Brian Cunningham Says “No One is Too Old To Learn the Sean-nós Dance” (Interview)

Brian Cunningham Atlantic Steps

Brian Cunningham is in the middle of his Atlantic Steps tour. It is definitely gaining momentum as more venues are filled and more dances performed for the pleasure of the eager crowd. It is doing great that reaped a positive review from The Boston Globe. The Irish and the whole Celtic music scene are  excited as something fresh is making its way into the mainstream consciousness. Yes fresh but actually taken from something ancient. This is the beauty of Sean Nos dancing. It is definitely Irish all the way. It is also a kind of dance that has become obscured but now found a new audience in both young and old. I first got acquainted with the term after reading Dark Dealings by Karen Victoria Smith. At first, I thought Sean Nos only referred to the type of singing which also translates to “Old Style.

An observer of Sean Nos dancing who is new to this art would notice similarity to American tap dance. But remember that American music and dance are both influenced by the Irish culture. Brian Cunningham answered these question between sessions. He was  prompt friendly in getting back to my questions. The thing about real artists is that they are both eager to perform the art tell the world about it.

Here is a brief info about Sean Nos dance from Sean-nós dance is an older style of traditional solo Irish dance. It is a casual dance form (as opposed to the more formal competition-oriented form) of Irish Stepdancing. “Sean Nós” in the Irish language means “old style” and refers to various activities, including sean-nós song and sean-nós dance. These less common forms of Irish dance and traditional Irish singing have been documented by folklorists and song collectors (AKA ethnomusicologists), but still often form part of the traditional dance scene in Ireland.

There is a huge resurgence of Sean Nos dancing not just from Ireland but also from the whole Irish diaspora. How to you feel being in the middle of it all?

It’s great to be in the middle of this huge revival of an ancient dance form sean nos dance. It’s a well minded and respected art form, so it’s important that it’s revived in a special way.

So tell us more about Atlantic Steps. You are in the midst of a tour I believe? How’s it going so far?

We just finished our USA tour with Atlantic Steps, and it’s flying high thank God! More info about the tour available here

How did you develop the love for traditional dancing?

I developed my love for sean nos dance at the age of  five. I love the freeness and excitement it brings to me and the people I perform to.

 Can you cite the dancers who influenced your desire to follow this path?
I learned how to dance from my father, and he learned from his grandfather. I was also influenced be the great Mairtin Beg O Griofa and Seamus Devan. It all comes from the heart and our culture in Connemara.

If someone who is new to Sean Nos dancing  asks you ‘what is sean nos dancing,’ what’s your answer?

If someone asks me what sean nos dancing is, I would say it’s not just ‘steps of a dance.’ Sean nos is a story, and the oldest dance story we have in Ireland. It’s the feeling you get and the passion you feel. When you do  sean nos dancing, the rhythm is coming from inside.

What will happen this year in terms of Atlantic Steps and side projects?

My plans for the next year is to keep working on atlantic steps and most of all to keep trying to take part in the revival of sean nos dance. My biggest goal is to tell the story and as it was not just dance.

Points to remember when someone as old as 38 gets into Irish dancing?
When someone is getting into Irish dancing, the thing to keep in mind is, there are no rules or regulations with sean nos. People of 60 years and up, werethe best dancers. They had the style mastered even back in the day when it was danced in country kitchens around the open fire.

Brian Cunningham is performing in Boston this weekend.

Brian Cunningham


‘Atlantic Steps’ is the inspiring epic story of Ireland’s oldest dance form, portrayed through the music, song, dance and Atlantic-Ocean-inspired energy of the Connemara region. For booking information, contact JRA Fine Arts at or 888.939.ARTS (2787).



Here we are again with our fabulous edition of the Huzzah! following the Brian Cunningham interview above. I am dizzy while writing this because it is past 11. Sometimes I think I am getting old due to my ‘punctual’ sleeping habits. So what’s up? Well I want to touch about amusing pictures on top of our usual musical recommendation.

