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Part: 6 Picture Perfect > Term Paper #3 - Pg. 351

Sample Term Papers 351 Ever since St. Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century, the Catholic Church played a very important role in the lives of the Irish. By the mid-1700s the Church had condemned dancing, so this expression of Irish culture was practiced with some secrecy. Step dance was taught in kitchens, barns, and other fairly private indoor locations. Sometimes a stage was as small as a tabletop or a half door. Because of the lack of adequate dancing space, early step dancing was rather stationary in style. Step dancers tried their best to stay in one place while doing quick footwork (Richens and Haurin). Men often wore black shoes with elevated heels and large front buckles, so they were ready to dance. The dancers inserted coins between the sole and toe of the shoe and hammer nail heads into the heels to increase the volume of their battering. The dancers usually wore their everyday clothes, and would don their Sunday best, typically swallowtail coats and knee breeches, when performing at a competition. Competitive dancing took place at feisianna, and competition eventually became, for most dancers, the primary reason for learning to step dance. The winner of a compe- tition was the dancer who knew the most steps, not necessarily the one who performed them the best (Richens and Haurin). There were several different step dances that the dance masters taught, all of which are still done today. The jig is perhaps the most recognizably Irish dance that is still in existence. It is performed to music played in a 6/8 time signature. The reel originated in Scotland, but was perfected by Irish dance masters. It is a relatively fast dance in 4/4 time. The hornpipe evolved from an English dance in the mid-1700s. It is done in 4/4 time, and has a distinct triple rhythm in the music: one-and-a-two- and-a-three-and-a-four-and-a. Set dances are performed to a specific tune that remains set over time. It has two parts, the lead around, which is danced as an introduction during the first eight to sixteen measures, and the set, which usually begins at the twelfth to sixteenth measure. Set dances are done in jig or hornpipe time, and greater interpretation of the dance is expected in comparison with other step dances (Richens and Haurin).