snopes.com Post new topic  Post a reply
search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hello snopes.com » Archived Forums » Entertainment Archive » The great mystery of irish dance explained ?

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: The great mystery of irish dance explained ?
Gerard
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 1 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Yesterday, I watched the big 400th anniversary of Acadia's bash, with lots of artists, and despite the "best" efforts of the director and the editor (more on that in a future rant), I managed to catch a few snippets of french-canadian stepdancing, including a few steps done by a folk dance troupe. And thanks to them, I managed to solve the big mystery of irish dance, which is: why do irish dancers keep their arms at the side at all times?

When I saw those ladies dancing, they were wearing traditional acadian costumes, with long skirts. So, in order to do their steps, they had to lift them up a little. And then "intuition!" (said à la Adam Sandler as Cajun Man): given that those costumes date back to the eighteen century at least, and given that all over european countries, they were more or less the same (that is with long skirts or dresses, because it wasn't done to show your legs at the time), I thought that maybe irish women had the same problem doing the steps in long skirts, and that they had to lift thme up a bit to dance, thus being forced to keep their arms at the side, with their fists closed on the skirts. The skirts got shorter as time went by, but the posture remained, and was applied by Irish dance masters to the men as well (anybody who's seen men doing Sean Nos dancing know that early male irish dancers were using their arms a bit).

So, not tradition about the english or priests deciding to cut down on the sensuality of irish people, just a practical reason. Any opinion?

BTW: Joyeux anniversaire à tous les Acadiens!

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Bulldon
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 1 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
makes sense. sounds like a "we've always done it that way" story.

where was the acadian festival?

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Horse Chestnut
Happy Holly Days


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Horse Chestnut     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Maybe they were afraid if they let their skirts swish, they'd be carted off to the Laundries?
Posts: 1651 | From: Columbus, Ohio | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Gerard
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 1 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
where was the acadian festival?
The big concert happened, from what I could gather on the net, on august 15th, at the citadel in Halifax. The guests were:

- Edith Butler
- Vishten
- Bernard Felix
- La Baie en joie
- Dominique Dupuis
- Grand Dérangement
- Blou
- Jean-François Breau
- Wilfred LeBouthillier
- Zachary Richard
- Lennie Gallant
- Marie Jo Thério
- Nathalie Paulin
- Isabelle Roy
- Jacobus et Malico
- Suroît
- Paul Hébert et ses musiciens
- JP Cormier

With the participation of Waylon Thibodeaux. It will air again in France on TV5 at 0.55 in the night from friday 27th to saturday 28th.

As for the original post, I found out a clue that gives weight to my theory. It can be found in the chorus of the song Step It Out, Mary (sung by the Dubliners in their album Further Along):

"Step it out May, my fine daughter
Step it out Mary, if you can
Step it out, Mary, my fine daughter
_Show your legs to the country man_"

Which is at least a strong implication that ladies had to show their legs (or at least part of them) when dancing, and thus had to lift their skirts up a bit in order to dance the slip jig, for example (try doing that dance in a long skirt, if you don't believe me).

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Tootsie Plunkette
Buy a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Tootsie Plunkette   Author's Homepage     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Husband told me this version: the cruel English oppressors forbade the Irish from moving their arms when dancing, lest they be giving secret signals to their comrades.

I didn't believe him.

--------------------
--Tootsie

Posts: 5017 | From: Greater Seattle | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
grannyflo
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 1 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
David Wilson (University of Toronto author of Ireland, a Bicycle and a Tin Whistle) told us in the Folklore class that it was the Church which forbid arm movements, claiming that it was too "provocative."

Can't cite anything at the moment.

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
smoke
Corn on the Cobweb


Icon 303 posted      Profile for smoke     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
From a History of Irish Step Dancing.

