By Sarah Ruane
As 2016 comes to a close, we look back on what has been a remarkable year for Irish country music. Singers Derek Ryan, Lisa McHugh and Nathan Carter dominated the charts with their catchy songs that appealed to a new younger audience.
With country fever sweeping across the nation, I went along to a jiving class in Moate, Co. Westmeath to find out what attracts people to this type of music genre and dance.
Niall Doohry, who teaches these jive classes explains how demand this year has gone through the roof.
“I find in particular a massive surge in men joining. There’s been a change of attitude towards men in the classes and that’s a positive thing. When I started classes a few years ago the majority of people would have been in their forties or fifties. A lot of people thought dancing was something you do later on in life. Lately the age profile has changed a lot, you’d have people in their twenties or teenagers coming out now,” he said.
Niall goes onto explain how recessionary times have resulted in people reining in their spending and going out to bars or nightclubs. Many people have turned to jiving as a cost effective way of socialising and getting out meeting people.
“Irish people have ways to find ways to socialise. When the money wasn’t there years ago we always had dancing, so I think people just gravitated back towards it again,” he explained.
Niall organised the ladies to line up on one side of the room and men on the other in an old-school fashion. He taught them both their steps separately and then allowed them to partner up and begin dancing.
The music burst on and sure enough the dancers took off swirling around the floor. It was refreshing to see people of all ages attending from different backgrounds.
One of the dancers attending, John from Ennis, describes why he took up social dancing at a time in his life when he needed it.
“A few years ago when I was doing taxiing, I was about 17 stone and now I’m done to 12 and a half from taking up dancing. I just do it now for the fun and love of it,” he said.
‘Keeping up with Country’, the radio documentary will be airing in March of next year. Tune in to hear from 19-year old country music fanatic Aisling Sweeney and successful country music singer Lisa McHugh.
If you find yourself interested in going along to one of Niall’s classes, simply just go to his website www.nialldoohrydancer.ie to check out the timetables.