© 2008 Larry E. Taylor
Irish set dancing is traditional social dancing for four couples in a square [ GO TO DOCUMENTATION ]. (At least two sets exist which were composed for other than four couplesone for six and one for three couples. Ocassionally also, multiple sets-of-dancers will combine during a social figure of a set. In a social figure, change partners all around.) The sets are descended from the French quadrilles, which were carried to Ireland by the British army in the late nineteenth century. Only very occasionally are new sets composed.
Traditional Irish set dancing is full of graceful movements, most often danced in a gentle, easy-flowing style. Only occasionally do set dancers dance with reckless abandon (high kicks, flailing arms, intensive upper-body sways, stomping, jumping, etc.). Though dancers change partners in many of the sets, partners continue to focus upon one another as they dance the various patterns. Partners connect with one another by holding hands, by taking waltz or ceili hold and by looking at each other. Even when traditional ceili patterns are incorporated into the sets, they are danced without the ceili style.
Set dancing is not the same as step dancing. Step dancing is usually identified as the competitive or show form of Irish dancing made popular by Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. Single individuals often step dance but some step dance patterns are danced by two or more. Step dancers do not use all available Irish music rhythms.
Sets are very popular today in Ireland and in many Irish communities throughout the world. (Likely most square dances of the United States were derived from the Irish sets, not the French quadrilles. Though carried by the Irish to the United States, the music and dance patterns were adapted to American tempos and tastes.)
O r g a n i z a t i o n Each set consists of dance patterns grouped into figures [ GO TO DOCUMENTATION ]. There may be as few as one figure or as many as nine figures in the sets. Irish dancers adapted the French quadrilles to their own music polkas, flings, slides, jigs, marches, waltzes, reels, quadrilles and hornpipes. Irish set dancing is traditional social dancing for four couples in a square.
Approximately twenty-three sets have been choreographed as half sets (for two couples). Two couples sometimes dance parts of a full set as a half set (four couples unavailable, limited dance space, etc.)
Most often a couple or a pair of couples will dance a pattern while others of the set stand. However, a very few full sets were choreographed to have all dancers dance all the time during a figure or during the complete set; see examples: BALLYVOURNEY REEL SET and the modern SUMMIT SET. Standing dancers dance a pattern after the couple or pair of couples dance. The order-of-dance is often first top couple, then first side couple, then second top couple then finally second side couple. The first side couple is on the right of first top couple in approximately thirty-three full sets.
( In the diagrams, the SQUARE represents the GENT and the CIRCLE represents the LADY. )
T y p e s Sets are sometimes labeled (classified) as a particular type a polka set, a jig set or a reel set wherein many or all of the figures of a particular set are of that dance rhythm/music type. The types for some sets have changed over time; for example, the popular PLAIN REEL SET was originally a POLKA SET.
Lancer sets represent another type. There are approximately twenty lancer sets and all have some common dance patterns. The common patterns such as line-ups and corner swings are often danced differently in these military-themed sets.
M u s i c Sometimes particular tunes are associated with particular sets. For example, for the final figure of the popular CONNEMARA REEL SET, musicians often play Maggie in the Wood.
Crooked River Set Dancers [ GO TO DOCUMENTATION ]
The Crooked River Set Dancers are individuals of northeast Ohio who enjoy the grand fun and exercise of Irish set dancing; there is no formal organization. The dancers attend ceilis, festivals, workshops and practice sessions in Ohio and elsewhere. See www.setdancingnews.net for a schedule of set dance opportunities throughout the world.
O T H E R D A N C E
Nova Scotia, Canada: www.setdancingns.com Toronto, Canada: www.set-dance.ca/index.html Washington, DC USA: www.ceilidance.com Glasgow, Scotland: http://www.angelfire.com/ri2/set_dancing
Workshops (Classes) and Ceilis
July 24, 25, 26, 2009, Dance Workshops led by Lenette and Larry Taylor
Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival
Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds
From the Set Dancing News Guide to Classes :
"Irish American Club East Side, 22770 Lake Shore Boulevard, Euclid, Ohio, 7-9PM, 6-week courses beginning in September, January and April, $25 for 6 weeks, ceili with live music on 6th week, 6:30-9:30PM"
"St. Clarence Church, 30106 Lorain Road, North Olmsted, Ohio, 7:30-10PM, all year, free, Kelly Jones, Anna Costanzo"
"Irish American Club East Side, 22770 Lake Shore Boulevard, Euclid, Ohio, 7-9PM, all year, free, Tom and Maggie Ward, Kathy and Larry Bachtel"
Friday (second of the month)
"St. Clarence Church, 30106 Lorain Road, North Olmsted, Ohio, 8PM-12AM, September-June, $10, Kelly Jones, Anna Costanzo, music usually by Turn the Corner"
Irish Two-Hand and Ceili Dancing
Two other fine forms of Irish social dance are two-hand and ceili (figure) dancing. These are repertoires of dances for couples, for trios, for lines, squares, circles, and includes some for four couples. The Irish word ceili also refers to a dance event with various types or styles of Irish dances. Some ceilis have music for old time and modern step dancing and for couples-dancing old time waltz, quickstep, jive, country and swing.
