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A Step in Time. The Story of Irish Dance

Start Date 27 June 2014
End Date 09 January 2016
Venue Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Location Holywood, Northern Ireland
Exhibition display of dressed mannequins

Irish Dance has evolved over the last 300 years into a distinctive style enjoyed by performers of all ages and backgrounds, worldwide.

From the itinerant dance masters of the 1800s to today’s ‘masters of dance’ there is a rich and colourful story to be told. This exhibition tells the story of Irish Dance at home and abroad over the last 125 years, drawing on collections from across National Museums NI.

A Step in Time includes almost 100 objects, ranging in date from a medieval brooch to a contemporary diamante embroidered costume for solo dance. Embroidered costumes, medals, and certificates will tell the story of the development of dance schools and the governing bodies for Irish Dance.

The exhibition will include references to the 1904 Feis in the Glens of Antrim, a landmark event in Ulster’s cultural heritage, and to the work of The Gaelic League in promoting Irish language, dance, and traditional crafts in the USA in the early 1900s. Personal stories of emigrants and those who travelled abroad as performers will be woven into the exhibition and explored further in the related exhibition events programming.

Costumes in the exhibition will include a selection from the museum’s collection relating to the Patricia Mulholland Irish Ballet. Patricia Mulholland was one of Ireland’s foremost choreographers, performer and teacher of Irish Dance over a fifty year period from the 1940s to 1990. The River dance phenomenon and its impact on Irish Dance today will be represented by both costume, and film footage.

Image courtesy of National Museums NI, Collection Ulster Folk Museum