We’ve organised four pre-festival dance workshops for anyone curious to learn a bit of historical dance.  We’re going to take a look at medieval and renaissance dance in two workshops, and in the other two we’ll try some Playford dances, the ancestors of our céilí and set dances.  You might be familiar with one or two of them from the BBC Pride And Prejudice. And we’re going to go in reverse order: the Playford first, then the medieval and Renaissance.

The workshops are open to all levels and all ages over 10.

€5 per workshop / €15 for all four: NO PRE-BOOKING REQUIRED

SUNDAY, 28 APRIL, 2-4 pm
, O’Donoghue Centre Rm G011 NUI Galway

SUNDAY, 5 MAY, 2-4 pm
, O’Donoghue Centre Rm G010 NUI Galway

SUNDAY 12 MAY,  2-4 pm

SUNDAY 19 MAY, 2-4 pm

And for those who would like to perform the dances, we are inviting workshop participants to join us on SUNDAY 26 MAY at 5 pm in the Meyrick Hotel to join our Early Music for Young Musicians Project, and our adult Ensemble in a concert directed by The Gregory Walkers.

We will be adding further details about the workshops as we go, but if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us via info@galwayearlymusic.com.

These two workshops will introduce you to the style of social dancing enjoyed by the landowning classes in Britain from the seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth – and going strong in folk dance clubs today. ‘Playford dances’ and spinoffs in the ‘English country’ and ‘Scottish country’ dance styles were danced by royalty and aristocrats in the Stuart courts, in the country houses of the gentry, and in the fashionable urban assembly rooms of the Regency period (think Jane Austen).

John Playford, a music publisher, printed the first edition of The Dancing Master in 1651 as an act of blatant royalism at a time when the puritans had gained control of the English government and executed Charles I (think The King’s Head pub). The book included dance instructions and musical notation for the tunes – all the guidance needed for aristocrats and wannabes to have a defiantly good time! It was an instant success and set the agenda for elite social dancing in Britain for 200 years.

Providing exercise for the mind as well as the body, country dances are known for the way in which dancers weave in and out between one another in symmetrical flowing patterns that represent an idealised, orderly society, in which every person knows his or her place. Within this framework, there is room to develop a personal style, ham it up, and have fun. Our dances, selected from the 1651-1701 Playford editions, have an interesting variety of formations and some Irish and Scottish connections. In each workshop we will focus on 2 beginner-friendly dances and savour the experience.

Anyone who attends both Playford dance workshops and the rehearsal on 19 May will have the opportunity to perform in The Dancing Master concert on 26 May.

Felicity Maxwell has been dancing since age 3. After 12 years of ballet lessons, she branched out into contemporary, English and Scottish country and ceilidh, and most recently Irish and Renaissance dancing. She has danced in Regency balls and a Stuart masque and called dance instructions at balls on the Scottish university circuit.

These two workshops will take us on a time travel back to the dances of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and we will explore more recent French traditional dances that have clear Medieval roots.
In my first workshop we will take a look at the most widespread forms of dance in the Middle Ages: the round dance (the carole) and the open-chain dance (the tresca). Our reconstruction will be based on traditional dance practices from France – more specifically Brittany and Provence. If time allows, the workshop will also provide a general introduction to the branles of the French dancing master Thoinot Arbeau, since the branle, while being documented only from the Renaissance onwards, still exhibits clear links with medieval practices.
In the second workshop we will work on two types of Renaissance dances, the branles (with a more in-depth approach than during the first workshop) and the pavane, a processional dance practiced in the courts of sixteenth-century Europe. Again, if there is enough time, we will compare the pavane with a traditional processional dance still practiced in the South-West of France, the rondeau, which probably has medieval origins too.
In both workshops, most dances will be accompanied by live music played on bagpipes and flutes by Jacopo Bisagni. However, since in the Middle Ages the dancers’ voice was often the only available ‘instrument’, we will occasionally also try and sing to our own dancing…

Lise Carrel-Bisagni started dancing when she was 10 and since then has practiced different styles of dance, ranging from modern jazz to Irish step dancing and flamenco, and from Breton and other French traditional dances to Renaissance and Baroque dance.
Jacopo Bisagni plays different kinds of bagpipes and flutes and specializes in traditional repertoires (Italian, French, Irish) as well as in medieval and Renaissance instrumental music.