New Year Intentions

Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic year. It is the celebration of October 31, Halloween, but it is also the month of November in Irish. In the spirit of the new year, I am setting intentions for myself. The first comes out of a conversation about Michael Tubridy at the Leitrim Dance Festival. The second is tied to my identity as scholar and historian.

For over 30 years, Tubridy has been working to preserve the dancing tradition of what he refers to as the “old school.”[1] The style of Irish dance in the 1920s and 1930s came out of the historical dancing master tradition, where people danced “close to the floor,” with an aim of “dancing on a plate.” Tubridy’s work is impressive – he even devised his own system of notation – but that is not the point. Every day, Tubridy runs through the entirety of the repertoire he has worked to preserve, in addition to the 10km walk he also takes. Assuming he only practices the published repertoire, that’s eighteen full dances. All together, that’s about an hour of dancing every day.

For the month of November, I have set a personal intention to dance through a portion of my known repertoire. Truthfully, I do not have the stamina required to dance all of the steps that I know in one run. I do have ambitions to build up to that so when I am in my eighties, I can follow Tubridy’s example.

My second intention is to expand my repertoire. This year I met some inspiring dance researchers. Their work taught me that a careers dancer, teacher, and historian is possible! This, however, is an area where I must be deliberate. While some of my dance colleagues continue to offer online classes, they are not as common as they were during the pandemic. It means I will have to move into research mode. This is a challenge that I particularly enjoy, but the difficulty is that it has to be more than collecting material; I have to make transcribing it from text and video into my own practice a priority. Ideally, I will add eighteen new dances to my repertoire by Samhain 2024, but learning twelve will satisfy me.

Lofty goals aside though, my challenge for November is to make dancing every day a priority. To expand and preserve what I have learned – both in my mind and my body – is part of it, but also to lean in to practice that allows me to delight in dance. I can’t be the only one who looks for the dopamine high offered by social media. It is better for my brain and body to find those feel-good hormones in movement.

I am working to be gentle with myself and building up slowly, but by the end of the month, my intention is to make my own dancing an easy part of my day.

I encourage you to join me in this – and if you need to learn the steps, the Studio is here for you!

[1] Michael Tubridy, A Selection of Irish Traditional Step Dances, 2nd Edition (Dublin: Brooks Academy, 2018), ix.

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