Sunday 18 March 2018

Hijack the haka and Riverdance to rugby victory

Lay of the Land

Riverdance made Irish dancing a global sensation
Riverdance made Irish dancing a global sensation

Fiona O'Connell

This country town is red-hot on hurling, and only fair to middling on football. But ice-cold doesn't begin to describe the indifference of some inhabitants to the Six Nations Rugby Championship.

Though rugby is gaining popularity countrywide. And just as Nelson Mandela used this sport of white South Africa to unify the nation, post apartheid, Irish rugby could rescue itself once and for all from its stereotype of sheepskin coats worn by a privately educated elite by taking a leaf from the All Blacks's book.

Because if New Zealand can manipulate competitors with their Maori war dance, Irish rugby could likewise Riverdance its way into popular demand.

After all, Irish warriors also performed pre-battle dances. The Sword Feat involved juggling a sword and warriors jumped over opponents' shields in the Salmon Leap.

The Stick Dance was a duel with naked swords to the accompaniment of bagpipes. Six males performed The Dancing Drogheda to stately music, each wielding a stout stick of blackthorn or oak called a shillaleh, that was typically used as a weapon.

A berserker ballet might also suit rugger buggers. For "going beserk" in battle was literally all the rage as far back as the ninth century. And not just for the Norse, with whom it originated. Not so cool as a cucumber Cu Chulainn was recorded as displaying "battle frenzy" and "foaming at the mouth" in texts such as The Tain.

However, keeping your hair on might allow a better harmony - especially if harking back to those days when Irish warriors prepared for battle by styling their hair with spikes and braids, as well as clay. Add showing off those impressive pecs with some nifty body paint.

But we could really raise the hackles of the haka-loving All Blacks by humming the Hero's Chant or Sian Churad. The word 'sian' refers to a hum of voices, or high-pitched whistling.

Another word for the chanting of warriors was 'dord', which came to be associated with a similarly droning sound. It may not be melodic - but it could facilitate victory precisely because humming is both unnerving and annoying.

Top it off with members of the Irish rugby team simultaneously standing on one leg, with an arm outstretched and one eye closed, as they perform what was known in Irish mythology as "The One-Legged Crane Dance Curse".

And this is where things get interesting.

For this magical dance, which mimics the once-revered grey heron or crane, is known in Irish as the corrghuineacht (corr being the Irish word for crane.)

So given their name, surely Irish band The Corrs, whose music combines pop rock with traditional Irish themes, are destined to compose a haunting song for the Irish rugby team to hum?

With no lyrics to learn, the entire nation could easily join in.

Thereby teaching the haka to take a hika.

Sunday Independent

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