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Fri, Feb


Sean-Nós Dancing at Gaelic Park and Heritage Center With Brian O’Hairt

Plain Language Description
Sean-nós (shayn-NOHS) dancing is something rather apart from the Irish step dancing so popular in mainstream Irish culture today--like Riverdance.  For one thing, it’s not glitzy.  There are no ornate dresses, or poodle socks, wigs, or spray tan involved--just some well worn leather soled shoes and the dancer.  Another thing is that it comes from the Irish-speaking region of western County Galway.  Connemara to be exact--a proud place of traditions.  Unlike step dancing, sean-nós dancing (which means ‘old-style’ in Irish Gaelic) is off-the-cuff and interpretive, low to the floor, fast paced, and fully informed by the music.  There’s a dialogue going on between the musician and the dancer and between the dancer and the crowd gathered to watch them.  Some buffoonery and intimidation is also thrown in for good measure but what comes from this admixture is an infectious dance form that’s reminiscent of the battering of old set dances.  Something that’s accessible to most but requires a bit of skill and determination.  It’s sean-nós dancing and there are monthly workshops going on right now in Chicago (Northside, Southside, and Lake View) you’re invited to come pick up a few steps and join in on the craic. 

More Detailed Description
Sean-nós dancing is a percussive dance form from the southern Connemara region of western County Galway.  It is improvisational and focuses on both accompanying and guiding the musician by way of repetitive timing steps--a heel-toe movement--punctuated by tricks, which emulate the melodic structure of the tune.  A dancer wears hard leather-soled shoes (or something with a good thwack!) and positions his or herself near the musician so as to accommodate this musical conversation.  The body is relaxed, the steps are often asymmetrical, yet the form is reminiscent of (but creates an experience quite different from) modern Irish step dancing. 

Sean-nós dancing is a welcome alternative to step dancing for individuals interested in Irish dance but physically limited.  It’s less impactful and athletic than step dancing but engages both the body and mind in a way that’s scientifically proven to benefit aging individuals or those with physical/cognitive challenges.  It’s also a helpful addition to step-dancers as they must adjust their weight, foot position, and posture; think critically of music as symbiotic with and not just accompaniment to their dance; as well as think creatively on their toes to create new choreography on spot.  Because sean-nós dancing comes from one of the Irish Gaelic speaking communities of Ireland, there is also a cultural component to this dance form, which requires dancers to consider and learn about the families in those communities who uphold this tradition and the cultural events that showcase it. 

Workshop Info And Description
Saturday, February 10 at 3 PM - 4:30 PM
Chicago Gaelic Park
6119 147th St, Oak Forest, Illinois 60452
$20 Individual
Thursday, February 8 at 7 PM - 8:30 PM
Irish American Heritage Center
4626 N Knox Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60630
$25 Individual
RSVP a must! (314) 974-7073 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Workshop Description
This workshop will focus on building an awareness of timing, weight distribution, foot placement, and connection to the music--aside from the general teaching of steps associated with this dance form. Several minutes are spent warming up and stretching before and after the bulk of teaching. I also allow time for ‘stepping out’--i.e. dancing freely to the music to practice newly acquired material in a playful, relaxed atmosphere.

Brian Ó hAirt learned old-style Irish step dancing in his teens and not long after was exposed to the sean-nós dancing tradition of Conamara in western Co. Galway by dancers Róisín Ní Mhainín and Seosamh Ó Neachtain. This exposure inspired him to continue his burgeoning dedication to the Irish language (Gaeilge), and the sean-nós dancing and singing styles from that region. While living there in 2003, he was a prize winner at Cruinniú na mBád’s sean-nós dancing competition held outside of Winkle’s pub in Kinvara, Co. Galway. It was there he was introduced to Pádraic Ó hOibicín’s unique style of sean-nós dancing—one very much focused on both subtle humor and intricate phrasing. He has since worked with and been inspired by Pádraic’s dancing, while further developing his own dance style which is informed not only by the steps of Róisín and Seosamh but also his peers and his own music making on button accordion and concertina. 
Brian tours and dances professionally with his award-winning ensemble Bua and with singing legend Len Graham. He uses his nearly twenty years of experience in sean-nós dancing to lead workshops at many prestigious events across North America including the Old Songs Festival, M.A.D. Week, the Swannanoa Gathering, Philadelphia Céilí Group Festival, Goderich Celtic Roots Festival & College, Jackson Celtic Festival, Grand Canyon Celtic Arts Week, Winnipeg Irish Festival, Minnesota Irish Music Weekend, Saint Louis Tionól and more! He continues to collaborate with musicians, singers, and dancers to bring sean-nós dancing to new platforms while also researching and presenting on various topics relating to this tradition. He is a dedicated proponent of Ireland’s culture and considers the passing on of its traditions as an endeavor near and dear to his heart.

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