🥾👟🥿 - where to start, and it is a question that comes up time and time again from new dancers, and even proficient dancers will talk endlessly about shoes!
I'd have to start with "Shoes are such a personal thing"! My preferred shoe to dance in, isn't even a dance shoe - bought from TK Max, a discount store here in Ireland. I am a size 40 European, and I found this preferred pair in the men's section. They have leather soles, and make a great sound - from both the soles and the heels (quite low). I had another great pair of shoes that had a hard resin sole and they made a great sound too, I was very sad when they wore out. My advice is to look outside the box - 🙂
I have a pair of "Just for Tap" shoes, that are quite heavy, I tend to use them just for teaching or performance due to the weight. Even after having the sole reduced, most people picking them up would think they are heavy - they came with taps - but I didn't attach the taps, I know a number of Irish dancers who use this shoe. They are quite expensive, and as a consequence I asked my 2 brothers to buy me 1 each for my birthday! The beauty of this more professional / expensive shoe, it will take a long time to wear out.
I think you would enjoy this video that Siobhan Butler created in 2023:
For practice purposes, or if I'm attending a long day of workshops, I like to use a "dance sneaker", they're really comfortable, and make a good sound, here's a link to one site but all the dance accessory sites sell them. The only downside, is that they get a bit hot.
Happy dancing everyone! If you have any thoughts/comments/questions, just post them below. 🙂
Margaret Wray (1952 – 2023)
These words were written by Margaret in May 2022:
I was born in Bishop Street, Derry in 1952, I started to dance at the age of five, I had seen my cousin dance at my aunt’s house, she had started dance classes and I wanted to go too. I cried until my mother let me go!
My teacher was Marie Barrett and the classes were held in the Owen Roe Memorial Hall, in the back lane off Hamilton Street. I was hooked from day one!
My two brothers and sisters attended as well but only Liam and myself kept going. By the age of 6 years, I had started dancing at Derry Feis, solo as well as three, four, and eight hand dances.
Marie would usually lilt for us, but leading up to the Feis Frank McFadden, a local man from Bishops Street would play for us at the class. I also competed at other Fesianna in the area, Rosnowlagh, Ballinascreen, Buncrana, and Moville.
When I was thirteen years of age, I changed dance teacher to Lilian Moore from Derry and continued classes until I was fifteen or sixteen years of age. It was the done thing at that time to stop at that age. I had started to work and there seemed to be no future in continuing to dance, so I stopped.
Twenty years later, when I was about thirty six years of age, Frankie Roddy, a well-known dance teacher from Derry returned home from England to live. He started celli dance classes in Pilot’s Row Community Centre and we started to dance in competition including Fleadh Amhran Angus Rinnce in Ballycastle, Co Antrim. The Fleadh had a national traditional step dance competition and I won that in 1992.
Around that time, we were invited to dance in Italy and it was there that I met Joe McGuiggan. Joe was from Co Derry originally but was living and working in Derry City, we both shared an interest in the old traditional style of step dancing. From then on, for the past thirty years or so, we have met once a week in my kitchen to practise our dancing. During those years, as well as dancing all our solo dances from our youth, we have expanded our dance we with dances learned from old style dancing teachers throughout Ireland, including Joe O’Donovan, Celine & Michael Tubridy, Tony McNulty and Frankie Roddy. We have learned around fifty distinct reels, jigs, hornpipes and set dances including the Donegal Mazurka, Clap Dance and Maggie Pickie. My dance journey has also introduced me to the sean nós style of dancing and expanded my experience of the diversity of Irish dance.
During those years I have had the privilege of dancing throughout Ireland and abroad including France and Italy. For most of those years Joe McGuiggan and myself have taught, together and individually, traditional step dancing in Derry on behalf of the Derry City CCE.
I have taught traditional dance to students at the Traditional Music and Dance Academy in the University of Limerick and for years I was resident dance tutor at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malby, Co Clare.
“Margaret Wray”, deeply missed by all who knew her, may she rest in peace.
In 2020, I started to teach traditional Irish solo dancing online to an adult audience - in reality, I had no other option for work - and what an amazing experience it has been.
In April of that year, I advertised my first series of classes at 4 levels of tuition and never ever thought that another 11 terms of dance were to follow, with over 150 adults attending since then from around the globe.
Zooming in from Ireland, England, Scotland, Britanny, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, Ukraine, Serbia, Lithuania, USA, Canada and Japan!
It has been great meeting you all, online and now some of you in person too!
