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date: 28 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the radical reimaginings of traditional Irish step dance in the recent works of Jean Butler and Colin Dunne, in which the Irish step-dancing body is separated from its historical roots in nationalism, from the exhibitionism required by the competitive form, and from the spectacularization of the commercialized theatrical format. In these works the traditional form undergoes a critical interrogation in which the dancers attempt to depart from the determinacy of the traditional technique, while acknowledging its formation of their corporealities; the Irish step-dance technique becomes a springboard for creative experimentation. To consider the importance of the creative potential revealed by these works, this chapter contextualizes them within the dance background from which they emerged, outlining the history of competitive step dancing in Ireland, the “modernization” of traditional Irish dance with the emergence of Riverdance (1994), and the experiments of Ireland’s national folk theater, Siamsa Tíre.

Keywords: Irish step dance, competitive dance, Riverdance, Jean Butler, Does She Take Sugar?, Colin Dunne, Out of Time, National Folk Theatre, Ireland, Siamsa Tíre

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