How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

Irish dance music seems to be played by a staggering number of people who want little or nothing to do with dancing, myself included.

How many players have actually played for, or danced, solo dances? How many are in ceilidh bands, or are experienced ceilidh dancers?
Et cetera; don’t all shout at once, this is not a census (even if it was, the feedback probably wouldn’t break the system..)
And this is the question - What’s it like? And especially, what does a dancer want from a player, and how is a player’s approach defined by the requirements of a dancer? Can a player’s musical freedom flourish when he/she is playing for dancers, or is it irksomely restricted?

I do get the impression that ceilidh band music is fairly cut-and-dried, and wonder if tension between a musician’s personal wishes and the requirements of playing for dancers has run through the history of ITM. But I get the impression that the worlds of the dancers and of the session musos and ITM album-buyers have grown further and further apart. Were the music and the dance really much closer in the past? I get the impression they were, but it might be an illusion.

And "Riverdance" - The soundtrack was agreeable but not what I’d think of as Irish traditional dance music - but what of the dancing? Was it recognisably Irish, or something quite different?

To conclude these ramblings - If the Bothy Band could reappear in their 1975 incarnation and do a ceilidh, even I’d take the floor…

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

You’ve asked the hard question here, Nicholas.
I play for dances, in what is called a barn dance band, ie a band playing for a repertoire of a mixed bunch of english, scottish, irish, and american dances. Our repertoire musically is biased towards the irish and american, out of personal taste and choice over the years. I would add that the revival in english music hadn’t really made significant inroads when I started doing this ( having just come back from a marvellous weekend at Towersey Folk Fest ) or the repertoire might be a bit different. I also call for the band.
I also play in sessions, for pleasure and fun, and also sing to various of my instruments in folk clubs.
Many years ago a friend in the first band I’d been in wanted to start a new band, where they would play ( for dances ) at something more like the speed of sessions, because he was frustrated by the ( as he felt ) mundane speed that everything was played at, under the lead of an experienced musician and dancer. I roadied, and danced at, the first gig they played; it was almost undanceable. General session speed is far too fast to easily dance at.
It might be interesting to find out when sessions became detached from the dancing and took on a speed of their own. I have been told that there are clubs in Ireland where they do dance the local dances at session speed - I can only say that they must either be very fit, or take long intervals between dances to recover.
If the Bothy Band played a dance gig, you’ld never keep up. They are fast even for sessions. I can’t keep up with them for sure.
I haven’t bothered to look at Riverdance for a long while, although heaven knows the videos of it litter our charity shops so perhaps I should, to know of what I speak. From memory I recall that both the musicians gathered, and the dancers, were all experiienced in the tradition and often champions, but it was of course arranged and choreographed to an extreme.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

Hi Nicholas,

Nice topic!

Any attempts by me to try Irish dancing would likely result in severe bodily harm to myself and those around me. 🙂 Therefore, I resign myself to playing for dancers — which I enjoy immensely.

As for what dancers want from a player — others are surely more qualified to address this than I, but I’d venture to say it’s accuracy and consistency in tempo.

https://thesession.org/discussions/4249

To the dancers that I’ve played for, such niceties as ornaments and variations are not necessary, as long as the timing is spot-on. Likewise, an erroneous or a missed note is not a show-stopper as long as you don’t lose the tempo.

As for the question about whether "musical freedom" can "flourish" or is "irksomely restricted", I’ll share a story that was told to us by Mike McHale at a flute workshop one time: When he was an eager young lad, he played for many many dances and competitions. He told us that the "experienced" musicians loved eager go-getters such as him because they could hang out at the bar all day while the young go-getters would trudge through the same tunes at the same tempos for hours and hours and hours. (lots of laughter by us workshop students… 🙂 )

The unspoken moral that I took away from this charming story is that while many of us dream of playing like our heros, how often we lose sight of the fact that such heros have spent a lifetime logging more mileage in one day than many of us log in most months. When I count how many times in my life I’ve been whip-cracked into playing "My Darling Asleep" at 80bpm for 8 hours straight (as much as that very notion makes me shudder 🙂 ) I quickly arrive at… zero. And *that*, my friends, is one of the many reasons why I will never play like Mike McHale. Sigh.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

