Show and tell of the commonest movements in text and photos.
Video clips of many of these movements are available to registered members of the Irish Set Dancers Frankfurt
Body, also called Polka in south Co. Cork
In waltz hold advance and retire to the centre, then one complete turn to the quarter position, so, in 2-3, out 2-3. turn 2-3, turn 2-3. Repeat until in your home position. In Co. Kerry, when the music is very fast the dancers dance in-2-3 and then to the right-2-3 instead of retiring as it saves a little time.
Christmas - Swing in 8 or Swing in 4 (Little Christmas)
As can be seen in the photo, the dancers join hands behind their backs. You are only allowed to have the flat of your hand on your own partners back. Gents must hold the wrist of the opposite gent firmly. Ladies, the wrist of the opposite lady. Do not let your hand go under the wrist of the opposite as will be painful for the dancer.
The long body, as in e.g. the Skibbereen set is the same as the body, but there a two full turns between each position.
Danced correctly, this should be in waltz hold, but it is easier when the gent has one hand on each side of the lady's waist and the lady hold the gents shoulders. In contrast to all holds in set dancing where there is "always space for the Holy Ghost" between the partners, this step works best when the couples are very close together. The step is danced to a hornpipe or reel and involves lifting on the trailing foot and turning and stepping down on the leading foot and pivoting until a full turn has been done, so: and one and two and three and four.
This must be practiced before dancing, and should not be attempted by anyone who gets dizzy easily. If you are not comfortable with the step, just dance a hornpipe or reel step as appropriate.
A hornpipe is a variation of the reel step where the lift at the beginning is more pronounced
A house is typically danced in waltz hold by all couples in the set with one full turn from one position to the next, i.e. 1-2-3 and 1-2-3. All couples end up in their home positions. The waltz hold and Connemara holds are shown below.
House in Connemara Hold
House in Waltz Hold
This is the same as a house, but the dancers stop in the opposite position. A half house is either danced by all couples, or more typically, just the opposite couples.
This is exactly the same as a house, but only opposite couples dance and then between the two other couples, so the steps are smaller.
House at home = Dance on the spot
This is the same as a house, but is danced on the spot so the steps need to be very small.
A lead-around is where the couples move side by side around the set. The commonest holds are described below.
Right in right
The couples hold hands right in right in front of themselves.
The dancers hold hands left in left and right in right in front of themselves.
View from behind
The dancers hold hands left in left in front, and right in right behind the ladies back.
This is where the couple hold right hands in right with the holding hands on the ladies shoulder. This hold is often used where the couple have to house after the lead around. The gent brings the ladies hand down behind her back
Sweetheart hold = Comfortable Country Hold
The is a variation of of a star or lead around where either four or eight people join hands as show and lead around. This hold is typical of the Televara Set.
Slides are danced to slides and so typical of dances from Co. Kerry and Co. Cork. Couples should be in waltz hold and facing each other. The move into the centre of the set by stepping in with their leading foot, sliding the other foot across the floor until it touches the leading foot. The couple step in with their leading foot and gently lift the foot up and forward between the dancers (in other words a gentle kick to the centre). The return movement is with the dancers stepping back on their outside feet and sliding the inside foot. This is repeated once more to bring the couple to home and finishes with a 1-2-3 step.
The slide movement is a good opportunity to use elegant, gentle steps instead of the slide step.
Slide and Change
This is simply a slide followed by a half house.
Show the Lady
This is a movement where the gent can show off his partner. There are many different variations of show the lady.
As a slide (e.g. Sliabh Luchra). Here the leading couple slide into the centre, slide back to place, then the couple does a short dance at home
Turn the lady (Clare Lancers, Sliabh Leuchra, Merchant): The gent typically holds the lady's right hand loosely over the lady's head and she twirls under his hand. In the case of the Merchant set, the couple move around inside the set with the lady twirling in front of the gent
As a "square" (Merchant): here the leading couple hold hands right in right and dance into the set. The gent then turns the lady under as in the Plain set so the couple face out of the set and they are both in the correct position. The couple then dance out of the centre and repeat the turn under movement so as to face into the set.
Square as in the Clare Lancers Set
This is where the opposite couples dance a square with the gents turning 90 degrees right and the ladies turning 90 degrees left every 2 bars. The first two bars see the ladies inside, the next two bars, the gents inside and the final two bars the ladies inside. In the Clare Lancers, the gents would swing the corners immediately after the square. In the Moycullen, the two leading ladies cross the set.
Square to the opposite
Polka (as in the Ballybhourney Set)
In waltz hold, dance to the corner to the right, hop and dance backwards to the opposite side
Reel (as in the Antrim Square Set, Derrada Set, Claddagh Set)
Side by side in waist hold, dance to the corner to the right and dance backwards to the opposite side
Long Square (as in the Jenny)
The dancing couples are in waltz hold and dance to the quarter position: one-two-and one-two-three, down and down and... turning slightly so that on the second "down", the couple have their backs to the opposite position. The same steps are then repeated to the opposite position but with the couples dancing backwards. This is all repeated until the dancers return to their home positions. In addition to the Jenny Ling, this movement is also found in e.g. the Sliabh Freoch and Black Valley Square Jig sets.
This is a simplified version where the couples in waltz hold dance forward to the quarter position: one-two and one-two-three and on the final steps turn so their backs face the opposite position. This movement is then repeated to the opposite with the dancers dancing backwards, and everything is then repeated back to home.
In waltz hold, sevens to the right to the quarter position, reverse in sevens to the opposite. Repeat to home.
In a swing, the partners should be standing fairly close, hip on hip with their right feet together. The idea is to rotate on the right feet so they really don't move much, and the left feet spin the couple typically for 4, 8 or rarely 12 bars.
From the ladies right side
From the ladies left side
Old fashioned Ceilidh Hold
It's said that this hold was used in very conservative times when more distance was needed between dancing partners. It is only used in a few sets today.
This is the wheelbarrow hold for the Plain, Kilfenora and Skibbereen sets. In the Corofin Plain set, the single gent and line of three do not hold hands. When the dancing couple crosses the set to form the wheelbarrow, the lady should never be turned under for the Plain, Kilfenora and Corofin sets. Only in the Skibbereen set does the dancing gent turn the lady under into the line of three in the wheelbarrow.