So, December 2022 saw our end of term party, and what a great time we had in dance, music and poetry – with some FAB party pieces from:
Anne (UK) - a poem
Heidi (US) - on the harp with a piece by Turlough O'Carolan
Nicole (Germany) - new choreography, in hornpipe time
- dressed for the season - see if you can spot her below!
The Grüneberg family (Germany) - a mix of tunes
We also danced through all of this term’s repertoire from each of the four levels:
Level 1 - Slip jig from May Allen, passed to me via Mary McGuiggan
Level 2 - Hornpipes from Joe O'Donovan (adding the easy hornpipes first)
Level 3 - Dan Furey double jig (from Michael Tubridy’s book 1)
Level 4 - Caitlin Nic Gabhann's St Brigid's Day Set Dance - a slip jig
And finished with the Little Dutch Dance, also from the Dan Furey repertoire..
Here are a few photos from our evening, and a copy of the presentation created.
I hope to see you again in 2023 either online or at one of my in-person initiatives, check my other pages for details.
Happy Dancing everyone – Annette 🎶
- view the presentation below -
End of Term Party - my 11th term since May 2020, and what a FAB time we had in dance, song, music and poetry – with people attending from around the globe.
Here are a few photos from our evening, and a copy of the presentation I gave.
We also danced through all of this term’s repertoire from each of the 4 levels and a few extra favourites too.
Until the next time, hopefully both in-person and online classes in the Autumn.
Happy Dancing Everyone - 😊
#stepwithannette #dance #tradition #percussivedance #irish #online
This memory resurrected itself recently, while chatting / sympathising about the importance of our animal friends ... and how difficult their loss can be.
I will let the story unfold ... written in January 2019 when I lost my own pet - Sidiki - his loss left me bereft - "pets, they leave paw prints on your heart".
Back in 2019 ... on Thursday evenings I lead a dance session with a friend at the Camphill Community near Belfast, a residential home for adults with learning difficulties. There would be 30-40 participants, including some staff, each enjoying dance in their own way.
We get to know the names of those residents who are able to tell us, many are not able to speak.
One young man, a tall red-head, comes to every session, he is not able to tell me his name. In the circle-dances he holds my hand too tight, and sometimes he will take his other hand, reach across and pinch the skin on the top of my hand. When he does this, I look at him and wonder ... “what he is trying to say?”
I learn to anticipate this and brush his hand away, or distract him in dance.
Last night, we were in the circle, he was beside me, we were holding hands, he didn’t try to pinch me, he moved in a different way, he lifted my hand towards his face, it felt wrong to pull away.
I had no idea what his next action might be, and wondered to myself ... is he going to try and bite me ... I was glad I had not pulled away as I watched him place the gentlest of kisses on the very spot he usually pinches.
At that moment I said to myself ... “he knows my pain”.
Just 4 days previous I had to take that terrible decision to put my dog Sidiki to sleep. He was deteriorating quickly from inoperable tumours which had only been discovered two days previously. He had been my companion for 11 years. I was heart-broken. The following day I heard the tragic news that a dear friend, Peter Woods, has also died.
Peter’s funeral service was beautiful. He was deeply involved in the Belfast music and dance scene; it was he who asked me to take over the dance session at Camphill – introducing me to my red-haired friend. The pastor gave a wonderful tribute and at the end of the service we all sang ...
"Dance, dance, wherever you may be , I am the Lord of the Dance, said He
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He"
Peter was a great animal lover and as reflect on a very difficult time, I take comfort in imagining Peter and Sidiki taking off on a whole new adventure together.
I think of music as my oldest, most dearest friend, helping me cope through troubled times - whisking me away to another place, to heal and cope with what is going on around me. In January 2019 I was drawn to the piano once more, to a melody written by Bernard Loffet RIP - Valse à Mary - its sadness mirrored my own life at that time and I wrote this arrangement. ...
"THIS has really gone better than I was expecting" admits Irish dancing teacher Annette Collins of how she's managed to keep on sharing her dance expertise via online means during lockdown.
Having become a self-employed dance and music teacher back in 2017, former administrator Annette (55) from Lurgan is one of the many people in our creative and performing arts sector whose livelihood has been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Annette shows off her skills in the garden. Picture by Hugh Russell
The Co Armagh woman teaches piano, whistle, concertina, traditional set dancing and solo step dancing. She has a particular passion for the latter, a percussive discipline related to sean nós dancing where choreographed steps are danced close to the floor, making it ideal for dancers of all ages – indeed, her eldest pupil is in her 90s.
