STEP DANCE

twin cities

About Danielle

Performer, Teacher, Researcher

  As a dancer, musician, and dance historian I have studied a wide range of movement forms from around the world. While my focus and expertise largely revolves around traditional forms of percussive step dancing (see descriptions in section below), the work I do is informed by my love of and experience with other movement forms (these include ballet, modern dance, contact improvisation, lindy hop, and salsa dancing). 

I was introduced to Irish music and dance at a young age. I had no clue that these traditions, which would become a significant part of my life, were closely related to the traditions of the French Canadian side of my family. My French-speaking grandmother had made a large effort to learn to speak English and assimilate to American life in her 20's and it wasn't until I was in my 20's that she began to recount stories of the Quebecois music and dancing that was a regular part of her childhood north of Quebec City where her parents and friends would put cornmeal on their kitchen floor and dance all night to the fiddle player playing in the corner. A scene (minus the cornmeal) that has become familiar to me in my adult life. 

In childhood and adolescence I focused on competitive Irish step dancing and began learning fiddle music from local musicians and Irish sessions. I was immersed in the tradition and influenced by a thriving scene filled with well respected musicians. 
  
In 2006 I spent a year in Cork, Ireland where I studied under Matt Cranitch, Bobby Gardiner, and Connie O'Connell and earned a Diploma in Traditional Irish Music from University College Cork. It was there that I was introduced to the various regional styles of solo and social dancing in Ireland that predate the twentieth century. Studying under Peggy McTeggart I learned the steps and style of her teacher, the legendary Cork dance master, Cormac O'Keefe. Over the last decade my quest to expand my knowledge and repertoire has brought me all over Ireland, Scotland, North America and Europe.

In 2012 I was awarded a fellowship to complete an MA in Ethnochoreology from IT Tralee in County Kerry, Ireland. My research and thesis on historical and cultural signifiers of dance traditions in Ireland brought me around Ireland where I collected and unearthed history and steps from archives, libraries, and dancers around the country. My research also led me to the study of European dance master traditions (think Italy, France, Great Britain, and early forms of Ballet), and the effect of these dance forms on North American traditions (think American tap, Appalachian clogging, and the various forms of Canadian step dancing).
Peggy McTeggart, Cormac O'Keefe, Nancy McTeggart
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Studying the art of teaching and sharing my passion, knowledge and skill with people of all ages have been life long endeavors. Most recently I've taken my love of education a step further and took the position as the fifth grade teacher at the City of Lakes Waldorf School in Minneapolis and I'm currently working part-time towards a MA in Education from the State University of New York. I've taught music at the North Monastery school in Shandon, Cork City; Irish dance in Kinsale, County Cork; Step dancing for the O'Shea school of Irish dance, in St. Paul; community education classes throughout the Twin Cities, and workshops throughout the United States. In 2008 I received an educational fellowship to study education under a teacher in Berlin and taught in first and third grade classrooms. In Germany I also took the opportunity to study and write a research paper on the musical traditions in the northern part of the country. While at IT Tralee I spent time developing and teaching dance classes in the Cultural Studies, Health and Leisure, and  Early Childhood programs. I currently teach music at the Center for Irish Music in St. Paul and offer workshops and seminars through other institutions on occasion.
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As a performer I've been lucky to work with many local and internationally talented artists. Right now you can find me playing and stepping in Twin Cities based groups Brass Lassie (Laura MacKenzie, Mary Vanorney, Tricia Lerohl, Patrice Pakiz, Kate DeVoe Schumann, Lauren Husting, Brooklyn Audette, Enrique Toussaint, and Billy Oehrlein), and Northern Gael (Ross Sutter and Laura MacKenzie). I've performed throughout North America, Ireland, Scotland, and Europe with groups including the Sole Mates (Kieran Jordan, Nick Yenson, Sean McComiskey, and Josh Dukes), Trian, Altan, the Brock McGuire Band, Julie Fowlis, Liz Carroll and Daithi Sproule, the Doon Ceili Band, Paddy O'Brien, and The Two Tap Trio. You can hear my foot percussion on recordings by Brian Miller and Daithi Sproule/Liz Carroll/Billy McComiskey.

About the Dancing

What is Traditional Percussive Dance?
You've probably heard of a few of them, Irish step dancing (like Riverdance), Appalachain clogging, American tap dancing. Well there are lots more! They all share certain features, have shared histories and origins, and they're all forms of dance in which you make music, or percussion, with your feet. 

Depending on the tradition you might wear shoes with metal taps, fiberglass taps, or hard leather soles. 
MODERN IRISH STEP DANCING stems from the dancing master traditions in Ireland (which stem from the Italian, French, and British Dance master traditions which were hugely influential in the development of Ballet and other dance forms). This dance style has been shaped (and continues to change) throughout the twentieth century by the Gaelic Revival, Irish Nationalism, immigration, and competition. This style of dancing has both light and heavy dancing, the former being more balletic and non-percussive, and the later being a percussive dance - also called soft shoe and hard shoe dancing. 

OLD STYLE IRISH STEP DANCING is a product of the many individual dance masters who emerged in Ireland in the nineteenth century. There are specific steps and styles associated with dance masters and cultural regions. This also includes light dancing and percussive dancing, however there tended to be less distinction between the two and many early steps could be considered a combination of both. 

SEAN NOS DANCING is one particular style of percussive dance that is largely associated with the west coast of Ireland and Connemara. While there are set steps, it has an improvised element to it as well and tends to be characterized by a relaxed upper body and arms. 

CAPE BRETON STEP DANCING is the percussive dance tradition in Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada. This dancing originated in Scotland and was brought to Canada by immigrants. 

More coming soon...