In 2014 we featured Cavan flute player Ellen O’Brien after she had won the Ulster Flute Under 12 competition for dance tunes and slow airs playing a Martin Doyle Flute. Ellen then went on to win the All-Ireland competitions in her age group soon afterwards.
Four years later a video clip of Ellen playing the Tom Ennis reel The Morning Thrush was posted on Youtube. At the time Ellen was doing a work experience stint at the Celt Centre prior to the June 2018 County Fleadh Cheoil in Kilnaleck, County Cavan. Ellen is playing a keyed Martin Doyle Flute made of African Blackwood.
Some weeks ago, Martin Doyle sent me (his webmaster) links to the two videos offered below and said, “What do you think of them?” Naturally I liked them very much and was quite impressed with the spontaneity and freedom of movement in the dancers. And the music being played for the dancers is excellent! “Sean-nós – what does that mean?” was my question to Martin. “Old style,” was his answer. So I did a little looking around…
For the uninitiated (like me), sean-nós dance is an older style of traditional solo Irish dance – the lesser known free-form solo type of dancing that many of Ireland’s older traditional musicians played for.
It is a casual dance form (as opposed to the more formal competition-oriented form of) Irish Stepdancing. “Sean Nós” in the Irish language means “old style” and refers to various activities, including sean-nós song and sean-nós dance. These less common forms of Irish dance and traditional Irish singing have been documented by folklorists and song collectors (aka ethnomusicologists), but still often form part of the traditional dance scene in Ireland.
Read more: Sean-nós dance »