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Traditional Newfoundland Step Dance

History

Traditional Newfoundland Step Dance was taught in a central School system called St.Patrick's Hall since 1877. The first introduction of Irish Dance was brought to America by missionaries, Irish Christian Brothers. It is said that an Irish Christian Brother from Ireland known as Brother Murray came to the first Monastery in North America on Mount St. Francis which is located in the capital city St.John's, Newfoundland, Canada. It was built in 1806. Built also near the Monastery was St. Patrick's Hall School in 1877 which was an all boys school offering an oral and written education to preserve traditional Newfoundland Culture which was mainly Irish, English, Scottish, and Welch. There was also a very strong influence of French, Spanish and Portuguese being the first port of call in North America since 1497. In addition to the academic education there was a very strong education in what we categorize today as Visual (Painting, sculpting, carving, woodworking, etc.) Oral (reading, writing, music, poetry, etc.) as well as Kinesthetic ( Sport's, Soccer, Football, and Dance " an art of communication or expression without the means of any language barrier." It is said that the first Vikings to settle in Vinland (Newfoundland in 1000a.d.) on their second voyage brought with them Missionaries who performed dance to enlighten their welcome by the Scraelings (Natives). Traditional Newfoundland Dance was taught as a dance of discipline to male students and became very popular performances at special events. In the early 1920's groups of dancers were known to choreograph dances than maintained Jiggs, Reel's, Hornpipe's and Ballad's. Long lost in Ireland today but still alive in Newfoundland. Many modern dancers today perform what is known as slip jigg's and Reel's and claim that it was traditional Irish when it is only as new as the late 70's and early 80's. It became well known especially in the early 90's when Michael Flately, ( supposedly an understudy of the famous television performers Fredisteer and Ginger Rogers) World Champion Flute player and fastest dancer in the world at that time, traced the history of Irish Dancing back to Newfoundland and made a public announcement for a reunion of the St.Pat's Dancers. He was amazed to host over 200 dancers at the reunion and was amazed when he witnessed several generations performing the same step's to the same beat of Traditional Newfoundland Dance. The Arts and Culture Centre was booked and a performance was held to a sold out show for four consecutive nights. He returned to Japan to finish a commercial and immediately began to choreograph what became world famously know after a brief Euro Vision production of "Riverdance."