Dance Classes at Cascadia

If you have questions about these classes or how to place yourself, email Randal Bays.

There are lots of dance styles associated with Ireland. We are very lucky to have one of Ireland's greatest dance teachers at Cascadia 2020, Mairéad Casey (pronounced MORaid). The styles most associated with the actual living musical tradition are what have come to be known as "set dancing" and "sean-nos dancing". Mairéad is a highly regarded performer and teacher in both.

Set Dancing - If you were to look at a group of set dancers from above, you could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at square dancers (minus the costumes :-).  A "set" is a group of four couples and they dance specific "figures" that are coordinated to the music. Within those figures the dancers perform various step patterns, closely tied to the rhythm of the music. There are well known set dances including the Clare Plain Set, the Connemara Set, etc., each of which has a sequence of tune types associated with it. For example, the Kerry Set includes polkas, reels and slides, while the Clare Plain Set has only reels and jigs. In Mairéad's set dancing classes you'll learn some of these sets, the steps that go in them, and how to take part in Irish set dancing. This kind of social dancing is wildly popular in Ireland and this is a great opportunity to learn it from a master.

This video of set dancing in Kilfenora shows how it's done by some experienced dancers. That's Mairéad Casey in the black sweater and red skirt, dancing with another great dancer, Mick Mulkerrin. The music is supplied by a classic ceili band. Notice how the band stops between the figures but not for long.

Sean-nos Dancing - "Sean-nos" means "old style". It used to be mainly applied to a certain style of unaccompanied singing but is often applied to a kind of solo dancing that looks something like Appalachian clogging. Like set dancing, sean-nos dance is closely tied to the rhythm of the tunes. This kind of dancing is very individualistic but there are certain steps that are done by most dancers.

Here's a video of some classic sean-nos dancing by Páidí Bán Ó Broin, one of the best known old-style dancers. Notice the great whistle playing by Dessie O'Brien, wonderful bounce and lift to his playing, all the while keeping a very steady pulse for the dancer. Sean-nos dancers often prefer a solo musician or duo. 

Dance Teachers at Cascadia

Mairéad Casey  (pronounced MORaid)
Set Dancing / Sean-nos Dancing

Nancy Jarrell
Assistant Dance Teacher