Dancing at the Southern Crossroads presents a cohesive narrative of the early practice of Irish step dance in Australia and is the first book on the topic to be written by an Australian. It presents a topical view of the choreographic practices and social significance of step dance in the Irish immigrant community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and situates the practice of dance within the wider historical contexts in which Irish immigrants lived.
This book includes biographies of the early practitioners which feature their dance careers and personal aspects of their lives. The development of competitions is a highlight, relating the moulding of the framework of rules and regulations to the socio-cultural context in which Irish Australians found themselves, as well as the concurrent developments in step dance taking place in Ireland. Each topic emphasises the role of the people who danced in past times and draws heavily on letters to newspapers which reveal those performers’ intense passion for Irish step dance.
The book makes a substantial contribution to the very sparse collection of works about immigrants and traditional dance styles that have been perpetuated in Australia following migration and re-settlement, which is a neglected area in Australian dance scholarship. Thus, the book underscores the highly variegated nature of the dance landscape in this nation
Dancing at the Southern Crossroads traces the story of Irish step dance in Australia. It will be of interest to scholars of Irish migration, dance scholars and the current cohort of Australian Irish step dancers.
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Dancing at the Southern Crossroads is a significant step towards documenting the history of Irish dance in Australia. It will be an invaluable resource for the international dance community generally and for Irish dance historians in particular. Through newspaper archival research, the writer brings the characters to life, allowing for an in-depth insight into how one immigrant community helped to influence and shape the history of Australia. A fascinating read.
Carmel McKenna, Limerick Institute of Technology
About the author
Dr Jeanette Mollenhauer is an independent dance scholar whose doctoral research explored dance practices in the Irish and Croatian communities in Sydney. She is also a community folk dance teacher and the parent of two former competitive Irish step dancers.