Umm I only dance at ceilidhs when there is a good, loud, CLEAR caller…haha definitely a musician (but I am at the point where I-mostly-don’t "cause severe bodily harm to myself and those around me" …at least not severe…)but definitely don’t go too fast, it will kill the dancers (or at least those dancing that aren’t dancers *coughcoughMEcoughcough*

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I play for our local set dancers about twice a month. The experience has taught me a lot about the music.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I used to dance with an Irish set dance group…for few months only, though. It really helps you understand the importance of keeping a steady, strong beat with your music.

Eric

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I don’t but would like to. I am guessing that it would give me a whole new dimension on the music.

And if I can take a moment to publicly grieve: the session I have been going to for over a year has been canceled! Management preferred to have a small, regular band instead! WAAAH! I will probably be tagging along with a drummer friend to The Starry Plough in a couple-three weeks. It seems that a lot of the sessions listed here have met a similar fate. I have never understood the reason why they can’t be removed from this site once they are no more.

WAAAH!

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I play for a ceilidh band, a morris side and more recently a Welsh dance side. I’m not sure I could cope with the hours of the same tune at a restricted tempo - I had a pianist friend who played for ballet classes - she used to have a magazine of the music stand!! Soul destroying.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I like to play for dancers. Not all the time because often I have to play faster than I like. My friends Claus (concertina), Matthias (piano) and I formed a small dance music band called Swaree and we play for sets and ceilis - if people let us 🙂

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

well i have been dancing for over 10 years and am in open champs.
i think the thing we like from a musician is confidance, and knowledge. you need to know the tunes your playing, for example the set dances need to be known all the way through. like this one time at a feis i was dancing my set which was the drunker gauger at the time, and the musicain stopped halfway through, because he couldn’t remember the rest of the set, so i had to finish it without music.

so you need to know what your playing, but also play lively, fun music that will make the dancers want to get up and dance even when its not their turn.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I am an Irish set dancer struggling to learn the banjo and would make 2 observations.
Firstly, I found dancing enormously helpful in grasping the rythm of the music. In fact I couldnt get the right ‘feel’ for reels at all until I first cracked the basic reel step and learned a bit of clare style battering.
Secondly, in set dancing things seem to be going in completely the opposite direction from most of the comments so far. That is the music is getting faster and faster to the point where the tunes start to sound the same. The most popular ceili bands in Ireland are a completely different breed from the those that enter and win the competitions at the Fleadh. Try listening to the Johnny Reidy ceili band if you can and I think you understand.
In conclusion, I would say that the important thing for dancers are a unerring rythm, simple tunes played with ‘lift’ such as Bag of Spuds, Silver Spear etc and keep it lively .
My personal favorite was the Michael Sexton Ceili Band

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I am an Irish dancer and the main thing that we look for in a musician is their their ability to maintain a steady tempo. Apart from that, the music should be inspiring - nobody wants to dance a fast, intricate reel to something like the Drowsy Maggie, and when playing setdances, the musician needs to follow the dancer in their interpretation, ie crescendos, diminuendos, tones of playing. I think that it is quite a challenge to play for dancers, it involves forming a musical and rhythmical bond quite different from that formed when playing with other musicians and, I think, furthers your ability.

As for Riverdance. Development? Artistic licence? Irish dancing needs to move on from wigs, glued up socks (even for women in their 30’s), and fake tan. In fact, Riverdance has stripped Irish dancing back to basics creating something not only far more aesthetically pleasing but also true musical performances - the dancers actually dance rather than simply execute steps. The slightly ethereal soundtrack aids this and provides a welcome break from the stodgy reels and jigs often accompanying Irish dancing. The whole point of Riverdance is that it isn’t traditional. And as for recognisably Irish - it inspired thousands of people who had never seen Irish dancing or heard Irish music to take it up……

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I used to play a lot for dances, and still occasionally do. It’s bloody hard work I can tell you. You really have to concentrate and get it right. You have to imagine yourself on every step, really feel whether the pace is right for whoever is dancing - old grannies, young whippersnappers - and you have to know the dances and not loose count.

