Old Style Step Dancing is a percussive type of dance, the steps are danced close to the floor, by people of any age - I know step dancers who are over 80.
Old Style Step Dancing is the precursor to competitive Irish dancing and Riverdance.
Research has proven that dancing is one of the best forms of activity for keeping the body active and the mind alert.
I teach to people with no prior knowledge, sometimes people come to revisit steps from their childhood, some people come to get fit in a fun environment, if you are curious about Old Style step dancing then come along to class, or check the weekend workshop schedule.
The steps and dances I offer have been passed down an unbroken line from the Dancing Masters of old.
To add my favourite quote from one of my tutors, Michael Tubridy: “wearing comfortable shoes and practising your steps in a relaxed fashion for maybe a half-hour every day, will give you great enjoyment, and do wonders for your general well being, without the risk of damaging your feet”!
(I don't insist you practise a half-hour every day, just whatever you are able, or inspired to do.)
Old-style Step Dancing is a tradition related to, yet distinct from the improvisational sean-nos dancing. It is believed that old-style step dancing dates back to the middle of the 18th century, with the dances and steps being passed on by travelling Dance Masters. Modern-day masters of old-style step dancing can trace the lineage of their steps directly back to the 18th century dancers. These Dance Masters also choreographed particular steps to particular traditional tunes creating the solo set dances such as the Blackbird, St Patrick's Day, and the Job of Journey Work, which also exist in modern-day Irish step-dancing.
Old-style step dancers dance with arms loosely at their sides, the body held in its natural upright position, with the legs bent slightly at the knees, to give a bounce or spring or easy style to the step. Steps are danced twice, first with the right foot then with the left, and are danced within a limited space.
This form of dancing was not really competition orientated, it was (and is) danced informally, described by Michael Tubridy as “a self-satisfying form of art, and can give the performer a great sense of satisfaction at being able to beat out a rhythm on the floor, or get up and “dance a step” at a ceili or party or friend’s wedding, - not to mention its tremendous value as a very fulfilling form of healthy exercise".
Get dancing I say!
(Taken from various sources)
Look after your brain
A comparison of two different fitness routines shows that both can have an anti-aging effect on the brain in the elderly, but only dancing gives rise to a measurable difference in behavior. by Tania Fitzgeorge-Balfour.
Story in brief
Physical exercise has an anti-aging effect on the hippocampus region of the brain – an area that controls memory, learning and balance. A new study, comparing different forms of exercise – dancing and endurance training – undertaken by elderly volunteers for eighteen months, shows that both can have an anti-aging effect on the brain, but only dancing corresponded to a noticeable difference in behavior. This difference is attributed to the extra challenge of learning dancing routines.
As we grow older we suffer a decline in mental and physical fitness, which can be made worse by conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.
“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity,” says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany. “In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”
Elderly volunteers, with an average age of 68, were recruited to the study and assigned either an eighteen-month weekly course of learning dance routines, or endurance and flexibility training. Both groups showed an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain. This is important because this area can be prone to age-related decline and is affected by diseases like Alzheimer’s. It also plays a key role in memory and learning, as well as keeping one’s balance.
While previous research has shown that physical exercise can combat age-related brain decline, it is not known if one type of exercise can be better than another. To assess this, the exercise routines given to the volunteers differed. The traditional fitness training program conducted mainly repetitive exercises, such as cycling or Nordic walking, but the dance group were challenged with something new each week.
Dr Rehfeld explains, ”We tried to provide our seniors in the dance group with constantly changing dance routines of different genres (Jazz, Square, Latin-American and Line Dance). Steps, arm-patterns, formations, speed and rhythms were changed every second week to keep them in a constant learning process. The most challenging aspect for them was to recall the routines under the pressure of time and without any cues from the instructor.”
These extra challenges are thought to account for the noticeable difference in balance displayed by those participants in dancing group. Dr Rehfeld and her colleagues are building on this research to trial new fitness programs that have the potential of maximizing anti-aging effects on the brain.
“Right now, we are evaluating a new system called “Jymmin” (jamming and gymnastic). This is a sensor-based system which generates sounds (melodies, rhythm) based on physical activity. We know that dementia patients react strongly when listening to music. We want to combine the promising aspects of physical activity and active music making in a feasibility study with dementia patients.”
Dr Rehfeld concludes with advice that could get us up out of our seats and dancing to our favorite beat.
“I believe that everybody would like to live an independent and healthy life, for as long as possible. Physical activity is one of the lifestyle factors that can contribute to this, counteracting several risk factors and slowing down age-related decline. I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age.”
This research is part of a Frontiers Research Topic investigating the cognitive and neural effects of physical and cognitive activity across the lifespan.
Posted on August 29, 2017 by Frontiers Communications in Neuroscience