The Info List - Irish Set Dance

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Irish set dance, sometimes called "country sets", is a popular form of folk dancing in Ireland.


1 History 2 The Set 3 See also 4 References 5 External links

History[edit] Set dances are based on quadrilles, which were court dances. These were transformed by the Irish into a unique folk dance of the Irish rural communities. When the Gaelic League
Gaelic League
was formed in 1897, it sought to discourage set dance, because it was perceived as being of foreign origins, and consequently at odds with the League's nationalist agenda. In its place, the League promoted ceili dance, a process which continued during the 1930s and 1940s with the support of the Catholic Church
Catholic Church
in the form of the Public Dance Halls Act 1935.[1] The rise of rock and roll in the 1950s caused the popularity of set dancing to fade. However, in the 1980s a revival started and many sets that have not been done for forty years or more are being recovered and danced again. The Set[edit]

Shramore Set, 2nd Figure, swing with Céilí-hold

To start, four couples are arranged in the form of a square to dance with each couple being in the middle of the sides of the square. Both the eight dancers in the group and the dance itself are called a "set". The dance is a sequence of several dance figures, which usually have a common theme or structure. The figures usually begin and end with repeated parts that everyone dances, and then during the figure each couple or pair of couples will dance separately. In the set, the couple with their backs to the band are traditionally named "First Tops" with "Second Tops" facing them. The couple on First Tops left hand side is called "First Sides" with "Second Sides" facing. Usually the First Tops are the first to dance, with some sets having First Sides and then Second Tops going next and some having Second Tops and then the First Sides. Second Sides is almost always the last couple to dance, and is therefore a good place for beginners to start, as they get more time to watch the demonstrations of the figure that the other couples give. Set dances from a particular region usually have similar elements. For instance, sets from the Connemara
region (such as the Connemara
Reel Set, the South Galway Reel Set and the Claddagh
Set) have the First Sides on the right of the First Tops, and sets from the Clare region often involve footwork similar to Irish competitive Stepdance or traditional freeform Sean-nós dance (which emphasizes a "battering" step). Distinctive set dances and dance regions emerged in the beginning of the 19th century[2] and evolved as popular house dances separate from the more formal Irish step-dancing tradition. In some homesteads a kitchen pot was placed under the flag stones as an extra acoustical element for the house dance.[3] Set dance
Set dance
differs from square dance and round dance in that it does not require a caller: the sequence of figures is predefined by the name of the set. In places with a large community of set dancers, like Ireland
or New York City, it is usual for dances to be uncalled - that is, done with no calling - because most dancers already know the instructions for the common sets. However, at venues with larger numbers of occasional dancers, a caller is often present to give instructions as the dance progresses, for those people who are not yet familiar with the set. See also[edit]

List of Irish Set Dancing Champions The South Galway Set The Clare Lancers Set Irish dance Irish stepdance Sean-nós dance Sean-nós dance in America Slide (tune type) Polka


^ Kavanagh, Donncha; Kuhling, Carmen; Keohane, Kieran (September 2008). "Dance-work: Images of Organization in Irish Dance". Organization. 15 (5): 725–742. doi:10.1177/1350508408093650.  ^ Dancing in Ireland
by Breandán Breathnach (Dal gCais Publications in association with the Folklore and Folk Music Society of Clare 1983) ^ Saving the Set Dance by Paddy Corry, Treoir magazine, 1970


Toss the Feathers - Irish Set Dancing Pat Murphy, Mercier Press ISBN 1-85635-115-7 The Flowing Tide: More Irish Set Dancing Pat Murphy, Mercier Press ISBN 1-85635-308-7 Apples in Winter - Irish Set & Social Dancing Pat Murphy, available at: pmurphysetdance@eircom.net A Handbook of Irish Dances, 5. Edition, J. G. O' Keeffe, Art O' Brien, Gill & Son Ltd., (1934)[1] The Story of Irish Dancing Helen Brennan, Mount Eagle Publications Ltd., 1999 ISBN 0-86322-244-7

External links[edit]

Set Dancing And Sean Nos Dancing website by Gerard Butler Set Dancing News Set Dancing Music and Instructions Database Study notes for two-hand, ceili and set dances Study Notes for 80 Sets and 11 Figure Dances Set Dancing Videos on YouTube

v t e

Irish dance



Step dance Sean-nós dance (in the United States) Festival dance


Ceili dance Set dance Rinnce Fada


2 2 and 4 4 dances

Reel Hornpipe

6 8 dances

Single and double jig Treble jig Haste to the Wedding

9 8 dances

Slip jig

12 8 dances


Mixed time

South Galway Set Clare Lancers Set


An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha

Conradh na Gaeilge

An Comhdháil na Múinteoirí le Rincí Gaelacha World Irish Dance Association Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann


Crossroads dance Feis Oireachtas Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne Céilí

Shows and groups

Riverdance Lord of the Dance Dancing on Dangerous Ground Feet of Flames The Keltic Dreams

Professional dancers

Cara Butler Jean Butler Tiana Coudray Dean Crouch Joanne Doyle Colin Dunne Michael Flatley Bernadette Flynn Dan Furey Breandán de Gallaí Graham Killoughery Tony Lundon Kevin McCormack Róisín Mullins Daire Nolan Gillian Norris


Public Dance Halls Act 1935 Soft shoes Hard shoes Jig
(2011 film)

v t e

Irish music


Céilidh Folk music of Ireland Irish dance Music of Ireland Sean-nós dance Set dance

Folk song

Sean-nós song Traditional Irish singing Lilting


Accordion Bodhrán Bones Bouzouki Concertina Fiddle Flute Hammered dulcimer Harp Lambeg Melodeon Tenor banjo Tin whistle Uilleann pipes

Tune Types

2 4 dances Polka

2 2 and 4 4 dances Barndance Fling Highland Hornpipe Reel Strathspey Schottische

3 4 dances Mazurka Waltz

6 8 dances Single and Double Jigs

9 8 dances Hop and Slip jigs

12 8 dances Slide

Non-dance tunes Marches and Airs which exist in various meters.


Aeolian mode Dorian mode Ionian mode Mixolydian mode Pentatonic scale


Cape Breton fiddling Folk music of England Folk music of Scotland F