Irish set dancing

Playing for set dancers  Graphite
This is a drawing from my sketchbook, made up from memories of all the dances for which I've played, and all the dances at which I've danced. It's just a sketch, but it captures how it feels to be in the band, making music that lifts the feet of the dancers. Graphite on paper

Last night we played for the set dancing at the Brittania Arms in Cupertino. Irish sets are usually danced with four couples, like American square dance, but they are more elegant, the dancers moving more smoothly and closer to the floor. There’s less bounce. But a lot of energy. I love to play for dancers. I also love to dance the sets.

I’ve wanted to paint the dancing of the sets ever since I first saw a huge céilí mór (a big dance party) at Cois na hAbhna, the Irish regional resource center in Ennis, County Clare, 11 years ago. The energy was incredible; the hall was filled with the wheeling sets, the young men battering out percussion, the women smoothly stepping. The music was brilliant, of course (it’s County Clare!), with so much lift and urgency that I imagined the trees outside would pull their roots and start dancing.

2 thoughts on “Irish set dancing

  1. hi margaret
    was browsing the net looking for images for something I’m writing about Irish sessions….and found this!…I’m not going to steal it…..the session we were involved in was more about singing….
    but I love this drawing!…it works beautifully….
    thank you, and good luck

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