Over the weekend Susan and I started reviewing a new dance DVD called Faoi Do Chois from Padraig and Roisin McEneany which includes instructions for four sets, the Connemara, Durrow Threshing, Fermanagh and South Sligo Lancers.
While not perfect, this is an excellent resource for those (like us) looking to learn more sets to teach others, or those others looking to just learn more sets.
We haven’t made it all the way through the DVD yet but I wanted to get a basic review out while we study to teach the first few figures of the Durrow Threshing set for an upcoming ceili.
The package comes with a DVD, a CD containing the music used in the videos and a colorful pamphlet containing instructions for each of the sets. Preceding each of the sets is a short description of where the set originated.
The DVD is broken up into six sections, an introduction you’ll see when you put the DVD in your player, a section for each of the set dances and a section for credits.
Padraig McEneany starts off the DVD with a brief overview of Irish set dancing and closes with a dedication to Connie Ryan followed by a description of the sets featured on the video, the set dance group and the band Triskell.
Teaching the steps.
Each set dance section starts with Padraig and Roisin showing the steps specific to the set dance they’re about to teach.
They do a good job of describing the steps and showing how they should be danced both solo and when dancing as a couple although it would be nice if there were a brief description of exactly where the weight is going and what the foot is doing. Experienced dancers will be able to figure it out but beginners may have a bit of trouble.
The real difficulty with this section is that they’re standing and moving about on a checkered floor composed of black and white tiles. When they’re on the black tiles it can be a bit challenging to see precisely what their feet are doing.
Dancing the set with voice-over.
Padraig moves on to a view of the set with eight dancers ready to go and describes each movement in the figure as the dancers move through it.
Dancing with the music.
Padraig and his group then dance the entire set accompanied by the band Triskell with appropriate camera changes so that you can see both tops and sides do the figures.
The camera changes aren’t perfect and there were a few times when I was closely watching someone’s footwork when all of a sudden the camera shifted to the other half of a set. Overall a minor complaint though since this section is really all about the movement of the dancers rather than what their feet are doing.
1) The compression used on the DVD results in pretty serious artifacts anytime someone moves. If you look at the picture below you’ll see that the edges of the woman in the foreground are blocky. This makes following the steps (feet especially) more difficult than it should be.
I suspect this is a result of increasing the compression on the videos so they could get all four set dances on one DVD. For future runs I hope they’ll add a second DVD and increase the video quality. Even if they don’t, this is a fairly minor complaint.
2) The videos are dark. Because of this it can at times be hard to see what the dancers feet are doing and since we’re Irish dancers, we’re all about the feet. Especially when the instructor is doing any kind of battering. We frequently found ourselves asking “what are their feet doing?” and having the other person answer “I can’t tell.”
In the default view it’s very hard to see the dancers feet but by brightening up the video just a little, they become much more visible. Hopefully with future runs of the DVD they can increase the brightness enough to bring out those oh so important details.
Lighting less than ideal.
If you have any interest in set dancing, buy this DVD.
For more information contact
Faoi Do Chois c/o Willowbrook
Ph. 041 9881764
Cost as of this writing was
USA & Canada us$44.00 ($40.00 + $4.00 p+p)
Updated Jan 19, 2006: I have Just received an email from Padraig and Roisin and they said that the NTSC versions of the DVDs are being reproduced and new copies will be sent out to everyone that ordered NTSC copies to date. Apparently the compression errors were only present in the NTSC versions of the DVD. Now that’s customer service.