I want to say that The Folkalists made amusing pictures via their fb page. Take a look at these:

Click to enlarge

the folkalists

If you want to know how they sound like, then just try to imagine, Simon and Garfunkel with a good dose of The beach Boys and Planxty for the good measure. The sound is characterized by tight harmonies and lush instrumentation. Can’t wait for an actual album from The Folkalists. Here is a link to their demo:

Check out this amazing link: Caitlín Nic Gabhann wins Traditional Album of the Year 2012

Sliotar is preparing for their march and April gigs. For those who are new to the band, this video gives you an idea about the music:

Saw Doctors to hit Cleveland this March:

Fraser Fifield
Click to enlarge

Scottish piper Fraser Fifield is in Holland performing with The Nordanians. Here is a video of the music for those who are curious:

Martial Tricoche (Manau) continues to make waves in France with the release of his new album plus an interesting music video:

Corrina Hewat
Corrina Hewat

Corrina Hewat is busy with and for those who are curious to visit the venue check this link for details:

Our previous featured artist Nick Burbridge has a recording up via bandcamp:

Wild Irish Poet
Wild Irish Poet

Poetry reading of The Purge – Michael Hartnett- Read by Alan Cooke – aka Wild Irish Poet:

An interesting version of She Moved Through the Fair by the sister of Eve Williams:

That’s it folks. Now don’t worry if you think I miss something. I will make it up on the next edition which will be on Friday!


8 Replies to “Brian Cunningham Says “No One is Too Old To Learn the Sean-nós Dance” (Interview)”

  1. Dear Baxter, I always love reading your news. I have some of the sad kind for you. I’m wondering if you knew of the death of Chris Caswell, American Celtic Bard. He was diagnosed with liver cancer in September and died Jan 21 of this year at his home in Oakland, CA. We, his relatives, friends, fans and students are devastated. There were several benefits – one after the last night of the Dickens Faire in San Francisco and one at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on Feb 4. Those helped somewhat to alleviate the medical bills that had accured to his family. Some close friends formed the “Karmic Allies” and put up a page on the crowd funding site “” His page is called “The Chris Caswell Legacy CD Project.” Chris was working on a double CD set of his recent music, but did not get to finish it. We are raising money to complete that, then sell the CD on a memorial website to pay more of the medical bills. That way the music will not be lost as we feared it would be if something were not put in place immediately. We have raised about half of our goal, and have but two weeks left to reach the amount we have set. We hope to produce the double CD set and republish his wonderful “Holy Wood” and “Celtic Tidings” albums as the publisher has gone out of business. I am wondering if you could use your many connections in the music business to help us get the word out about this project. I know that you did a nice article on him recently and he was quite pleased to see that. Perhaps it would be fitting to make an update to that. Chris toured the country and abroad with Robin Williamson and His Merry Band, with his own duo Caswell Carnhan and with others as well. So I know there are many folks who do not know of his death at this time. I am including the information about the Legacy CD Site and some pics and his obituary which appeared in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and several other Bay Area papers. We will appreciate anything you can do to spread the word about the project and the new CDs. There are many really nice perks on the Indiegogo site even for smaller donations. Thanks for all you do for the music and the players. Thanks for anything you can do to help us provide a fitting memorial for this great musician. All the Best, Bev RiverwoodAssistant to Chris Caswell

    Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2013 16:05:53 +0000 To:


    1. Hi Beverly, thank you for your message. Yes Chris Caswell is close to the heart of The Celtic Music Fan. I am aware of his passing and it’s really sad.I will definitely do a follow up on that. Thank you so much.


  2. LOVE the dancing and the story as well, and that the Saw Doctors are going to be in Cleveland makes me hope they’ll make it closer soon. I sure love their music!

    I wish the Holland you mentioned was Holland, Michigan! Ah, well I can hope! Fraser Fifield is such a great piper!


      1. The first time I met Brian was close to Christmas when he did his first bit of touring by himself as a guest with Teada on their Irish Christmas in America show. Then I saw him again a few years later when he (again with Teada) played one of the big Irish/Celtic festivals in Ohio.

        I will gladly pass along regards when I see him next, though I haven’t a clue as to when that will be.


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