Irish dance has evolved in other ways during the 20th Century. Instruction is beginning at a younger age. Who is instructed has also changed from mostly males to mostly females (the turning point was before 1930). Girls dancing solos in competition were rare before the 1920s. Dance styles have also changed; for example, arms and hands were not always held rigid during solo dances. Previously they were sometimes more relaxed and were even placed on hips. It seems that the influence of parish priests led to the lack of arm movement; some argue that stiff arms were less provocative, others argue that the Church was trying to increase dancers' self control. Hand movements still occur in figure (group) dances.

Though I was told the hand signal theory as well by my Irish grandafather

--------------------
I sat on the cat. Now he is flat. Think I'll wear him outside as a hat.
'Bout time he did something useful-- an original poem by Smoke
(no cats were hurt in making this poem but one came damn close.)

Posts: 374 | From: the right side of the Detroit River Ontario | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
snopes
Return! Return! Return!


Icon 13 posted      Profile for snopes   Author's Homepage   E-mail snopes       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Comment: I've heard a rumor supposedly explaining why the Irish dance with
their arms straight down. It claims that the practice originated when the
British outlawed dancing. The Irish, not wanting to be spotted when the
authorities passed by a window, danced only using their feet.

This reeks of being an urban legend (and an absurd one at that).

Posts: 36029 | From: Admin | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
VeebleFetzer
We Three Blings


Icon 214 posted      Profile for VeebleFetzer   Author's Homepage   E-mail VeebleFetzer   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Tootsie Plunkiev:
Husband told me this version: the cruel English oppressors forbade the Irish from moving their arms when dancing, lest they be giving secret signals to their comrades.

I didn't believe him.

It’s true though. Unable to use their arms, they sent the signals with their legs, using a combination of semaphore and morse.

Trust me, I’m a liar.

--------------------
I'd rather be with you people than the finest people in the world!

Posts: 1010 | From: North Tyneside, UK | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Electrotiger
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Electrotiger   E-mail Electrotiger   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
It’s true though. Unable to use their arms, they sent the signals with their legs, using a combination of semaphore and morse.
Ah yes, the ol' "blender from the waist down" style of Irish dance.

I know a girl that does Irish step dancing, and I'm almost 100% sure (that is, I'm nearly positive that I didn't dream this or come up with it by myself through some sort of insane brain ramblings) that she told me that the style of keeping your hands to your sides was originally to keep dresses from flopping up, as Gerard hypothesized.

--------------------
Mr. Sagan did not go too fars, If you just took the time to scan its,
You'd count billions and billions of stars, And billions and billions of planets.

Posts: 332 | From: Kansas City, MO | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
underfire and overrated
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


Icon 208 posted      Profile for underfire and overrated     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Tootsie Plunkiev:
Husband told me this version: the cruel English oppressors forbade the Irish from moving their arms when dancing, lest they be giving secret signals to their comrades.

I didn't believe him.

Along this vein, I was once told that the rigid arms originated from Irish revolutionaries who danced while "handcuffed" (for lack of a better word. With their torso chained and their legs left free so they could still walk.) to spite their captors.

But I'd bet on the skirt explanation before that one [Razz] .

-underfire

--------------------
I'm not a beautiful and unique snowflake! I am the all-singing all-dancing crap of the world.

Posts: 111 | From: Tennessee | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
LikeHeyScoob
The First USA Noel


Icon 1 posted      Profile for LikeHeyScoob   E-mail LikeHeyScoob   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Obviously the Irish needed to find a way to dance that also allowed them to hold a pint of Guinness in one hand and a glass of Bushmill's in the other.

--------------------
Support you local community newspaper! CNN.com probably won't be covering your child's spelling bee.

Posts: 609 | From: Rhode Island | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Jay Tea   E-mail Jay Tea   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by LikeHeyScoob:
Obviously the Irish needed to find a way to dance that also allowed them to hold a pint of Guinness in one hand and a glass of Bushmill's in the other.

I thought the stereotypes were in that other thread?

--------------------
This is where I come up with something right? Something really clever...

Posts: 6552 | From: UK | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.

Instant Graemlins
   


Post new topic  Post a reply Close topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Urban Legends Reference Pages

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2