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Touching, sweating, holding hands, heavy breathing - how can set-dancing and trad sessions survive in the post-lockdown era?

Musicians and dancers are champing at the bit, waiting for the day when we can once again enjoy music together. But how will our cultural pursuits move forward safely in this post-lockdown era, asks Karen McHugh

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Members of Na Fianna Gaa club playing traditional music at their clubhouse. (L-R) Órna Ní Dhálaigh, Tom Flaherty, Gearóid Ó Donnchadha and Ger Flanagan
Pic: Mark Condren

Members of Na Fianna Gaa club playing traditional music at their clubhouse. (L-R) Órna Ní Dhálaigh, Tom Flaherty, Gearóid Ó Donnchadha and Ger Flanagan Pic: Mark Condren

Concerns: Co Longford set-dance teacher Mairéad Casey. Photo by Brian Farrell

Concerns: Co Longford set-dance teacher Mairéad Casey. Photo by Brian Farrell

Brian Farrell

Members of Na Fianna Gaa club playing traditional music at their clubhouse. (L-R) Órna Ní Dhálaigh, Tom Flaherty, Gearóid Ó Donnchadha and Ger Flanagan Pic: Mark Condren

Touching, sweating, holding hands, heavy breathing. No, it's not an episode of Normal People. It's set-dancing, and it's the coronavirus's dream. Not far behind, and another potentially dangerous endeavour, is the trad session. Hordes of sputtering whistlers, salivating flute players and warbling singers project their spittle into the air while playing shoulder to shoulder in a tight circle as punters shout "hup" across a crowded bar.

It all looks different in the shadow of a pandemic. Yet nothing beats the energy of a live music session, and musicians and dancers across the country are champing at the bit, waiting for the day they can get back to the familiar nooks and crannies of their local pub to play music together. But how will our cultural pursuits move forward safely in this post-lockdown era?

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A new tune: Set-dance teacher Pádraig McEneany with wife Róisín. Picture by David Conachy

A new tune: Set-dance teacher Pádraig McEneany with wife Róisín. Picture by David Conachy

A new tune: Set-dance teacher Pádraig McEneany with wife Róisín. Picture by David Conachy

Co Longford set-dance teacher and former nurse Mairéad Casey is among those who have concerns.