A few celtic dances have both ceili and set dance patterns or arrangements see BALLYVOURNEY REEL, BLACK VALLEY SQUARE JIG, CUIL AODHA, CUIRASSIERS, DUNGARVAN, MAYO and NEW MARKET PLAIN sets. However, even when traditional ceili patterns are incorporated into the sets, they are danced without the traditional ceili style. Arrangements and/or patterns within HIGH CAULED CAP and HURRY THE JUG may allow both to be classified as either ceili or set dances.
The Pipes are Calling . . .
Set dancing is enjoyed in many places. The following is from pages 110 through 112 of The Pipes are Calling, Our Jaunts Through Ireland by Nail Williams and Christine Breen.
The long-awaited night of our own Ceili Mor had been Friday, January 27, at half past eight in Cois na Habhna, in Ennis... One of the band members announced that the first set would be a Clare Set and the dancing began. But were we ready? No, we weren't. There was a moment of panic when Noel shouted, "Where's my wife? Where is Moira?" But it was too late for a search party, the set had begun. We had rehearsed this so often that when the music began, the dance took over and our feet flew away to the rhythm of the reel.
...In unison the room bellowed with the excited sounds of 250 people in shared activity. The tops and tails and the sides joined together in one loud burst of exuberance. It was as if we were all members of a team in a contest and our team was winning. All around the room, the tops, tails, and sides of each and every set advanced to the center of their square and retreated. Smiles abounded. I have to say that we were beside ourselves with joy. Pure joy.
Set Dance Documentation
Click on set dance information below. Some of these sets are known in multiple versions and by other names. Documents marked have either been recently posted or recently revised. Note the version-date on each document.
The documentation perhaps should not be considered official or final. The notes record dance instructions for a point-in-time. Set dances frequently change due to dancers' skill levels, the dancers' and musicians' likes and dislikes and other factors. There may thus be many different versions of sets not documented here. Though an embarrassment to the webmaster, typographical and content errors are sometimes posted also. Please share your proofreader corrections with the webmaster.
Though identified hereon as Irish, some of the sets may have first been danced in Scotland or in other Celtic areas of the world. Only a few ALTERNATIVES for a pattern, a figure or an entire set are shown in the notes below. Versions of sets not recorded below will be posted as they become available. Do you have sets or unique versions of sets to share here with the dance-community? Perhaps the final figure of the Derradda?
|SELECTED TERMS||SELECTED TERMS||SELECTED TERMS||SELECTED TERMS||SELECTED TERMS|
|AMSTERDAM||CLARE LANCERS||GLENGARRIFF -- LONG -- SHORT||LOUVAIN||SKIRDAGH|
|ANTRIM SQUARE||CLARE ORANGE & GREEN||GORTROE||LUSMAGH||SLIABH FRAOCH|
