#51 | Pumpaí/Dancing at the Crossroads

Michael Flatley has been in the news again with his new film “Blackbird” (possibly named for an Irish set dance) and his questionable choice of followed Twitter accounts. No matter how successful his foray into action movies is, it is certain that he will be mostly remembered for and associated with Irish dancing. Irish dance, with its distinctive costumes, moves and tunes, is this island’s most recognisable unique cultural export and the point of greatest overlap in the experience of people who live in Ireland and the global Irish diaspora. Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the first performance of Uisce Beatha/Riverdance, the show that was critical in stirring interest in set dance across the globe. But why isn’t there a Bolshoi or La Scala academy of Irish dance in Ireland? Why are some dances for watching and others merely for participating? And how much of the emphasis on presentation in this female-dominated field is justified?

In this week’s episode, Motherfoclóir regular Clodagh McGinley tells Darach all about a youth spent in wigs and pumps that were two sizes too small. It’s a tale of high kicks, nits, injuries, vomiting, inter-school rivalries, stage mams, baffling VAT rates and moments of sheer artistry.