DVD Review – Second Nature

SecondNature

Second Nature is a new Sean Nos (or “single turn dancing”) DVD out by Edwina Guckian featuring a variety of Sean Nos steps from and narratives about country Leitrim, Ireland.

Funded on kickstarter and launched in January 2015, the project met its goals two months later and started shipping in September 2015.

The packaging is everything one would expect from a current DVD production.  Attractive artwork throughout, photos from the production, credits and of course, the DVD.

SecondNatureCase

The chapters are divided up into three main sections by location. Sheemore Fairy Hill, Kiltyclogher and Lough Allen with a separate DVD introduction, final word and additional dance demos in several other locations.  The introduction for each section goes into a bit of local history as it relates to dancing in the area.

Sheemore Fairy Hill

Steps

Hop 123
Toe Toe Heel
The Hops
Heel And Toe To the Side

The first section, literally on the stones of Sheemore (presumably on the heads of the fairies that live there), has Edwina teaching and then demonstrating some quite basic hop and toe-heel steps.  The lessons go by a bit fast with variations being thrown at the viewer pretty quickly in a span of a couple of minutes. This means one can’t simply mimic the teacher for a minute or two as you might be used to from other DVDs and live classes.  This initially put me off but given the choice between packing fewer steps onto the DVD and making the demos longer or making the demos shorter and providing more options to the viewer I think Edwina hits the middle ground pretty well.  More experienced dancers won’t have too much trouble and for less experienced dancers, I recommend having ready access to the pause and rewind controls until you are able to practice the step enough that you no longer need to mimic the teacher.

SecondNatureSheemore

The initial demo for each step is given in a close-up, brightly-lit shot of her feet where it’s very easy to see exactly what she’s doing.  After the introduction, the camera pans back to show all of Edwina, where one can see how she shifts weight from one foot to the other while dancing.

During the demonstrations with live music the camera pans back a bit too often for my taste.  The spectator in me appreciates the grand view of Edwina dancing on a beautiful green hill to live music, but my dancer self just wants to see what her feet are doing.  My dancer self got over it.

The end of this section includes additional video of her students dancing the steps on the hill.

Kiltyclogher

Steps

Heel And Toe
Hop Back 23
The Twisty Step
The Crossovers

The next section takes the student to a house in Kiltyclogher that was once owned by Sean Mac Diarmada (or Sean MacDermott).  The space used is a cozy room with a warm fire in the background.  The progressively more difficult steps are once again easy to follow and Edwina shows several step variations to choose from and encourages the viewer to put the steps together as desired, to make the dancing their own.

SecondNatureKiltyclogher

Lough Allen

Steps

Lough Allen Stamp
The Wakey Uppy
The Horse Jump
The Leitrim Skip

For the final section she takes us to Skerrie Rynns in Lough Allen to show some progressively more difficult steps.  Once again the area is brightly lit and it’s easy to see and follow along with her steps.  It’s this section that has the best cinematography with focus most frequently on Edwina’s feet when she’s teaching and demonstrating the steps.

SecondNatureShop

The remaining sections of the DVD include dance demos on a horse cart, with an introduction by John Reynolds describing how such carts were used in the past by dance masters, Ballinaglera music and dance history focusing on John McKenna, with a variety of single-turn dancers shown, a description of the myths surrounding Sheemore by Fionnuala Maxwell followed by her singing of The Sidhe of Sheemore, additional dancing at sunset on Sheemore and lastly dancing and music at Spencer Harbor.

SecondNatureSidhe  SecondNatureCartSecondNatureLoghAllen

Summary

The DVD offers a good progression of steps along with a nice number of variations given for most.  The instructions and video are clear and should be useful for anyone wanting to learn a few more steps to add to their repertoire.

Each location is well lit with good contrast, allowing the viewer to clearly see what Edwina is doing with her feet as each step as is taught and demonstrated.

Second Nature is as much a cultural DVD as it is a dance DVD.  While many other dance DVDs focus almost completely on steps, demonstrating them in plain studio environments or at most a common pub or hall, Edwina has gone in a slightly different direction with interesting and unusual locations that are a treat for the eye as much as any of the dancing. The historical information was another nice difference between Second Nature and other DVDs.  I wouldn’t have missed the additions if they hadn’t been included, but only because it’s not something that is often included on other “dance” DVDs.  Having viewed those sections, I’m glad they’re there.  I’ve learned a bit more about a few places I’ve typically only passed through the times I’ve been to Ireland.

Second Nature is a DVD that every dancer should have in their player.

 

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