Dancing on the head of a pin: Irishness and vernacular dance in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

Walsh, Kristin Harris (2009) Dancing on the head of a pin: Irishness and vernacular dance in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This study explores contemporary vernacular dance forms in Newfoundland and Labrador. As a reflection of values and beliefs, vernacular dance in Newfoundland is recontextualized to express cultural identity. This is achieved through analysis of two case studies: Newfoundland set dance and step dance. While some people engage in traditional dance practices purely for enjoyment in today's society. many dance groups recognize the potential for their work to be seen as culturally representative. The dance groups in my case studies actively engage in promoting their identity - to their own members as well as the general public - as being uniquely and distinctly representative of Newfoundland and Labrador culture. -- Set dance and step dance groups in the province are inherently linked through an overarching Irishness that permeates Newfoundland cultural identity. In this thesis, I use the concept of lrishness as an internalized and naturalized part of Newfoundland culture, as well as a way for Newfoundlanders to carve out a distinct niche in Canadian culture, primarily through the arts. My chapter on set dance in Newfoundland focuses on Dance Up, a tourist event where the audience becomes the performer. This case study illustrates how echoes of Irishness in the Dance Up event subtly act as a means of attracting tourists and validating cultural identity for locals. My case study on step dance, which focuses on the St. Pats Dancers demonstrates how Irishness is overtly manifest in step dance forms throughout St. John's. Due in part to recent global popularity of Irish step dancing, here, Irishness is used more deliberately and proudly as a way of constructing and maintaining identity. -- As Newfoundland and Labrador endeavours to re-define itself in a new and challenging economic climate. so too must its cultural products re-envisage what they are and how they fit into a contemporary context. Each case study explores why lrishness is so appealing, and how these dance groups negotiate their identities at the intersection of art and culture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/8664
Item ID: 8664
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 283-311)
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: 2009
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: St. Pat's Dancers; Folk dancing, Irish--Social aspects--Newfoundland and Labrador; Set dancing--Newfoundland and Labrador; Step dancing--Newfoundland and Labrador

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