This is my first blog in English, but I quess except language everything is the same. Before I briefly introduce myself – I have to ask all native speakers and well-educated non-native speakers to overlook my mistakes. Especially my friendship with articles, prepositions and word order doesn´t work very well sometimes.
To begin with – my name is Barbora (call me Bara), I´m 19, I´m Czech and I accidentaly fell in love with set dancing. For those of you who haven´t heard that term before: it´s a traditional kind of irish dancing which is mostly danced in pubs with your friends to the lovely irish music. But I suppose you are reading this because you found my link on the Facebook page of Erlangen 2013, and that probably means you know much more about set dancing than I do.
As I said, I became a keen fan of this activity. And it happened recently. To be concrete – last weekend in Erlangen, where „Irish Set Dance meets Carnival“ took place. I have been doing set dancing since September 2012. We have a group of aproximately 16 set dancers in Prague and we practise every Monday evening. I always liked it. But I found the real deeper meaning of this hobby in Bayern among all of the international dancers and it charmed me that much that I decided to create a blog and write a review of the whole weekend, which is going to be a little „thank you“ to Andrea Forstner and her family for organizing such a great event. So – here we go!
We set off from Prague on Friday at 2 o´clock in the afternoon (a bit later than planned). When I say we, I mean me and my three friends Markéta, Jana and Tereza. Well, I should probably say me, my friend Markéta and my two dance teachers Jana and Tereza, but I guess it won´t cause me any troubles to use the shorter form. :D We arrived at Fürth after three hours of driving – the place where was our lovely, small, tiny and familiar hotel.
Frankly, I really started to be nervous at that time. Girls were talking about the different sets they like or don´t like, they were discussing the difficult ones (such as Clare Lancers and one particular figure that caused me many problems during the ceili carnival) and they were looking forward to their international friends.
My only memorized set was Ballyvourney Jig and the only people I knew were sitting in the same car… But the amtosphere and dancers were so much friendly and familiar when we arrived at Erlangen that all my stress just fade away during the first workshop with Tony Ryan. I don´t have any experience with any other foreign teacher so I can´t compare him to anyone, but I can definitely say I enjoyed the way he lead all the workshops. It seemed to me like he was a magical grandfather from some children fairytale, because of his kind voice and the way how he got our attention back after each set.
First evening, we practised basic steps for each rhythm, such as reel, jig and hornpipe, and learned the South Galway set. Then there was an hour and half for dinner and the first ceili in my life was about to begin. I must thank my girls who didn´t leave me alone in this and spent the first ceili with me, so I could see that no one really cares whether you know each figure in each set or not, and relax a bit. We did 8 sets (Corofin Plain, South Galway Reel, Cashel, Claddagh, Ballyvourney Jig – yippie!, Moycullen, Sliabh Luchra and Connemara). The night was going on and on, guys from the Abbey Ceili Band were playing amazing, lively and energetic music and I didn´t know how, but the midnight and the end of the ceili came suddenly. We ended our first day with a big aplause.
When we got to our car after midnight, we realized our GPS had broken down somehow. But guess what? We found our way to the centre of Fürth without any map, without any help and without any straying. In the blizzard and after a really tiring night. If anyone ever says girls have bad sense of locality, I´ll definitely kill him.
During the morning workshop on Saturday we learned Fermanagh and Rinkinstown set, which we had done in Prague before, but in Erlangen I realized it is completely confusing to change your position from tops to sides in this set. In the middle of the workshop came the great surprise – lunch! Thomas and Michael had prepared a smart system of ordering meals so all of us were able to make our lunch in an hour and half long break. To be honest, I really wanted to go to bed after a delicious minestrone soup and césar salad, but there was no extra place for sleeping during the whole weekend. At two o´clock the next ceili started and I tried for the first time how it is to dance in a set full of people you´ve never seen before. And guess what? It´s fun! As everything connected to set dancing. After Skibbereen, Clare Orange and Green, Fermanagh, Boyne, Rascahill and Mazurka came the 4-hour long break before Carnival Ceili.
What do you think? Are four hours enough to prepare for a carnival? I mean are they enough for 4 girls about twenty? Apparently not, according to our delayed arrival. But this time it was easier for us to mingle with the guest because a lot of people were wearing masks as well. By the way, there were some of them I really couldn´t recognize! And Tony as a cook was absolutely briliant.
It was about half past nine when Andrea proudly announced their „Bayrish performance“. I had known before that there had been some surprise prepared for us, but I didn´t expect such a funny one. I can remember the melody of the song up to now and I think it will be in my head for really long time! Hats off for that performance which really made the atmosphere even better (if it is possible). The ceili went on with Plain Reel, Borlin, Antrim Square, Labasheeda, BVJ, Kilfenora Plain, West Kerry, Connemara and the final one: Clare Lancers. To be honest – I have never been so much dissappointed as during the fifth figure of that set. Never. I mean – everyone was shouting at me „go right, with the other ladies!“, but how could I know where is right and where is left at that moment? But despite being so much lost, it was fun as never before as well. Yes, one gin and tonic might have helped it a little bit, but only a little. We ended our carnival ceili late after the midnight with taking a picture with 4 monks and then drove home for another short and insufficient sleep.
Getting up on Sunday morning took us slightly longer time than the day before. We also had to pack everything and leave the hotel, so we arrived just a few minutes before the tea break. But Christian greeted us with a smile and a sentence „Hello girls! Great to see you, you are here right at the time, lunch will be ordered in a few minutes!“ and that comforted us. In the second half of the last workshop we tried how it feels to be a demostration set and we enjoyed that very much, even though I was a bit nervous. This was followed by another delicious lunch and the last ceili came. We danced just two sets which hadn´t been danced before: Calledonian and Balingeary. At half past 4 Tony called the last set of our weekend – the Connemara set. When the euphoria from dancing and from final (huuuge) ovation melted away I started to feel really sad.
There were just 3 more hours in Erlangen left for us. We spent the first one in the beautiful, lovely and freezing city centre and then we moved to the brewery, where we talked with the rest of Andrea´s family for a while, danced our final Ballyvourney Jig in front of everyone…and after that great experience? Time to the last goodbye came. I felt really doleful because I met many new great people and the programme was so appealing, that I enjoyed every single second.
I would like to end my article (which is probably longer than it should be) with my final big “THANK YOU, ANDREA FORSTNER & FAMILY“. Your „Irish Set Dance meets Carnival“ changed one ordinary girl into a dedicated and enthusiastic set dancer.
PS: Those of you who were in Erlangen, are you planning to attend any other set dance weekend this year? Augsburg? Copenhagen? I´d like to know where I can meet you again, so please leave comments!