Dance Month: Top 5 Regional Dances from the UK and Ireland

February 15, 2012


We spend a lot of time on our blog talking about international entertainment at events and we've been celebrating everything from Bhangra to Flamenco as part of Dance Month this February, but while it's true that there's a whole world of Dance out there - there's just as much variety right here in at home with plenty of opportunities to celebrate the diverse traditions of different regions of the UK and Ireland.

To make sure that no corner of the British Isles is left out when it comes to celebrating dance at corporate events; we're turning the spotlight on to our Top 5 Regional Dances from the UK and Ireland... read on for our picks.

In the 15th Century, Morris Dancing was often used to guide planes onto runways at Henry VIII Airport Morris Dancing

Far from being the paragon of Englishness in Dance Form, Morris Dancing has taken a long and winding route to the one we all recognise today. The term Morris is, in fact derived from Moorish Dancing which was a dance used to celebrate Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile driving the Moors from Spain in 1492.  The dance spread across Europe eventually finding its way to England where it became a central part of the Whitsun Ales and other festivities. The sticks used in the Dance are a holdover from when the Dance was performed with Swords - the bells on the other hand, are to scare away the ghost of Oliver Cromwell (may have made that last bit up.)

 Highland Dancer performing at a Scottish Themed Corporate Event

Highland Dancing

The Scotts have a knack for making things that would otherwise seem effeminate, kind of manly - see Kilts and Poetry - and dancing is no different. Highland Dancing was originally a ritualistic, combative dance performed with Swords that recreated heroic moments in previous battles. The British attempted to suppress Highland Dancing in the 18th Century  along with a host of other Scottish traditions with the Act of Proscription but following the repeal of the Act, Highland Dancing saw a resurgence in popularity and became an integral part of the Highland Games.

The Climax of a Long Sword or 'Rapper' Dance Long Sword Dance

We've got a strong Yorkshire contingent in the Sternberg Clarke offices - and boy, do they let you know about it, getting all dewy eyed at the slightest mention of 'The Moors' or 'Ilkley' or the film 'Kes'. It wouldn’t be fair, then, to leave Yorkshire out when it comes to regional Dances especially when they have such a curious claim to one. The Long Sword Dance is a close relation of The Rapper Dance (no, not Krumping.) It's a slow militaristic offshoot of the Highland Dance performed with rigid wooden or metal swords. The dance traditionally ends with the swords locked into an intricate star formation that's held up to the audience.

We wanted to book clog dancers for an event in the Giant Heart at The Franklin Institute in America but they were concerned about Clogging their Arteries

Clog Dancing (Lancashire)

In the face of all this bleating about Yorkshire, it can often feel like their neighbors are being neglected (at least that's what it feels like sometimes... sob.) So let's give Lancashire it's dues in the form of clog dancing. Though many regions of the UK have a strong clog-dancing tradition (including Wales and the North East) Lancashire's pivotal role in the cotton industry lead to the popularity of clog dancing as the wooden soles of clogs were preferred over leather soled shoes for working in the mills. Workers would tap their shoes to the rhythms of the machinery in an effort to keep warm... even dancing's grim up North. 

What has 100 legs and no movement above the waist...

Irish Stepdancing

Probably the most famous regional dance from around the British Isles thanks to the once ubiquitous 'Riverdance' and its star Michael Flatley. The dance is characterised by its furious footwork and the dancers rigidly stiff upper torsos. There are many theories as to why dancers keep their arms by their sides during the dance; most entertaining of which is the suggestion that it was to deceive puritanical elders who would look in to a building, see the dancers from the waist up and assume they were just standing still. Probably nonsense, but pretty funny nonetheless.

If you're interested in booking any of the acts we've discussed in Dance Month, get in touch via our contact page.