Discover the Joy of Sean-nós dance

If you live in Chicago, I am sure you have seen Irish Stepdance. You know, the traditional Irish  dance performed at St Patrick Day’s celebrations in which dancers stiffen their upper bodies while performing quick, intricate footwork. But have you ever heard of Sean-nós dancing?  I discovered this Irish dance form while attending a show at Old Town School of Folk music last year and had the pleasure to see sean-nós dancers Brian Cunningham and Irene Cunningham perform:

This dance is considered to be the jazz of traditional Irish dancing. Rescued from near death almost twenty years ago, it is now flourishing and spreading throughout Ireland like a hill fire. It is performed alone in short bursts of exuberance as dancers respond to the music in their own unique way. Dancers start with a few basic steps and improvise and refine them over a lifetime. No two performances are ever the same. There are no set pieces, no costumes, no rules.  Sean-nós dance is characterized by its “low to the ground” footwork, improvised steps, free movement of the arms, and an emphasis upon a “battering step” (which sounds out more loudly the accented beat of the music). By its nature, it follows the music closely. Because sean-nós dancing is improvisational, it is not necessary for a pre-arranged routine or choreography to be decided upon by the dancer. Spontaneous expression is highly valued. Therefore, it is less common to see groups performing synchronized sean-nós dance (which requires choreography in advance). Instead, the dancers may dance in turns, playing off the energy of the other.

If you are interested in seeing this dance form in Chicago, then come to a benefit show organized by Chicago Irish Immigrant Support that will feature this joyful dance and the unbridled enthusiasm of Brian Cunningham and Atlantic Steps. Brian Cunningham has won multiple awards for his dancing at major competitions and has performed at a number of prestigious occasions, including  accompanying the President of Ireland on state visits to Japan and South Korea and going on tour all over Britain, Ireland, Europe, and North America. The show moves audiences to their feet, bringing sean nós dance to its rightful place on the world stage.

Proceeds from the show go to benefit Chicago Irish Immigrant Support’s legal aid to Irish immigrants and social services for senior citizens.

WHEN:  Saturday, November 3, 2012.

Doors open:  6:00PM

Show begins: 7PM

WHERE:  Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave, Chicago, IL 60630

WHO:  Starring Brian Cunningham and the Atlantic Steps dancers. The show is an exciting display of sean nós dance accompanied by live traditional music.

FOR TICKETS: call Chicago Irish Immigrant Support (773) 282-8445 or buy them online  at

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