the dancing, a history

1972: When I was a small girl, I was despatched on a Saturday to the dancing. It became clear pretty rapidly  that I was blessed with two left feet. While cousins reeled and jigged and trebelled around me, I leapt about in one competition and retired.

1976: Some years later, I was going to my first disco. Herself decided that a little coaching would not go amiss. If I could even catch the rhythm of the music, that would be an improvement. She put on some music, and suggested I start by walking across the room. I set off, right leg out, right arm out.

“What are you doing?”


1992: Eventually, I decided that I was going to learn how to dance properly. I’d go to a class and learn how to do a basic waltz, or maybe a jive. Something to pass myself. I practised turns around the living room. At the third lesson, the teacher said to my boyfriend, “Don’t worry, son, we’ll get you a good partner next week.”

2014: I’m still happy to bop about on my own, but I’m useless at anything that involves coordination, keeping time or actual steps. This is why I am in awe of real dancers. Our girls, in the middle levels of competition, can do things with their feet that I can’t understand. Champion dancers of their age are a delight to watch.

So, imagine how my jaw dropped when we went to Riverdance at the weekend. A 7 minute dance turned into a world beating 2 hour show, with 5 troupes performing around the globe. Irish dancing as a career- who’d have thought of such a thing?

Twenty years after it was first performed, the hairs on my arms still stood up during the original routine. The show includes Russian, Flamenco and tap dancing as well as Irish. Some of my favourite sections had different styles of dance happening to the same rhythm, Oh, the skill.

I will never be a dancer, but I love to watch dancers show off their art.

And this.

I love Niles Crane.


13 thoughts on “the dancing, a history

  1. I am a horrible dancer, Fiona. I also loved this scene (and pretty much all others) from Frasier.

    If you don’t mind, could you message me with your mailing address again? I am doing a pre-release special on my novel, and I want to include you in the mailing. I am not announcing it on the blog.

  2. Aww, it’s Niles and Daphne! I too saw Riverdance long after its heyday but the bloom was still on the rose, Energizing! I used to do Irish dancing but had neither the skill nor the commitment required. But I had cousins who became national champions. I felt like the black sheep 🙂

  3. Irish dancing. You lasted longer than I did. I was so small that my brother one up from me was sent along to ‘mind’ me. We started with a reel. When the line moved to the right, I went left and visa versa… not a good idea when you are in the middle of the line!. I retired, and my brother went on to win the medals! I enjoyed the video clip. I would love to be able to dance a tango, but you saw my efforts when I danced with Paul!

  4. I have had dancing lessons and just love to dance…but I don’t think I ever did acquire much grace in movement! I love the music, and that more or less has to be enough. I saw Riverdance when it first came to Los Angeles those 20 years ago, and marveled at it. That was the first time I’d ever seen Irish Dancing and that show encouraged countless young Americans to take lessons. I’m quite sure that prior to the celebrity of Michael Flatley their parents had little if any experience with Irish step dancing! It was really quite phenomenal to see young children learning such an intricate and challenging dance. Your story really took me back to what are very happy recollections. ox

    1. We have a picture of my mum, aged about 7, posing with other children on the street as if to dance. She had no more notion of the steps than I ever had, but could pass herself off better. The charm of this pic is the guy (nobody now knows who he was) posing behind with an accordion! The pic didn’t come to light until somebody gave it to my aunt after Herself died, so I smile daily at the randomness of it, and her composed wee self 🙂

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