When Annette's regular “Step with Annette” classes were cancelled when lockdown began back in March, she decided to try something completely new by setting up weekly solo step dancing classes conducted via Zoom: thus, “Zoom with Annette” was born.
"A couple of people had actually asked me about doing it before, but I just didn't have the time to try and figure out the technology involved," she tells me of her usual busy schedule, which involves teaching weekly classes at Lurgan's Town Hall, Belfast's Skainos Centre and at the Camphill Community for adults with learning difficulties in Seapatrick, work with a Parkinson’s Group as well as occasional weekend workshops and open floor events.
"So this [lockdown] kind of gave me the time to explore it and get through the learning curve."
Annette soon put together a 30 minute introductory solo step dancing tutorial video and uploaded it to YouTube. Although the video was free, she included a Paypal link for voluntary donations – it promptly generated £200.
"I was shocked," admits Annette. "That probably spurred me on to set up the Zoom classes."
However, it's one thing to teach jigs, reels, hornpipes and slip-jigs on a face-to-face basis in a space designed for such encounters – taking things online from home while attempting to keep her faithful dog Buddy from joining in added a few unfamiliar steps to the process, as Annette soon discovered.
"I had many dry runs and people from my dance classes and the dance scene were very helpful with that," she explains.
"Probably the hardest thing was just finding a suitable space, but luckily enough the house has wooden floors and I took down a wall last year so that the whole ground floor is open plan. So I was able to rearrange the furniture and now I have almost a little dance studio which I leave set up."
"Lighting and audio was a bit difficult, because while Zoom is fine for just chatting, suddenly I needed to talk and play music too."
Happily, with a little help from fellow dance teachers in Scotland and America, she was soon ready to put students through their paces three evenings a week across four different levels of competence, complete with 'homework' videos for them to study between lessons.
"The advice was great and people were really open to helping," she enthuses of the help she received in order to get her 50 minute classes up and running on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Annette has got to grips with new technology to keep her dance classes going during lockdown.
Picture by Hugh Russell
"There was a real feeling of camaraderie and pulling together."
However, it seems that teaching to an empty room has taken some getting used to.
"You learn by watching from behind, so I'm just teaching away to a white wall like I'm a mad woman," chuckles Annette, who does make a point of also chatting to her students face-to-face from at the beginning and end of each lesson, while also asking for plenty of thumbs up or down feedback along the way.
The classes have been hugely successful, helping Annette to reach an international audience. Her Zoom With Annette classes have attracted 38 dance enthusiasts from around Ireland and beyond, including participants from Oxford, Manchester, London, Paris, Britanny, Hamburg, Brussels, Belgrade, Madrid, Ukraine and both US coasts. In fact, she recently had to turn some prospective students away – a big change from the more selective appeal of her classes in Lurgan.
"Attendance has been good, but not great," says Annette of the latter, for which she specifically chose Lurgan Town Hall as a 'neutral' venue from which to share her love of step dancing.
"I picked it because it's central and I really was hoping that it might be cross-community, but I don't think that has happened really."
Annette describes solo step dancing as a "minority sport" even in Ireland. Despite having developed a love of set dancing back in the 1990s before she moved overseas for many years, Annette did not discover solo step until she returned to Ireland in 2006 and decided to attend a beginner's class.
She was hooked straight away and began taking weekly classes with BelfastTrad to hone her abilities before striking out in a search for different dances and new teachers.
"I think a big part of it's appeal was the rhythmic and percussive qualities," explains Annette, who holds a BA in music from the University of Ulster and has mastered the bassoon, piano, whistle and concertina.
"I also like to be active, so it was hitting everything that I like to do. Suddenly I was dancing to my favourite music, and I liked the challenge of it too: they're not natural movements, you have to learn to do them.
"Plus, it's a really happy environment. If you go to a solo step workshop, you don't get people who are fed up with life – you're meeting people who want to meet other people and try new things. I would look around to find any weekend festival that had step dancing workshops and I might go for the afternoon or stay overnight. I was just soaking up as much as I could."
As a teacher, Annette's enthusiasm for solo step dancing is infectious, making her Zoom classes a relaxed, fun way for folks to give this 'minority sport' a try for the first time or stop themselves getting rusty while regular classes and workshops are unavailable.
