An Dearcadh Damsha na hÉireann
Irish dance is one of Ireland’s oldest traditions with written evidence of ‘rince’ first appearing in the 17th century. It was a major social and cultural activity at this time. The Irish dance we know today developed from various influences such as French quadrilles and English country dancing during the 18th and 19th centuries. The steps for dances changes between different Irish tunes in order to be able to keep in time and keep with the rhythm of the tune. Irish music as a whole had many influences from various European countries; Reels came from Scotland, Hornpipes came from England, Jigs came from Italy, etc. Dance was taught by “travelling dance masters” across Ireland throughout this period. Thankfully, four hundred years on, it is evident that Irish dance still plays a huge part in today’s society and it has even managed to survive the massive culture change this island has gone through in recent decades. Here at UCC, we promote Irish dance and music through our various clubs and societies with one of the most active of these being UCC Dance Club.
UCC Dance offers beginners Irish dance classes which allows those who have never danced a chance to learn the basic steps and rhythms associated with our famous national dance. These classes are extremely popular with international students as well as novice dancers who may have only performed a few ‘one-two-three’s’ in primary school and want to pick up where they left off! Our advanced Irish troupe comprises of more experience dancers who perform for various events around UCC. The advanced dancers are of mixed ages, backgrounds and have learned from different schools of dance before UCC which brings a unique variation in the style of the pieces performed and choreographed. The troupe are able to be creative and innovative in their ideas while retaining the traditional dance style. This is usually done by incorporating modern music or costumes into their performances. The advanced troupe also trains for and competes in the dance Intervarsity every year. This is an All-Ireland dance competition for third level institutions in which colleges across Ireland compete in five styles of dance. Last year the UCC Irish troupe placed first in the highly competitive Irish category. This was an extremely proud moment for the club as the Irish troupe displayed dedication and hard work throughout the year and it was so rewarding to see their efforts honoured.
UCC Dance Club often links up with societies and other clubs and we have a special relationship with An-Chullacht and also Trad Soc. These societies promote the Irish language and Irish traditions around UCC with their main aim being to keep our national culture alive in young people. The advanced Irish dance troupe often perform for charity events or cultural events run by these societies attracting crowds with their powerful sounds and performance. Social events such as Ceilis are often run on campus, bringing the members of the various clubs and societies together.
Irish dance is one of the most important cultural and social activities today and we are extremely lucky here at UCC to be surrounded by such an active Irish dance community. It is very important to encourage the exposure of Irish dance across the university and UCC Dance Club has a huge responsibility to both its members and its university to continue to promote the sport as best we can. Remember it’s never too late to start something new, especially with Seactain na Gaeilge what better time than the present!