dancers. Three people stood abreast, each holding ends of a white handkerchief. They advanced to slow music and were followed by dancing couples, each couple holding a handkerchief between them.
Group dances were developed by village masters to hold the interest of their less gifted pupils and to give them the chance to enjoy dancing. The standard of these dances was still very high. Solo dancers were held in the highest esteem. This esteem is still held today. To have a child competing in Irish Dance remains a true source of pride for the family.
The World Championships will be held a few weeks after St. Patrick’s Day. They are traditionally held in Dublin at Easter Time. Dancers from England, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand compete for the World Title.
In recognition of this great and storied cultural dance my girls and I are creating Paper Irish Dancers to hang. I was inspired by the paper ballerinas at Krokotak. There are many similar tutorials but this one offers a printable template. I adjusted the arms to sit at their hips in a more traditional pose and attached a bit of ribbon to mimic the handkerchiefs. I recommend using card stock to give the dancer’s body a bit of support.
We used the colors of the Irish Flag for our dancers. It will be fun to play with patterned paper too. Traditional Irish Dresses are elaborate.
Erin go Bragh! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!