New Open Access Article: ‘They must know me’: Embodied Intertextuality and the Reworking of Local Dance Traditions for International Audiences (Dr Daithí Kearney)

Keywords: Irish step dance, folk theatre, embodied practice, intertextuality, Siamsa Tíre ABSTRACT

Interaction between the local and the global, and the implications of these interactions for tradition, are a recurring feature of scholarship and activity in Irish traditional music and the focus in this article is the role and representation of the local through an embodied and evolving regional dance tradition. This article examines how Siamsa Tíre, The National Folk Theatre of Ireland, has conserved and developed the North Kerry ‘Munnix’ style of traditional step dancing as a resilient culture and continued to embody a local identity through its use of local dance steps whilst engaging with international artists to develop new artistic expression through dance. This study considers the impact of Riverdance on an understanding of Irish dance in theatre and activities during periods of social restrictions relating to COVID-19 that impact on the resilience of the tradition.

Initial productions from the 1960s presented aspects of Irish rural life and culture in the early twentieth century through music, song, dance and mime. Later developments and productions from the 1980s sought to expand the style and aesthetics of the company without abandoning local cultural references. This is particularly evident in an analysis or close reading of dance steps and intertextuality, in this case focusing on the steps and motifs of ‘The Blackbird’ set dance from the Munnix tradition. Through personal reflections on my involvement as a trainee and performer with the company, archival research and dance, the article critically engages with intertextuality in the work of Siamsa Tíre, the role and representation of the local through an embodied dance tradition, and its contribution to the resilience of local traditions. Significantly, it reflects the embodiment of tradition and intangible cultural heritage through dance and my ability to recognise the core elements and adaptations that engage with change and development in a traditional art.