Sean Nós dancer Edwina Guckian hails from outside the village of Drumsna in Co. Leitrim. She learned her dancing from her mother and the local dancers of Leitrim and Roscommon. Her style is greatly influenced by the music she grew up listening to the music of Leitrim.
“Sean Nós Dancing is quite a new term to be put on the old style of dancing. Previous to this we referred to it in my area as dancing the single turn. I like to describe my dancing as musical dancing. I dance with the tune and my steps and spontaneity are a reflection of the style of music in Leitrim. It’s been my greatest influence. I dance my interpretation of the music, I dance my thoughts, I dance my character, I dance as me.”
Music plays as much an important role as dancing does in Edwina’s life. “As much as I love dancing, it would be nothing without the music”. She began learning the fiddle from Irene Guckian and her grandfather Ned Lee at the age of 9. She then picked up the tin whistle learning from local man, Padraig Sweeney and Tipperary’s Seán Ryan and in recent years she has taken up the concertina. Edwina decided to further her love of music by studying it in St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra where she later achieved a degree in Music, English and Education and graduated as a primary school teacher in 2010.
Having started teaching dancing at the age of 15, Edwina has now taught her steps and toured with shows and bands in every continent all over the world. She has shared the stage with some of Ireland’s most influential acts such as De Danann, Dervish, Mairtín O Connor, Frankie Gavin, Kíla, Martin Hayes, Brendan Power, Tim Edey, Séamus Begley, We Banjo 3 and John Carty to name a few.
Edwina worked as choreographer on director Ken Loach’s latest film, Jimmy’s Hall, nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. She also worked as a guest presenter on RTE’s The Beo Show that involved teaching children music and dance in a fun and unique way.
Edwina is the sole force behind her dance club “Sean Nós ar an tSionann”. She has singly revived the old style of dancing in her area and believes there is not a house in any parish in Sligo, Leitrim or Roscommon now that a child can’t get up and knock sparks out of the floor with a few steps. The club, which is now in it’s 13th year, has over 400 members, 8 teachers and is based in Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, Mayo and Longford with pop up weekend workshops around the rest of the country. Sean Nós Dancing is the main style of dancing taught at the club but throughout the year the dancers also learn set dancing, 2 hand dances, Lindy Hop, Tap Dance, Jiving, Flatfooting and contemporary dance. Guest teachers from across the world also visit the club to teach their skills such as Michael Keegan Dolan, Nic Gareiss and Mattie Gordon.
Groups from the club have performed for the president of Ireland, won All Ireland Fleadh Set & Sean Nós Dancing titles, awarded the Rehab Culture Group of the Year 2011, won the final of TG4’s An Jig Gig 2014, reached the finals of RTE’s All Ireland Talent Show 2011, won All Ireland Community Games titles, performed on the renowned Late Late Toy Show on several occasions, broken the world record for most brush dancers, cast in films such as Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall” and have made several exhilarating videos that have gone viral around the world, all under Edwina’s guidance.
In 2006, she was awarded Leitrim County Council Arts person of the Year and in 2015 awarded Leitrim Business Person of the Year by the Irish Enterprise Board with a €20,000 award fund for her latest project “The Dance Parlour” which will be launched in 2016.
In February 2015 Edwina left her primary school teaching career to focus on her personal development in dance and business. In July 2015 she launched her first Sean Nós Dance tutorial and performance DVD “Second Nature” which she has sold more than 2000 copies worldwide to date. For the past 6 years she has been the dance teacher in residency at the Joe Mooney Summer School and annually teaching at the South Sligo Summer, O’ Carolan Summer School and Scoil Gheimhridh Ghaoth Dobhair to name a few. This summer she will launch the first of her children’s summer camps at Sean Nós ar an tSionann in Sligo and Leitrim with the aim to being in 6 counties by summer 2017.
Most recently she has collaborated with Zogma Dance Company from Quebec, a project supported by Culture Ireland and the Arts Council and commissioned by The Dock Arts Centre for it’s 10th anniversary. The show “Sokalo” toured Ireland in September 2015. Zogma’s interest in Irish dance stems from the links between their form of percussive dance, and indeed Quebec folk dance, that specifically traces its roots back to traditional Irish and French-Canadian dancing. The show also features Irish artists Laoise Kelly, Caitlín Nic Gabhann and Liam Scanlon. The tour continues in Quebec in May 2016 and Nova Scotia in September/October 2016.
In 2015/2016 Edwina has been involved in a project she is very passionate about; The Leitrim Equation – a performance in music, words and dance. Working with artists Eleanor Shanley, Vincent Woods, Padraig McGovern, Donal Lunney, Dave Sheridan and John McCartin, the Leitrim Equation appeared in the Cornmill Theatre Carrigallen, RADA Studios London, The Samuel Beckett Theatre Dublin and The Dock Arts Centre Carrick on Shannon where it was filmed for a DVD to be launched later this year.
Edwina has many more projects planned for the future including designing a new program of dance for primary school use, bringing more artists to work at her dance club and collaborating with many more musicians and dancers worldwide.