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Subject: Re: Lancers (was: Ceilis)
From: Beverley Whelan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Irish Traditional Music List <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 19 Feb 1996 10:25:12 +0000
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Hello Michael, John, Paul (George, Ringo?:) and the rest of ye.
If you're not interested in dancing delete now!!!
 
> From: Michael Collier <[log in to unmask]>
> The Lancers is one of the most interesting sets in its extensive
> history.  I heard Joe O'Donovan in 1983 at the Willie Clancy Summer School
> at the Thursday evening set dance recital say that the Lancers was the first
> set dance in Ireland.  He played a tape of some music which he said was like
> the music that would have been used for the original Lancers early to middle
> of the last century.  I could drag out the tape I made of his talk and get
> his exact words, probably, if my tape is still good.
 
I would be very interested to hear more about this.
 
> From:          John Kerr <[log in to unmask]>
> I'm not really knowledgeable enough on this to make much of a
> comment, other than to observe that in a couple of the areas that
> have distinct fiddling styles associated with them, namely Sligo and
> Donegal, I'm not aware of much of a set dancing tradition. That
> doesn't necessarily mean that sets weren't danced in those areas,
> just that the practice may have died out before the dance collectors
> of the recent revival were able to get there. Perhaps someone on the
> front lines of the set dancing revival can better address this
> point.
 
> From: Michael Collier <[log in to unmask]>
>  There are four old sets, meaning before the revival that began in
> the 1970s, called the Lancers.  Two are from Kilkenny, one from Tipperary,
> and one from Clare.  The old Lancers from Crusheen, Co. Clare, is not the
> revival set called the Clare Lancers,
 
You might be interested to know that there are definitely more than
four. I spend a lot of time in South Sligo, where I was fortunate
enough to learn the version of the Lancers that used to be danced
around the townlands of Carrowmore and Cloondrihara (about five miles
for Tubbercurry) from a man in his late seventies called Seamus
Conway. It has all-but died out, but is still danced at family
occasions by Seamus, his family and close friends. There is a similar
version danced in nearby Tubbercurry, but it is a little different -
in the same way that Sliabh Luachra dancers have regionally similar
but different sets within a realatively close geographical area.
 
<stuff about American versions snipped for space>
 
>         What makes this especially fascinating is that each of these American
> Lancers has a fifth figure which involves a lining up down the middle of the
> set and a chaissez, side step, side to side.  This is pretty much the same,
> with variations, as the, yes, fifth figure of Lancers from Crusheen (which, I
> forgot to mention, came to Clare from south Galway).  Such a figure does not
> appear in the other three Lancers.  It would seem there's a connection here,
> but what is it?  The history is in the details.
 
Both the Tubbercurry versions and the Carrowmore version have a
similar figure where the couples line up. I assumed this was part of
all versions, as I am only familiar with these versions and the Clare
Lancers which has been taught pretty widely. It is interesting that
the other two Irish versions you mention don't have this figure, but
the American ones do.
 
> If anyone knows more about 'set' square dances and their history,
> especially the Lancers, I would love to hear from you.
>
>                                         Sla/n anois,
>                                         Michael Collier
>                                         [log in to unmask]
 
Seconded!
 
> From: "Paul F. Wells" <[log in to unmask]>
> I'd be curious to know more about the various Irish "Lancers" and the tunes
> that go with them.
 
The Clare Lancers is predominantly danced to reels (my
long term memory is not good so I can't give you specifics for each
figure in the abscence of my book! - but I'm sure someone else can!).
When I saw the Carrowmore version danced recently it was to jigs with
one hornpipe, although the flute/fiddle player Peter Horan's late
wife told me that there used to be specific tunes to each figure,
some of which were northern-style polkas (like the kind of thing John
McKenna the 1930's Leitrim flute player recorded). I'll investigate
further when I visit Tubber in July. In the meantime, details of the
Clare Lancers can be found in one of Terry Moylan's books called Set
Dancing, published by Na Piobari Eireann (apologies for the probably
atrocious spelling)
 
Nice talking to ye :)
 
Beverley
****************************************************************
Beverley Whelan ([log in to unmask])
Administrative Assistant, Secretary's Department
University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland DD1 4HN
****************************************************************

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