|ATHA CAOIRE||CLASHMORE||HIGH CAULED CAP||MAYO||SLIABH GAMPH|
|ARAN ARAN-1||CLOGHAN||HOLLYMOUNT||MAYO HALF||SLIABH gCUA|
|ARDGROOM||CLOGHANE - BRANDON||HUNGERFORD JIG||MAYO LANCERS||SLIABH LUACHRA|
|ARMAGH||CLOONADIVEEN LANCERS||HURRY THE JUG||MAZURKA||SLIGO|
|ARMAGH LANCERS||CLONAHADREEN||IBIZA||MEALAGH VALLEY JIG||SLIP AND SLIDE POLKA|
|ARMAGH QUADRILLES||CLOONAGH LANCERS||INIS MEAIN||MEATH HALF||SNEEM|
|ATHA CAOIRE||CONNEMARA JIG||INIS OIRR||MEELIN VICTORIA JIG||SOURIS|
|AUBAN||CONNEMARA REEL||IVERAGH MILLENNIUM||MELLERAY LANCERS||SOUTH GALWAY|
|AUSTRALIAN HALF||COROFIN PLAIN||INVERNESS SOUTH SQUARE||MONAGHAN||SOUTH KERRY|
|BALLAGH PLAIN HALF||CRATYLOE||JENNY LIND||MULLAGH HALF||SOUTH SLIGO LANCERS|
|BALLINASCARTY HALF||CROOKED RIVER||KEADUE LANCERS||MULLAHORAN||SOUTHERN CROSS|
|BALLINTOGHER LANCERS||CUIL AODHA||KILDARE||NASS||TELEVARA|
|BALLYCOMMON||CUIRASSIERS||KILENAULE LANCERS||NEWCASTLE||THURLES ..|
|BALLYCOMMON HALF||DERRADDA||KILFENORA PLAIN||NEWMARKET PLAIN||TIPPERARY LANCERS|
|BALLYCOMMON OFFALY||DERRY||KILGARVIN POLKA||NEWMARKET MESERTS||TORY ISLAND|
|BALLYCROY||DOIRE CHOLMCILLE||KILKENNY LANCERS||NEWPORT||TORY ISLAND LANCERS|
|BALLYDUFF||DONEGAL||KILKENNY QUADRILLES||NORTH CORK POLKA||TOURNAFULLA|
|BALLYHAHILL HALF||DOWN CALEDONIAN||KILLIMER||NORTH KERRY PLAIN||TRURO WALTZ QUADRILLES|
|BALLYMARTLE HALF||DOWN LANCERS||KILLORGLIN||NORTH KERRY POLKA||TUBBERCURRY LANCERS|
|BALLYROAN HALF||DOWN QUADRILLES||KILLOWEN||NORTH KILKENNY||TYRAWLEY|
|BALLYVOURNEY JIG||DROMGARIFF HALF||KILLYON||OLD PHILADELPHIA||VALENTIA RIGHT & LEFT|
|BALLYVOURNEY REEL||DUBLIN||KILMANAGH LANCERS||PARIS||VICTORA NEWMARKET|
|BARNEY||DUBLIN LANCERS||KILMEENA||PIPERS'||VICTORIA JIG-1|
|BEARA||DUNGARVAN||KILTIMAGH HALF||PLAIN POLKA||VICTORIA JIG-2|
|BIRMINGHAM JIG||DUNMANWAY||KNOCKNABOUL||PLAIN REEL||VICTORIA JIG-3|
|BLACK VALLEY SQUARE JIG||DURLES EILE||KNOCKNAGREE||POLKA SET||WALTZ COTILLION|
|BLACKTOWN||DURROW THRESHING||KNOCKTOPHER POLKA||PORT FAIRY||WATERFORD JIG|
|BLACKWATER||EAST GALWAY , Long||LABASHEEDA||PORTMAGEE JIG||WATERFORD LANCERS|
|BONANE||EAST GALWAY, Short||LANCER SET||QUADRILLES||WEST KERRY|
|BORLIN||EAST MAYO||LEITRIM||QUADRILLES HALF||WEST KERRY OLD STYLE|
|BORLIN JENNY||EUCLID||LIMERICK ORANGE & GREEN||RATHGORMACK LANCERS||WESTMEATH|
|BORLIN JENNY-1||FERMANAGH||LIMERICK TUMBLERS||RATHGORMACK LANCERS-1||WEST CORK PLAIN|
|BRUCA||FERMANAGH QUADRILLES||LISPOLE||REEL SET||WEST CORK QUADRILLE|
|CAHERCIVEEN||FINTOWN||LONG CALEDONIAN||ROSCAHILL||WEST GALWAY|
|CALEDONIAN||FLIGHT OF THE EARLS||LONGFORD||ROSCOMMON||WEST LIMERICK|
|CALEDONIAN AROUND HOUSE||GALWAY||LORRHA-AGLISH QUADRILLE||ROSCOMMON HALF||WEXFORD HALF|
|CALEDONIAN KILRUSH||GALWAY HALF||LOT SEVEN SQUARE||ROSCOMMON LANCERS||WICKLOW HALF|
|CAMDEN HORNPIPE||GALWAY REEL||LOUGHGRANEY HALF||ROYAL COTILLION||WILLIAMSTOWN|
|CAPE CLEAR ISLAND||GILLEN||LOUGH NEAGH||SCOTTISH STUDENT LANCERS||WOLFHILL HALF|
|CARAGH LAKE JIG||GLENCAR POLKA||SET OF ERIN|
|CARAGH LAKE POLKA||GLENCORRIB||SHAMROCK|
|CEILI MOR HALF|
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