Since we're all being advised to look after our physical and mental wellbeing during the ongoing lockdown, Zoom With Annette could be ideal for ticking both of these crucial boxes, as she explains:
"I push this in all my classes and advertising, that the research is there: dancing is one of the best forms of activities because it keeps the mind alert and the body active," Annette enthuses.
With luck, lockdown measures will begin to ease over the coming months and the Lurgan woman can get back to teaching her regular Step with Annette classes. However, it seems that might not mean the end of Zoom With Annette – especially when it comes to her newly acquired foreign students.
"I can see this taking off," Annette enthuses of her online activities.
"I can see me still doing a little international class for those who want it."
See FB.com/stepwithannette for information on “Zoom with Annette” classes and how to sign up
#dance #irishdance #percussivedance #traditional #OldStyle #onlineclass #adultclass
What is Step Dancing?
Step dancing is a percussive form of dance, danced alone, with footwork close to the floor. It is danced by people of all ages - I know step dancers who are over 80 - dancing keeps you young!
Old Style Step dancing is the precursor to competitive Irish dancing and Riverdance.
Check my dance/video page to see what it is all about all about.
What to wear?
Dancers are asked to wear some hard soled shoes, sneakers are not advisable, nor shoes with a wedge heel - clear your dance space of trip hazards, so that you are ready to have fun with dance!
Drop me a line here if you would like information on my next online course, or live classes and workshops.
Info on levels
Level 1 - complete beginner, together, we will explore an easy routine – taking a little time each week to demonstrate other dance types: eg reel, jig, slip jig, hornpipe etc.
Level 2 - for those with some experience, this could be 2 or 3 terms of my beginner class, or other percussive dance forms.
Level 3 - for those who have been dancing a while and are ready to start memorising longer and more complicated routines.
Level 4 - for those with a good background in Irish step dancing or other forms of percussive dance, where many movements will already be known, or easily picked up and we will work on building repertoire.
There are a number of home study courses available in the shop.
Teaching online since May 2020 – join me and my growing community of dancers from all around the world.
From Julia Bannister of Canada:
"Thanks so much. I cannot express how much I appreciate your teaching style. It is organized; excellent pacing; clear; concise; consistent; beautifully responsive to the music. Thank you from across the miles, the top, bottom and middle of my ❤️ - Julia"
#stepwithannette #dance #irishdance #tradition #traditional #onlineclass #irishdance #percussivedance #wellbeing
Aramco Expats Newsletter, published on 2 Feb 2022
If you lived in Dhahran (the eastern province of Saudi Arabia) in the early 2000s, you may have encountered the musical group 'Get Reel' performing a blend of Irish, country and bluegrass music at various venues around Dhahran and neighbouring island of Bahrain. Annette Collins, one of the group's founding members and a native of Ireland now returned to the Emerald Isle, has continued to pursue her love of music and Irish dance. She is currently offering a unique opportunity to learn Irish dance online. If you have an interest in Irish dance and culture, Annette invites you to join her next class beginning February 8th. We asked Annette to share more about her time in Saudi Arabia and with Get Reel.
I lived in Dahran from 1998 to 2005 and worked as a secretary, during that time I worked for a year as a PA to the assistant to the CEO and was promoted into a position in succession planning for the last year. I have a degree in music and also studied a post-graduate diploma in Secretarial Studies and Administration - with an aim to pursuing a career in the Arts.
While in Dhahran, I played folk music with a mixed bag of musicians and was one of the founding members of a group called 'Get Reel'. We performed regularly on camp, in a few other places around Dhahran, and also in Bahrain from time to time. We even self-produced 2 CDs during that time. I am still in contact with many of the members of the band, and also the people I worked with. Many are retiring back to Ireland at the moment, and we had a little reunion about a month ago, which got me thinking about the Aramco Expat community. The photos are from our recent reunion in Co Clare, Ireland. Two of the group had played with Get Reel, and a few of them danced with Pat Caulfield's Irish Dance troupe, Desert Dance, who used to perform in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The picture at the door would be Pat and me, who both played with Get Reel.
Annette & Pat
I returned to Ireland and started dancing, and then teaching in the evenings, and eventually gave up my day job. I am now a self-employed teacher of music and dance. Obviously I was teaching in person pre-covid, and most of my classes are still online, they have attracted a lot of people either Irish living abroad or people with an interest in Irish dance/culture and have no access to classes. Join me in dance - good for the mind and body.
