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Set dances, sometimes called "country sets", are a popular form of folk dancing in Ireland. Set dances are based on quadrilles. The latter were court dances which were transformed by the Irish into a unique characteristic of Irish rural communities. A combination of Céilí dance and Rock and Roll in the 1950s caused many sets and set dances to die out. In the 1980s a revival started and many sets that have not been done for forty years or more are still being recovered and danced again.
Set dances have undergone a serious revival in recent decades and if one travels to Ireland today one will find that most of the "ceili" dancing found will be sets.
This is both a good thing and bad thing, just depending on where you're standing at the time.
It's good because of the lively and friendly nature of most ceilis in Ireland. The music is good, the people are friendly and if you find yourself with experienced dancers the battering will blow you away.
It's bad if you're coming from some place where "ceili dancing" only means dancing from Ar Rince Fiorne. In that case you'll find yourself unprepared for the ceilis in Ireland (except in the North) although you'll find that if you introduce yourself, someone will be more than willing to show you the ropes. On the other hand, set dancing is spreading and if you look (say at Set Dancing News), you may find a group in your area where you can practice before going to the mother land.
- The Joy of Sets by Bill Lynch
- Irish set dance from a contra dancer's perspective by Henry Morgenstein