Photo by Megan Stahl
Every Irish dancer has a history to tell, a lineage to trace and a reason they dance the way they do.
Due to the ephemeral nature of dance and the alarming lack of documentation undertaken to date, Ireland’s solo dance steps are in critical danger of disappearing. To protect this legacy, Our Steps has begun the urgent work of recreating and recording the history on which the current global Irish dance world has been built.
Currently the Archive runs two programs: The Archive Residencies, focusing on how Irish Dance is passed from one generation to the next, and the Oral History Project, which documents the untold stories of elder practitioners.
The material collected through these programs is also available in perpetuity with our partner, the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library, the most prestigious and largest dance archive in the world.
Our Steps, Our Story: An Irish Dance Legacy Archive is a living archive, ongoing and perpetual. It continues to grow year on year; collecting video and aural material, recreating set dances dating as far back as the late 1940’s and recording interviews with the leading lights and forgotten voices of the world of Irish dance.
Our work has only just begun. We need your help to continue to explore and bring new life to this rich and unique cultural legacy.
Photo by Father James Browne
A longstanding issue with dance archiving has been the ephemeral nature of the form. Unless one intervenes and actively documents, often no trace survives. The Jerome Robbins Dance Division understood this early on and since the 1960s has been filming public performances throughout New York City and nationally in an attempt to preserve the field. However, this activity does not enable a community to work together to remember and reconstruct a dance. Dance archival practice is becoming more sensitive to this issue, working to find new ways to document dance beyond recording performances. By providing a studio space for multiple generations of dancers to convene and by filming the process, the Dance Division hopes to create a new road map for enabling and sustaining dance memory.
Siobhan Burke is a dance critic for The New York Times and a contributing writer for Dance Magazine. She has written on dance and choreography for The Brooklyn Rail, The Village Voice, Open Space, Cultured, Artforum.com, and other publications. She was a 2013 USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellow and received a 2018 Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. A former competitive Irish dancer, she trained at the Griffith Academy in Hartford, CT, and the David Rae School in Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland, before going on to perform with the 10th-anniversary North American tour of Riverdance. She teaches at Barnard College.
Kristyn Fontanella is a dance artist and choreographer whose work sits between the two worlds of traditional and contemporary dance. She holds an MA in Dance Performance from UL, a BFA in Theatre and Dance from CCSU and has previously toured with Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, and as the lead female in Gaelforce Dance. Her current ensemble work has toured throughout Ireland and has been presented internationally at Tanzmesse, Düsseldorf Germany; Dublin Dance Festival; Echo Echo Dance Festival, Derry; and KLAP Marseille, France. Originally from Connecticut, Kristyn resides in Galway, Ireland. http://www.kristynfontanella.com
Cori Olinghouse is an interdisciplinary artist, archivist, and curator. In 2007, she founded The Portal, an artist-led initiative that engages performance and archives as a form of creative research. Recently, she collaborated with video artist Charles Atlas on a moving image installation for “Judson Dance Theater: The Work is Never Done,” at the Museum of Modern Art. Formerly, she served as archive director for the Trisha Brown Dance Company, a company she danced for from 2002-2006. She holds an MA in Performance Curation from Wesleyan University and serves as visiting faculty at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College.
Megan Stahl is a Filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York. Since graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Film Production, she started her career as a Production Intern at Billboard and DCTV. She currently works as a camera operator for organizations such as Pride NYC, Times Square Arts, and IAB, and is an editor for clients Reuters, Benefit Cosmetics, and Billboard.