#aramco #stepwithannette #dance #irish #tradition
Aramco reunion 2021 - Co Clare, Ireland
"smiley happy people"
Description, Listing of Repertoire, Short Film and further information on Dan:
The Dan Furey group, led by Michael Tubridy and Noel Devery, is a group of like-minded souls who meet to preserve the dances of Dan Furey (1910-1994), a keen dancer and teacher – I have included the full listing of dances below. Dan and his close friend James Keane brought the dances to the Willie Clancy Summer School, which takes place in Miltown Malby, Co Clare each year in July. Michael Tubridy notated all the dances and has published them. The dances are taught regularly at workshops and festivals in Ireland and abroad; there are many people around the world now dancing this repertoire, not just in Europe but also Kieran Jordan’s dancers in Boston, dancers on the West Coast, Canada and as far as Comhaltas Japan.
The Irish group normally meets in different locations around Ireland 5 or 6 times a year, we meet to catch up, dance, drink tea and eat cake! We dance this repertoire in a circle, and towards the end of the session we might dance a couple of figures of a set, the emphasis of these events is to meet and share. Since Covid, the group has been meeting online, once a month on the 3rd Saturday, a free event and open to all. Drop me a line if you would like an invitation to join.
Kieran Jordan also created a short film about the group and is available to view below.
Dan Furey Repertoire
Book 1 (no longer in print)
Priest and His Boots
4 x Hornpipe Steps
Job of Journeywork
Double Jig I
St Patrick’s Day
Book 2 (this book also includes the Book 1 repertoire)
Gabairín Buí (Little Yellow Goat)
Little Dutch Dance (Mazurka)
Mont Phoebus’ Hunt
Jockey to the Fair
Celine’s Hornpipe - 5 Donegal Steps
Double Jig II
Paddy Bawn / Paidí Bán
Book 2 is now available on the ITMA website (Irish Traditional Music Archives)
Click here for access.
Further background on Dan
Dancer and Musician, Dan Furey was born in England in September 1909. His father was from Lackyle, Labasheeda and his mother was English, of Scottish origin. While Dan was still a child the family moved back to the family home in Lackyle, County Clare. Some years later three of Dan’s siblings emigrated to America and the remaining two left for England. Dan remained on the family farm, some two miles from Labasheeda.
Dancing was a very popular social pastime in many parts of rural Ireland at that time, especially at times of emigration or for those returning home on holidays. Both of his parents loved dancing and his mother also played the piano. Dances regularly took place in the Furey household where various types of sets were danced, The Plain Set, The Reel Set and sometimes The Paris Set. Step-dancing, Four-hand Reels and Two-hand dances were also enjoyed. Dan learned to play the fiddle and had his own distinctive style of playing. He also played the melodeon and the concertina.
Dan’s interest in dancing started from about the age of six or seven. His brother George taught him his first steps and he picked up many others in his own locality, and, of course, he learned a lot from his parents. He gradually built up a selection of Sets, Step-dances and Ceili dances. While visiting his brother in England he attended dance classes in Kilburn under the direction of Maurice O’Connor, a dancing master who was originally from Cork.
When he was in his twenties he was asked to give private step-dancing lessons to the daughter of Garda Vesey and thus began his teaching career. Soon he was teaching in several schools in the vicinity, making the journey by bicycle in all kinds of weather and carrying his fiddle as he went. Eventually, as requests for classes from further afield were made, he bought a car and travelled to Doonbeg, Kilkee, Carrigaholt etc. In some areas he taught for over thirty years.
In the 1980s Dan travelled outside of Clare to teach and he became a regular visitor to Belfast, Galway and London. He also travelled to Chicago several times. Since the death of his father in 1958 Dan lived alone in Lackyle but a steady stream of people from various countries visited him there. Dan, together with his life-long friend, James Keane, contributed to the book Set Dances of Ireland, written by Larry Lynch. In 1990 Dan and James conducted very successful classes at the Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy.
Dan Furey died in August, 1993. He is buried with his parents in Killofin cemetery, approximately one mile from his house. In September 1994 the first “Dan Furey weekend” took place. It was organised by local people as a tribute to Dan, to music, and to dancing.
The Festival has been going strong since then in Labasheeda, Co Clare.
I hope you enjoy this presentation created for our end of term graduation party on, with students from all four levels - united across the globe - in dance.
Annette is an accomplished dancer and multi-instrumentalist.
Blogs to date:
-Irish News Article
-Warning re Dance!
-The Dan Furey Group
-Party time 0721
-Old Style Steps Abroad
-Thanks to my Funders!
-Old Style Step?
-Dancing vrs Ageing