And though it’s very good for honing your phrasing, I simply prefer to just let the music just go really. How fast or how intricate I like play a tune just kind of decides itself from the general moods of the company, I guess I’m just a little selfish, I prefer to play for myself and fellow players.

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Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I dance breton dances in festoú-noz (breton equivalent of a ceilidh). I don’t actually live in Britanny and have only been there once. The fest-noz seems to be the substitute of a session - in the sense that often, people will get together to play and dance. More frequently, though, a fest-noz will have a group of bands who have come to do a "gig" (with the extreme being some younger groups who think they are there to do a concert and not play for the dancers).

This is similar to many french folk balls, where bands form up for dances, mainly for the pleasure of playing for dancers (although I can think of at least one fortnightly event where they also come because it’s the closest thing they’re getting to a session).

One thing I’ve noted is that we (dancers in francophone europe - ie France and the french-speaking part of switzerland) don’t particularly enjoy reels and jigs: very few people can actually dance the real thing and the various contra dances that can be done to them get boring quickly. A jig (a slide would probably work pretty well to) will usually give birth to a circassian circle or a chapeloise, whereas a reel will generate the reel that the most people of the area know. Hornpipes are usually appreciated. But there are so many dances to choose from that you’ll rarely get to play more than three or four sets of each type.

In a fest noz, you’ll get any of the following (depending on how "regional" the focus of the musicians is - some might only play the local danse form and a couple others, whereas others will incorporate danses from all over brittanny - well over a hundred):
chain collective dances:
- Gavotte (dozens of different ones)
- Fisel
- Plinn
- An dro
- Hanter dro
- Loudéac
- Ridée
- Laridé
- Pach Pi
- Rond de Saint Vincent
- Rond de Landéda
- Kost ar C’hoad

Dances for couples and mixers:
- Circassian Circle
- Polka
- Plinn Polka
- Schottische
- Waltz
- Scottish Waltz (waltz form of french choreography)

Dances for couples found in France outside britanny:
- Bourrée (2-beat and 3-beat along with many variations)
- Waltz (also 5,8 and 11 beat)
- Polka
- Schottische
- Mazurka
- Java
- Chapeloise (often in mixer form)

In france outside britanny, most musicians playing for dancers will know a couple of regional pieces, dances of the Basque country and of Britanny being favorites.

One important thing is that frequently, breton music played by musicians who can’t dance or don’t know the tradition will be horrible (usually just in terms of tempo - but all too frequently because of learning from sheet music). I suspect this is also the case when they play other things they don’t know too well.

I think musicians and dansers stay so close together because there is no room for either of them to get bored (although as a dancer, I prefer breton dances because there is greater variety). I wonder whether the divorce between musicians and dancers in ITM might come from the lack of variety: a musician can play reels all evening and just get slightly bored (I know, many of you will say very! But each piece is different, played at different tempos, according to mood) whereas dancers will quickly tire. Likewise, dancers might all too often want the same pieces - because they’re not familiar with that one with the weird bit in the middle - so it is slightly restrictive for musicians (the other problem being that ceilidhs are sterotypically for old folk who want to do stuff at a sedate pace - none of that in britanny, but frequently elsewhere).

As someone pointed out on another thread - at session speed, you’d have to be very fit to dance all evening. I’ve found that this is the case. Most musicians who are unfamiliar with dancing play many things too slowly. Waltzes, for instance. I like to dance them at somewhere between 70 and 80 beats a minute (assuming that in 3/4 time you count 1 beat to the bar).

