The Dance Buzz's April blog challenge (yes, I know it's May) centered around "dance imagery." What exactly does that mean, you ask? Dance imagery refers to metaphors dancers and teachers use to better describe movements and techniques.
What exactly does that mean to Irish dancers? Pretty much nothing. For many years, I've been acutely aware that the language of Irish dance isn't particularly pretty. We don't have the romantic, elegant sound of ballet. French is the language of love, after all, and also the language of ballet. Even though our terminology is in Irish (Oireachtas Rince Na Cruinne, Feis, An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, Ár Rincí Fóirne, etc.), the only Irish word I've frequently heard used in class is "Ceili."
After teaching class for 3 hours tonight, I don't think I uttered any words of "dance imagery." I don't really use metaphors. I, like most Irish dance teachers I've learned from, am very straight forward. Even with the little ones, my wording is quite plain and unimaginative. Here's the short list of my most used phrases whilst teaching...
"Point your toes!"
"Turn your feet OUT!"
"Turn out the back foot!"
"Don't sickle your foot"
"Keep your arms down"
"LISTEN TO THE MUSIC"
"Count in your head"
"UP on your toes"
... and my #1 (the dancers will attest to my overuse of this phrase): "KICK YOUR BUTT!"
None of those create the least bit of imagery.
On occasion, I've told dancers to pretend they had a yardstick taped to their back (as a reminder to keep their backs straight). When explaining how to do a proper bow, Mrs. Sarah (our fearless leader at the dance school), told the kiddos to imagine they were a drawbridge, coming up and down perfectly straight. That's actually the best example of "imagery" I've heard in an Irish dance class in a long time :)
If I had to choose one piece of universal "dance imagery" for Irish dancers, "Over-the-bridge" is the best I can do. As I got older, "UP-2-3" became my mental phrase of choice for leaps, but I still say over-the-bridge constantly. It's so unique to Irish dance. However, that phrase never made much sense to me. Looking back to my first experience with overs, I know I was thinking, "Over the bridge? Over what bridge? Why am I hopping over a bridge? I'm not a giant! What does this mean?!" Even our Irish dance imagery is baffling. I've heard teachers say, "Over-the-fence," which makes slightly more sense. A white picket fence is a much more reasonable height to leap over than a bridge. Seriously...
An honorable mention goes to any Irish dance phrase that equates a heavy landing to becoming a large, African land mammal. "You sound like a heard of elephants!" "Are you an rhino?!" "Don't land like an hippo!" You get the idea.
|Hippopotamus two-hand, anyone?|
Keep dancing... and not landing your over-the-bridges like elephants,