Hay Foot and Straw Foot: The Dublin Dancing Masters

It is hardly surprising that Mr Händel chose to premier his great work, Messiah, in the capital city of The Kingdom of Ireland.  Dublin was the seat of the vice-regal court and the hub of fashionable Anglo-Irish society. Its rich musical culture, abundance of musical talent and a profusion of balls and assemblies for every occasion, ensured audiences that were suitably appreciative of such an event.   Maintaining Irish society at a suitable level of gentility was the responsibility of the dancing master. But who were the dancing masters of Dublin and where did they feature in a society divided by religion and patriotism?  Where did they operate and how did hay and straw figure in their methodology?  This paper investigates the lives of the 18th-century ‘Lords of the Dance’, examining both the similarities which linked them to their English counterparts and the aspects which identified them as being particularly Irish.   

Mary Collins is an Early Dance specialist whose research and teaching approach has inspired musicians to look afresh at the dance music which is at the heart of the baroque repertoire bringing, in turn, a fresh perspective on the great composers of the baroque era. A practitioner and researcher, she performs regularly with the London Handel Players and gives master-classes, lecture-recitals and workshops to dancers and musicians throughout the world. A faculty member of Aestas Musica in Croatia, the Austria Barokakademie  and, for 26 years, The Ringve International Summer Course in Norway, she regularly collaborates with many of the world’s leading exponents of early music. Reviving original choreography and gesture for historical performance, Mary’s notable productions include the Bourgeois Gentilhomme at the National Theatre of Croatia in Zagreb (awarded the Croatian Grand Prix Award 2009/10), the London Handel Festival’s ‘Il Pastor Fido’ in 2010 and Lampe’s The Dragon of Wantley in Croatia 2015. Mary teaches at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music in London.  


Mary Collins
Symposium Title: 
Teaching Dance 2016
Author affiliation: 
Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music