Put a little jig in that step

Tanika Snyder

New Irish set dancing workshop offers hands-on holiday fun for all

Students learn a plain set in an Irish set dance class, taught by Dr. Lenette Taylor. The class is taught Monday nights in the annex.

Credit: Andrew popik

Irish set dancing is lively, traditional, social dancing for four couples in a square — and is now offered at Kent State.

The new 10-week class, Irish set dancing, is a one-credit hour workshop offered by Continuing Studies through the School of Exercise, Leisure and Sport. Class meets every Monday from 4:25-7 p.m.

“It’s all dancing,” said Lenette Taylor, assistant history professor and class instructor. “We begin class by watching a video of a set that we will do that evening and then we start dancing it.”

Lenette teaches the workshop with her husband, Larry Taylor, both of Stow. The Taylors have been active in Irish set dancing as students, dancers and instructors since 1996.

“We got interested in it because we love traditional Irish music,” Lenette said. “We were in Milwaukee in 1995 at the biggest Irish festival in the United States and I’d never seen adults dancing like that before. We were enthralled with it.”

The Taylors learned Irish set dancing from classes and workshops in various parts of Ireland and the United States.

“Set dancing to me is easy,” Lenette said. “I tell students it’s just like reading. There are about two dozen basic patterns that are rearranged. Just envision the letter ‘t,’ you can change it many different ways, but you will still recognize it.”

Lenette said her emphasis is on having students learn the patterns that make up the sets.

“It’s a little hard to grasp at first, but once you understand it, it is super fun,” said Keri Dolman, Irish set dancing student. “I’ve never done anything like this before. I know how to polka a little bit because of my mom and grandma, but other than that, I’ve had no dance experience.”

Lenette stressed that no experience is necessary to participate in her class. She also says that unlike other traditional dances, each Irish set dancer knows both men and women’s dance roles, so there is no leader.

“Your mind works when you’re dancing,” Lenette said. “Dancing gives you an emotional satisfaction, a sense of rhythm and movement — it soothes you. Dancing is something everyone should take up.”

A common misconception is that set dancing is the equivalent of step dancing. Lenette said the two are distinctively different. Step dancing is the competitive solo form of Irish dancing. Riverdance is a common form of step dancing.

“Step dancing is all about footwork,” Lenette said. “It’s very intricate steps and footwork. Set dancing is different, it’s choreographed and the sets are programmed to pieces.”

Dolman said the thing she enjoys most about the class is how easy-going and enjoyable it is.

“There is no pressure that you have to have everything perfect or you fail,” Dolman said. “The teachers are very patient and fun. It’s a very stress-free class and I always look forward to attending it.”

With only 11 participants in this semester’s class, it is yet to be determined if Irish set dancing will be offered in future semesters; however, Lenette hopes to continue teaching the workshop at the university.

“Any excuse to go out and dance is just wonderful,” Lenette said. “The teaching part of Irish set dancing, I just love. I enjoy watching some student come in and do one of those patterns and really get it.”

Contact fitness reporter Tanika Snyder at [email protected].