As for whether you can let it rip, creatively as a musician - I say yes. That is indeed my ambition: to be able to make people dance and to create something a bit special. Here are a few links which should give you an idea of the possibilities for musicians (not that this is everybody’s cup of tea)
Rond de saint vincent:
http://www.paindepices.info/son/Travers01.mp3
Schottische:
http://tirno.com/tmp/Schottische.mp3
Gavotte:
http://www.tirno.com/tmp/Gavotte.mp3
An Dro:
http://www.tirno.com/tmp/Andro.mp3

How musically constrained did those seem?

p.s. stuff on tirno.com will disappear in 5 days time

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Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

Our Ceilidh Band are out playing most weekends sometimes twice, this weekend thrice, Co Durham, Dumfriesshire, Edinburgh. It’s great fun playing for dancers, we have a good tight sound and we really enjoy ourselves, oh, and we get paid for it.
As Michael says, "it’s bloody hard work", and the travelling can be tedious, but hey, thats what we do.
I still enjoy sessions though.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I play for ceilidhs from time to time, and I really enjoy doing it. I used to try to dance at as many ceilidhs as possible untill I dislocated my kneecap during a particularly lively bout of swinging…. 😏 I think it’s really useful as it forces playing with good lift and phrasing, and also prevents the "lets see how fast we can play it and forget about any mistakes" mentality. That said, I’d get bored if I played at as many ceilidhs as I do sessions.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

Dancing can be spilt into
A. Dancing schools which work in isolation from Traditional music. All they need for dancing is a robot. enough said.
B. Ceili and set-dancing (in non imbedded areas) where enthusiastic (but aften not very skillfull) dancers want good lively music played at a fast tempo to cover up their lack of dancing ability. Can be very hard work playing here as you are a "Slave" to the Dancers.
C. Setdancing in the likes of Clare and Kerry where the music and the dancing compliment and feed of each other. Its a pleasure to dance and/or play here as there is a real Buzz going between the musicians and the dancers. Tunes are selected that have Rythm and lift and the Tempo is correct for the tune. ( the tempo that the tunes was composed). Have a listen to the Tulla Ceili Band. They have never compromised over their 50 years on the road and are still getting the biggest crowds at the Willie Clancy week .

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Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

While working at a ceili I finally gotten roped into learning some sets. I had a great time and am taking lessons now…. thankfully most are beginners like me, we stumpble, step on each others’ feet, laugh. No experienced dancer would want to be seen with me.

I have a problem with a pinched nerve in my right foot that acts up a lot, and had to sit some out. Very painful. Have a weak ankle too, so may go bandaged. Other than that it’s great fun, great exercise…. trying to learn to not get dizzy after the spins too.

Tirno, I love all the info about Breton danse and music, is there a place to find this in USA, specifically in NJ, people who play it, or dance? My Grandmother was part Spanish, part Breton, her last name was Breton though. She is very long gone, died when I was very young so I can’t ask her anything.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

Certainly playing for dancing is very different to that of session playing, but I would argue that it goes further than just a steady tempo and clear notes. The music should make it easy for the dancer to dance, and the upbeats and lifts in the music should follow the stepping. A good example of this can be found in a hornpipe done to a hop step. Further, ornamentation should only be used when there is a reason to do so - not just because you can - and should thus link in with the underlying rhythm of the dance. As to constraining creativity, some musicians may find this, but it doesn’t have to. Whilst the tempo will fit the dance - and nothing else - there is still masses that can be done to vary tunes etc, and you only have to look to the leading english ceilidh bands to see exactly what can be done. If a musician finds a tune boring stimply because they can’t change the speed, that is a sign of a boring musician.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

Fully concur with Marcu about choosing your tunes. Just because a figure in a set calls for a brace of reels doesn’t mean that any reel will do. Certain tunes seem to suit certain sets. Playing with the likes of Johnny Connolly puts paid to any rumours that playing for sets is a less noble pursuit.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

barry: ornamentation should only ever be done where there is a reason to do so. I at first thought your comment rather restrictive, but then realised that it’s just a question of being familiar with both dance and tune.

murcu: your C. version sounds just perfect. I love how good musicians will fluctuate the drive of the tune to match the dansers mood.

Irisnevins: The only person I know of in the states who is involved in breton music and dancing is Ray Price. He’ll know all there is to know about the US breton scene (the US has a very large number of people of breton descent, so I would assume that there is one).
http://www.geocities.com/signaltonoiseradio/dance/TBgigs.html

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Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I’m not a great dancer, or should I say, it’s not something I enjoy doing much, but I will be starting set-dancing shortly to improve my "Rhythm" on the flute.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

We play for ceilis roughly 4 to 8 times a year here in the Cincinnati, OH area. This is mostly reels, a few jigs (and Shoe the Donkey for the kids at one big ceili) I think it is great fun to see how the music and dance are connected. I have also danced some, though more often at the Augusta camp than here. We do play other tune types between the dances, for listeners or for solo dancers to strut their stuff a bit.

