Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Uptight, Rigid Step Dancing Is Hot

St. Patrick Day is one of those odd times in America when you find a lot of instant experts on things Irish, one of those being step dancing which is never thought of by most people most of the year.  It's a bit like those folks who ignore figure skating until the night every four years when they have it on the televised Olympics and they all pretend to know who really deserved what numbers, only it comes once a year.

Like the online wisdom you'll read such as that "Xians banned (the musical interval of) the third" you might read that the reason that Irish step dancers traditionally hold their arms straight at their sides was because moving their arms were banned by the Catholic church because dancing that way suppressed sexual thoughts.

As someone who always thought there was something mightily hot about how step dancers didn't move their arms as their legs and feet did, yeah, right.   I'd like to know how that didn't take in other countries no less Catholic than Ireland where they move their arms all over the place.  Going to look for evidence of a religious ban on dancers moving their arms I read that it's just one of a number of speculations for why the custom is as it is, one that looks pretty improbable, to me.  Considering what else was going on as they were dancing, drinking and all of the other associated activities, why would that one be the one prohibition that stuck?  I think the speculation that it was under the influence of 18th century dancing masters who wanted to emphasize upright posture is more likely.   After that it probably just continued as a distinctive custom and part of national identity.  Or maybe people found it hot.   A mixture of firm self-discipline and what looks like wild abandon all at once. 

Anyway, here's a video that's apparently popular of a tap dance - step dance duel by two priests at the North American Seminary in Rome.   The corny close harmony singing doesn't do a thing for me, by the way so I'm starting the video right where the dancing starts.  I hope.

If you really wanted to get into a bawl, Colin Dunne was many times the dancer that Michael Flatley was.   But I'd never want to have the knees and hips you get from dancing in heel shoes after a few years.  Glad I didn't take it up when I could have.


  1. Well, you know, filling in the gaps with wild speculation always creates truth.

    Isn't that how empiricism works?

  2. The hilarity of having people who congratulate themselves as members of "the reality community" spreading gossip like the National Enquirer set is pretty. Though the predictable uniformity of it insures it's kind of a minor form of entertainment.