I was in the public library on Tuesday, and I happened to be on the computer, looking at the library catalogue. Out of interest, I typed in ‘Irish Dancing’, and a book immediately showed up in the Junior Non-Fiction section called “Irish Dancing … and other folk dances.” So, intrigued, I found the book and settled down to read it.
I had hoped that it would tell me something I didn’t know. And it did. It told me that a hop brought your foot up to near your hip, that hard shoes had a metal tip and a metal plate on the heel, that our dresses were “short, embroidered dresses, usually made of a heavy material like velvet” and that “girls normally wear their hair in ringlets for competitions”. It also told me in great length about the various dances, although I was surprised to find that we dance a jig, a reel or a hornpipe, and that is it. Well, is it really? I was under the impression that a slip jig was in a different time signature to a light jig, but obviously I was mistaken.
You see, the only fact I came across in the book that was entirely correct was this: “Dancers compete in competitions called feis (pronounced fesh)” Although in fact, shouldn’t it have said “Dancers compete in competitions called feisanna“, or maybe “An Irish dance competition is called a feis” ?
This book has been published — and yet the types of shoes aren’t correct, the steps that it ‘teaches’ you are completely incorrect (am I not correct to say that that was a cut, not a hop?) and the dresses are around a decade out of date, although the book was a fairly recent publication.
This isn’t my Irish dance! I was shocked. How could something like that be allowed? Reading more of the details, I noticed that it didn’t even mention ‘poodle socks’, wigs did not feature and there was very, very little history about the dancing. Sure, so it said that we used to dance in our Sunday Best. Yeah, but why? Aren’t you going to tell me?
Someone once quoted to me, “If a book that you want to read hasn’t been written yet, write it.” I am sorely tempted to compile a book of FACTS about Irish Dancing and have it published, just to set a few things right.