I have only played for sets a few times. So far there are no set dancers around here, but they may be coming.

Dan

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

Thanks very much Tirno!

The music is fabulous, I have emailed the band… we’re doing house concerts at IAANJ, I hope I can talk them into something Breton down the line!

As for the dancing…. I am currently completely awful at it, embarrassingly so!LOL! I may stay on this level too and just go back to playing! Maybe my partners will politely suggest I do so!!

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I’ve always danced and am convinced that doing so has enabled me to be a better dance musician. I started out playing for Cotswold Morris, then danced Morris, moved on to playing for social dance but always went to a Ceilidh club regularly. I quite enjoy playing at sessions and when I know the tunes will play as fast as others might like to. It’s good fun and exillerating to play at breakneck speed sometimes but playing for dancing can bring you down to earth. You have got to read what the dancers are doing and sense if you are to fast etc. most of the dances I play for are for ‘non-dancers’ and so it is a bonus to play at the correct speed for dancers who know their stepping etc. That helps me to play better.

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Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

Like Hetty, I play (fiddle and melodeon) and dance Cotswold Morris. It definitely helps to see both sides of the coin.

I’ve played for a few English Country Dances, and danced a few Irish Set Dances and at English and Scottish Ceilidhs, though I’ve never played for Irish Set Dancing.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

iris: I took up learning to dance about a year ago (before that I had mostly tried and failed embarassingly). For almost every new dance, I almost gave up, thinking that my partner (for "couple" dances) and the people either side of me (for breton dances) would wince when they saw they were next to me (many breton dances are "arm dances", where the arms perform some kind of swinging movement and I just couldn’t get my arms relaxed enough to let them be guided) - but barely 4 months in, I could get my head around all but the most complicated figures.

The longest to learn of all were waltz and mazurka. I would say "I hate these bloody dances" every time they come up. But now that I can dance them well enough that I often dance better than my partners and get over the embarassment when I mess up with better dancers they are among my favorite. And, being on the other side of the fence, it is rare that I want to kick somebody for "spoiling" my dance. It’s a bit like a session in that respect - except in the same night, I can choose to teach and go "slow" and then decide "well bugger that, these newbies can figure it out among themselves, I’m sticking to having a good time doing complicated stuff".

In other words: its not that hard; most partners are more than willing to help you improve - who else will they dance with if they don’t have an ever wider selection of partners? It will give a new dimension to your playing and the sense of accomplishment is really amazing.

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Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I agree completely with Murcu - spot on!

In NYC, the best ceili bands include musicians who are also dancers…it DOES make a difference.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

Hi Tirno…. oh I will stick with it, it’s too much fun. Sure I will get the hang of it, I need better foot, ankle support on the right foot, had a bad injury years ago, so ace bandage it will be next time. They say the dizziness will stop in time too. There are other beginners there so I will just not worry!

I have already heard from Ray Price, thanks, and will order their CD. They are really great.

Only thing, I keep thinking of the Grand Ole Opry star Ray Price!

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

We play for dancing probably twice a week, mainly Scottish (to as many ITM tunes as Scottish). For 6 times through, we generally do 5 tunes and repeat the first as it is deadly playing the same tune more than three times. Over the years we have developed a "band speed" which is always the same, week in week out, but you can never win - it will always be too slow for some and too fast for others.
All you can do is watch - and thats the best bit of playing for dancing - watching dancers dance at the speed they want.

