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The Irish Dancing

Cultural Politics and Identities 1900-2000

by Barbara O'Connor

Publication Year: 2013

This book engages with the role of dance in Irish culture and society over the course of the twentieth century. It adopts a perspective that sees dance as a prism through which to view key aspects of Irish society over the period under review. In terms of its academic provenance, it can be located broadly in the fields of Irish Cultural History/Sociology and Irish Cultural Studies. It selects a number of key moments or eras to explore the role of dance in constructing and reflecting a number of specific cultural identities, namely national identity, gender, ethnic, postmodern and global. Each chapter focuses on one specific kind of cultural identity though themes of gender and social class run through many of the chapters.

Published by: Cork University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-x

I started writing this book when I was working in the School of Communications at Dublin City University but it was only following retirement in 2011 that I found time to finish it. So it was substantially the intellectual environment provided by colleagues both within...

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CHAPTER ONE - The Irish Dancing: Cultural Politics and Identities

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pp. 1-17

The theme of this volume, the role of dance in Irish cultural politics and identities in the twentieth century, can be book-ended by two dance events. The first, an Irish céilí and social event, was held in the Bloomsbury Hall in London on 31 October 1897, organised by the Gaelic League, at this time the main organisation for the promotion...

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CHAPTER TWO - The Body Politic: Dance and National Identity

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pp. 18-38

There is a scene in the film Some Mother’s Son (1996), set in Northern Ireland during the recent ‘Troubles’, in which a classroom of young girls are practising their step dancing. Their rhythmic foot movements are intercut with the movements of IRA volunteers preparing to launch an attack on a British army convoy. The close-up...

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CHAPTER THREE - The Devil in the Dancehall: Church, State and Dance Regulation

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pp. 39-59

The success of the Gaelic League from the 1890s had ensured that ‘healthy native entertainments’ (Pearse, 1909) were visibly present on the national cultural agenda well into the twentieth century. While the discourse of cultural nationalism revolved around the development of a distinctive Irish culture at the turn of the century, by the mid-1920s...

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CHAPTER FOUR- Ballrooms of Romance: Dance, Modernity and Consumption

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pp. 60-79

Recreational dancing was one of the most common leisure activities for young people in Ireland throughout the 1930s,’40s and ’50s, with ballroom dancing being the predominant dancehall repertory. It is the romantic discourse that developed around ballroom dancing in these decades that is the focus of this chapter. The dancehalls...

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CHAPTER FIVE - Return of the Repressed? Set Dance, Postmodernity and Community

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pp. 80-102

A flyer advertises a dance holiday in the Spanish island resort of Ibiza, famed for its disco dance clubs. This particular holiday promises ‘Sun, Sand, Sea and Sets’ and invites the reader to ‘join us for the “Craic” in Ibiza’. The set-dance holiday, scheduled to take place in April 2002, was an event in the fifth Fleadh España and provides a...

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CHAPTER SIX - Dancing the Diaspora: Ethnicity and Cultural Memory

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pp. 103-122

The emigrant Irish like to dance and to party, or at least so the popular representations would have us believe. Note, for example, the scene in the Hollywood film Titanic in which Leonardo diCaprio, playing a poor Irish emigrant, escorts the rich upper-class girl below deck where the steerage passengers, also Irish, are having a party. Nuala O’Connor...

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CHAPTER SEVEN - The Riverdance Effect: Culture Industries and Global Irishness

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pp. 123-142

These are the words of a managing director of an Irish advertising agency describing the mandatory inclusion of Riverdance in updating the branding of Irishness (quoted in O’Boyle, 2011, p. 176). The show that had begun life as a seven-minute interval act in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1994 was by the end of the decade...

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CHAPTER EIGHT - On With the Dance: Concluding Thoughts

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pp. 143-154

This book set out to examine some aspects of the role of dance in the Irish cultural sphere at various points in time over the course of the twentieth century. Focusing on dance discourses and on social and theatrical dance performance, it explored how Irish dancing bodies negotiated a range of cultural identities: national and global, gender...


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pp. 155-160


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pp. 161-174


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pp. 175-182

Image Plates

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pp. P1-P8

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781782050537
E-ISBN-10: 1782050531
Print-ISBN-13: 9781782050414
Print-ISBN-10: 1782050418

Publication Year: 2013