St. Patrick’s Day as a ceili dance for 4 couples

St. Patrick’s Day as a ceili dance for 4 couples

This discussion took place two years ago but can somebody help me on the different variations of the 4 couple set dance of St. Patrick’s Day? There seem to be at least two versions circulating. Olive Hurley and Tom Quinn use one but that’s apparently not the Dublin version accepted by An Coimisiun.
C. Nicolas

Re: St. Patrick’s Day as a ceili dance for 4 couples

As promised, I checked my notes, but am not finished searching there. This is a classic body-figure dance, and there were many. These were usually attached to a specific tune. Generally, the AA was the figure, including an opening, and the B-part, in a two part melody, would be the ‘body’. An Coimisiún’s description forgets this and fudges that connection. This may account for the lack of popularity of this ‘official’ ceili dance. In a lot of years and a lot of dancing, not confined to Eire, I have ‘never’ seen this dance included. I was taught it only once by a priest ages ago, and basically ‘by-the-book’ ~ An Coimisiún’s official manual of ceili dnces ~ “Ár Rinnciðe Foirne: Thirty Popular Figure Dances”…

I believe this was one of Nan Quinn’s collected pieces, great aunt to Tom Quinn ~ "Collins Pocket Reference: Irish Dancing". They did tend to mess with things to their heart’s content, to change or adapt or amend. These body-figure dances weren’t limited as far as the figures dances could choose, including on the fly ~ "Let’s do ~!" The figures were interchangeable, and as has been mentioned, usually ‘even’, or 16 bars in length, AA… Many of those choices were neglected in the collecting, and to make a dance ‘reasonable’, two or three only were chosen to make up the ‘official’ dance. Dance at the time of this collecting was varied and alive in the countryside, and in the towns and cities, an existing tradition. However, with the An Coimisiún folk, aside from mining and adopting some of this selectively, they were also fond of choreographies. Nothing was sacred or barred in their passion to create and define an ‘Irish’ dance, and to purge any possible infection by foreign influences ~ European, but more especially anything that might possibly hint at having ‘English’ connections. They were particularly nasty with regards to the ‘sets’, the sets of quadrilles that were still being popularly danced across Ireland, North and South… For one, the actual ‘swing’ was banned. Any references to ‘swing’ are not in regards to ‘slogging’, Nan’s deogatory name for it. The term would have mainly referred to a turn into place, at most a small ‘house’ in an open or cross-hold. It was one of the things considered ‘foreign’, and as Nan made clear, considered uncouth, crude, as was also the ‘double’ (pivot step/dreher)…

Between the two printed collections, An Coimisiún’s “Ár Rinnciðe Foirne: Thirty Popular Figure Dances” & Tom Quinn’s "Collins Pocket Reference: Irish Dancing" ~ there is no difference at all. However, I do remember an alternate take on one part of the ‘body’, something that is similar to what is sometimes danced for a part of the body of "The Twelve/Sixteen Hand Reel". This is with regards to the opening part of the figure ~ 2x(Sides / Half Right & Left), which is just the emphasis on the the division of the set of four couples into two groups of two couples, smaller circles…

I’m curious, for clarity, what differences do you know? Is Olive teaching it, or demonstrating it in here videos, in a different way? While we’ve lived in the same realms, and I’ve danced with her, never this dance. As I’ve said, in tons of different places, I can’t remember ever seeing this one, in a public ceili, danced…

Re: St. Patrick’s Day as a ceili dance for 4 couples

"St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning" / "St. Patrick’s Day"
Key signature: G Major
Submitted on November 20th 2001 by Will CPT.
http://www.thesession.org/tunes/385

Re: St. Patrick’s Day as a ceili dance for 4 couples

False alarm! It looks like my teacher was temporarily confused. There seems to be only one version - as you say, cooked up by Coimisiun. And if you haven’t seen it around it may not be ‘old’ in this form. It’s a crazy idea anyway because you’re dealing with the set part which is an odd number of bars so there’s only so much you can do with it. Result: the figures are uninterestingly simple with a forward and backwards in one and a ladies chain in the other and then only house around. The saving grace is the body, which gets repeated as often as possible and a good deal more than in most quadrilles. Both AA and BB are used in the body. I’m surprised to read that the AA is usually the figure because the body is always long and includes several parts, covering both parts of the music played several times.
That makes sense that there was a pool of figures, as in other contradances. That brings these closer to American square, though you also mention that there was usually a set tune used for a particular dance. That sounds like it would have been a preference rather than a necessity.
C. Nicolas

Re: St. Patrick’s Day as a ceili dance for 4 couples

A guide rather than an edict… That is at least as I see it, however, there is no doubting the preference of dancers for the familiar. Not only the basic beat informs and directs, but the melody to the dance can also be a plus for all concerned, as is the usual practice with interpreting early group dance, such as found in the Playford collections. Examples of such union include the likes of "In the Fields of Frost and Snow", "Hole in the Wall" and "Petronella", but that there can be melodies that similarly inform is not in doubt with me…