Text Anne Smith for Set Dancing News
The biennial New Year’s workshop in Herzberg, Switzerland (2016) was once again an occasion that went above and beyond set dancing. In a seemingly increasingly divisive world, it created a space out of time to put aside our personal concerns and engage with one another in joy. There, in the peaceful surroundings of the folded Jura mountains, just a half an hour away by train from Zurich, people from ten nations (Australia, Belgium, Czechia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States) joined together to celebrate the New Year in dance. As ever, the event took place in the Haus für Bildung und Begegnung (House for Education and Communication), a complex originally built in the 1930’s for the education of the people. This goal is reflected in the intrinsic simplicity of this building and is linked to the renewal of the interest in folk culture at that time. It was thus a highly appropriate, as well as very pleasant, homey location for the workshop. Except for the first day and a short, glorious moment on New Year’s Eve when the sun came out, we were encapsulated in gray mist. This resulted in an ever-increasing growth of rime on the trees, creating a fairy tale-like atmosphere, with the frost being a kind of elaborate Christmas decoration. Time slowed down, except when we were swinging.
As always, it was fascinating to observe how the dancers gradually merged together as a group. First on the schedule was a workshop given by Karl Erbach on the Caragh Lake Jig Set for those who already arrived on Thursday afternoon. This was followed by dinner, where old acquaintances were greeted enthusiastically and new ones were welcomed. But it was at the first ceili, fired on by the music of the Swallow’s Tails Ceili Band – and Pat Murphy’s clear calling – that the true encounters took place. The rhythmic drive of Tom Doherty on accordion, Maria Lynn on piano, Michael Hurley on flute and John McHugh on fiddle let us fly over the floor.
It only got better on the next day, starting with the morning and afternoon workshops with Pat Murphy. He was in his element, with his lovely stories about the background of the individual sets, and his detailed descriptions of movements involved in the individual figures. The majority of the day was spent with three sets composed in 2015: Ger Butler’s Sidmouth Set, Pat Murphy’s own Carrowbeg Set, and Seamus Ó Mealóid’s Camus Set. These new sets were followed by the first few figures of one revived by Seamus Ó Mealóid in 1991, the Connemara Jig Set. And this, of course, was topped off by another fabulous ceili with the Swallow’s Tail Band. Their astonishing transformation of Maggie in the Woods into Jingle Bells left us laughing (and singing) with delight and automatically presented us with the opportunity of extending the final Christmas.
In the morning workshop on the following day, we first finished off the Connemara Jig Set and then continued with the Newmarket Meserts, first taught by Jer McAuliffe in 1992. This was followed by Paul Carr’s recent Four Book’s Set, honoring Pat Murphy’s four collections of set dance instructions. We also finished up that day’s workshops with an older set, the Clare Orange and Green.
The organizing committee of the Zurich set dance group, the Bundle of Fun, conspired to make that evening’s New Year’s celebration a memorable occasion. There were festive decorations in the dining room and a dinner appropriate to the occasion. Everybody was in great good humor and so the ceili got off to a wonderful start. The Newmarket Meserts in the first group of sets was particularly noteworthy, in that it showed the great flexibility of the band. Michael and John, namely, got up and joined a couple of the sets as dancers (!), so that all could take part, leaving only Maria and Tom to fire us on. And then came the special attractions! First a group of the Swiss participants got up and sang two Swiss folk songs, followed by the lovely rendition of Peter, Paul and Mary’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone by Pauline Meegan, in which all were invited to participate. Thereafter Peter Davis, with the support of the band, wowed us all with his presentation of Appalachian clogging. After another set or two, it was time to don our coats and boots, get our champagne and go outside on the terrace to celebrate the beginning of 2017 with good cheer and fireworks. And to think, we still got to dance a few sets after that!!! It was yet a better ceili than the two before, in part I suspect because this combination of eating, dancing, singing and celebrating together brought that special kind of cooperation to the fore that is the essence of set dancing, lending a particular joy or passion to both the music and dancing. It is as if the dance shows us how we need to connect together in life.
The organization behind the event lay in the hands of the Zurich set dance group, a Bundle of Fun. Spearheaded by Manuela Morel – with the close assistance of André Lichtsteiner, Eva Biedermann, Max and Ursula Büchser – everything functioned perfectly. But this, too, was also a product of the spirit of cooperation so characteristic of set dance weekends. And in this way, the weekend came to be not only a bundle of fun for all involved, but beyond that, gave hope for the New Year through our awareness of our close bonds with others throughout the world.
Dieser Artikel hätte in den Set Dancing News erscheinen sollen, doch leider wurde das Magazin im Januar 2017 eingestellt