History of Irish Set-dancing in Czech Republic

Irish set-dancing is a social form of Irish dancing which originated at the beginning of the 19th century but only found its full development in the second half of the 20th century. It is a dance form which you can encounter in Irish pubs several times per week and you do not need any special movement capabilities (just like when you want to dance a polka or a waltz at a regular ball in the Czech Republic). You can find set dancing only in a few places in the Czech Republic, which is a result of insufficient information about this activity.


This history has a similar length as the history of Irish dancing in general. I think we heard about sets sometime in 1997 when we visited Ireland and found out that such a dancing form existed and that many people were involved in it there. We realized it was not as impressive as hard shoe dancing but we still found some charm in it. Irena Samcová brought a description of Clare Lancers to Rinceoirí after one such visit to Ireland. And thus we started putting this dance together, without the knowledge of terminology and proper dance technique. Although this dance was sometimes practised, we knew that something was missing. Then it was put aside and Irish set dancing with it for a while. In 2001 my family visited Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay in Ireland. Here we became acquainted with this form of Irish dancing culture not just through dance workshops led by Paddy Neylon, Mary Clancy and Geraldine Connolly, but especially through the afternoon and evening ceilís in the Armada Hotel. Therefore we included an introduction to Irish set dancing in the programme of the 2nd and 3rd Summer Schools of Irish Dancing. The first teacher who presented them on my request was Sean Kilkenny. However they are considered just a diversion. In 2003 I decided to introduce proper set dancing workshops. I contacted Joe O’Hara from England over the internet. His reaction was surprisingly friendly and thus the weekend of 20 – 21 September 2003 is the time of the first set dancing workshop led by Joe and his wife Janet. There were 32 participants. The first day was spent with Caledonian Set and Plain Set. The second day with Cashel Set and Newport Set.
The following month a dance evening took place in Prague together with some people from Ireland and the Brian Ború Ceilí Band. The evening at the Na Slamníku restaurant was organised by Helena Janoušová who invited her Irish friends to Prague and also invited people interested in set dancing to come and learn something. The dancing was led by Mrs. Angela Bernard, but one from Dublin . But even this evening did not start up any greater interest in set dancing. September 2004 was another possibility to meet with the O’Hara’s to practise in Prague. There were not even two complete sets. Joe and Janet taught us various pretty figures from numerous dances. Irena Samcová attempts something similar in Coiscéim. She engaged Helena Janoušová and later Brendan Taggart from Dublin with whose help she organised several workshops. They managed to form a group of adult dancers without any special dance ambitions who were spending time learning under Helena’s leadership. After some time this group becomes independent. Its dancers then attend the 6th and 7th Summer school of Irish Dancing where Joe and Janet again teach set dancing. 
The group led by Helena Janoušová is now called The Prague Irish Set Dancers. Its members systematically practise Irish set dancing. They meet every Thursday in a small gym of the Jedlička Institute. Apart from this group there is another one in Stříbro called The Silver Irish Set Dancers. Some dancers from this group together with The Prague Irish Set Dancers
participated in Willie Clancy Summer School a Set Dance Week v Miltown Malbay in 2009. The Prague Irish Set Dancers also participated in Bernard's Summer School 2009 where they attended the workshops led by Gerard Butler. They also still cooperate with Joe and Janet O´Hara who lead set dancing workshops in Prague from time to time.



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