The Our Steps Dialogue page is an ever-evolving collection of found and commissioned essays, articles, interviews, and journal entries that celebrate and interrogate ideas related to Irish dance and contemporary arts practice. We hope to give voice to complex issues and create space for conversation across generations and disciplines. Guest editors and contributors will add to the continuing dialogue on a regular basis.
I’ve been wondering lately whose Irish dance stories are allowed to be archived, and which parts of those stories we allow ourselves to forget. More specifically, I’ve been asking myself whether there is space for queerness in our shared memories of Irish step dance.
I love to listen to dancers talk about their work, where it comes from, why, and how it happens. I love to feel the moment when the light bulb goes on and I think- “I know how you feel, I know what you are talking about.” I belong.
The so-called "modern dance" tends to progress by violent redefinitions: choreographers reject those images that mirror the past and then start over. The more codified, less idiosyncratic field of ballet advances by absorbing innovations into an existing vocabulary of movement.
As the standard of competition grows ever more demanding — steps filling up with more beats and more tricks — there’s little space to pause and reflect, so strong is the drive to accelerate and excel. Within this race forward, Our Steps is a deep breath.
There are some features in connection with Irish dancing as it is seen today in Irish towns and cities which call for passing comment. The first thing that strikes any observer is that ease and grace and beauty of movement are almost invariably sacrificed to complexity of steps.
A composer who is unfamiliar with the theatre who is interested in writing ballets should certainly see the bug companies as often as possible and watch what happens. I think he should start by watching Sylphides or Carnaval (now in the Monte Carlo repertory,) because both are obvious and successful: the relation of dance steps to music is both blunt and bold.