We caught Sexton, Counties and Tulla bands at Kilrush last month, they were brilliant and played at one hell of a lick, despite many of the set dancers being pensioners. We were amazed at how they kept going for hours.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I go to Femish Volksbals and occasionally play for the dancers.I really enjoy it.There is no caller,the dances are easy and you can learn them all in one evening.Jig,Bourrée,Polka,Waltz,Mazurka and Grand Circassian Circle.Sometimes a band will throw in some other dances,the Danish Crazy Chicken (nothing to do with the Birdy Dance),The Bridge Of Athlone or something like that.I get the impression that quite a few modern Irish bands have never played for dancers.I saw Lunasa recently and if anyone had attempted to dance ao one of their jigs they’d have needed hospital treatment.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

My wife and I both dance Irish ceilidhe dances, and also for a lark, took Irish step dance classes for adults. I was the only man, and at 6’1” and over 250 pounds, always seemed to stand out from the crowd (and often ended up standing on the wrong foot). We enjoy the less physically demanding dances, and because of the high tempo and spinning, do not like set dancing.
We are going to be starting with Scottish country dance lessons this fall, should be fun.
Like many Americans, we have a broad ancestry, and thus a number of cultural heritages that we can dabble in!
I have never played for dancers (other than the odd dancer who occasionally shows up at the pub), but aspire to do so sometime in the future.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I’ve played a variety of styles for Contra dances since 1992, and a few Ceilidhs in between. I met my wife at a contra dance, and we’ve danced a variety of styles since. Our daughter is taking Irish step and hardshoe lessons, and loves it.

I think pretty all players of Irish and other Celtic trad styles should play for dancers at least once, and they should learn to dance too. They don’t have to be good at it, but to play dance music forms w/o knowing how to dance or experiencing dancing to live music is missing a huge part of ITM.

C’mon, you stragglers, no one’s going to laugh at you (at least if you make a real effort)!!

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I played for a Contra dance for about 3 or 4 years, once a month. Actually, it was kind of a Contra/Ceilidh/English Country Dance thing. Excellent practice for keeping a steady beat and tempo and for switching styles. Also, for really understanding *how* the tunes fit the dances.

I stopped about a year or two ago because I started getting irritated by the constant start and stop. We’d start a tune, the dance would start and then there’d be a trainwreck. We’d stop, the caller would re-teach the steps and then we’d start again. It became clear that it was never going to be a dance where everyone knew the dances. The connection between the dancers and the musicians was never going to develop. The few times it did happen was when experienced dancers showed up and knew exactly what to do. But then they stopped coming and told me it was because no one else was taking it seriously. I loved playing Mazurkas for those two, and waltzes. It gave me a glimpse of what it was supposed to feel like!

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

Playing recently in Germany we got a tremendous lift when the some of the audience spontainiously started to dance. When it happens in Ireland too … you know you’re getting it right

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

I play for contra dances as often as I can, which is not often enough for my taste! Christine is right when she says you get good experience playing a steady beat and tempo and for really understanding how the tunes fit the dance. It doesn’t happen every time, but the times when you pick the right tunes for the dance, you really know it. Everything just seems to work.

I also dance sets. I like the tempo and the spinning. I think I prefer dancing sets to playing them - although as with contras, you know when you get it right and everything works.

The thing I get from dancing is a definite sense of the rhythm - especially for polkas and slides. I learned about the importance of the off beat for dancing - how, if the music lifts on the two, the dance seems to pick up off the floor a little bit.

I was never good at doing any steps, although I tried to learn them many times. I saw a man in Sligo at a ceili many years ago who became my model for ceili dancing. He was quite a large man and instead of doing the 7s to change places, he just took big steps either to the right or the left. He was always there on time.

Anyway, I recommend dancing for everyone. Its fun, a great way to socialize, good exercise, and if you’re a musician, a good way to learn about how the music works.

Re: How many of you musos actually DANCE! - or play for dancers?

My husband plays for contra dances (and dances as well when not in the band). He has been in bands that have done both a mix of fiddle tunes and just Irish (not mixing Irish/American in single sets). I also play flute - but have not played in a band (although I would like to get good enough to play with a dance band!). I find that I really enjoy dancing to the tunes that I know. It makes it that much more fun/rewarding. I don’t just go to dance - the music makes the night. I should also note that it is SO much more fun when the band is really driving, AND plays off the energy of the dancers. Some bands are very "pretty" to listen to… but don’t really make you want to fly across the dance floor. Great for listening, not much to dance to.

I have been to some absolutely fantastic contras with an Irish band - more fun then words can describe 🙂

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