#fridayfocus…’Modern Dancing’ in Dublin, 1927

Just a short post this week, with a gem found in the course of this week’s research. At the moment, I am looking at different depictions of Dublin during the 1920s by visual artists such as Jack B. Yeats. As part of this, I am also looking at the urban experience in Dublin during this period, and have been especially interested in what this might have involved after the Civil War. 

View from top of Nelson’s Pillar, Sackville Street, c.1921. (Image: NLI on The Commons)

So, I’ve be trawling through the archive of the Irish Times which continues to through up some really interesting information. One recurring theme has been the criticism levelled at international modern culture – the cinema, jazz, new types of dancing, and women’s fashion. Often the subject of Lenten pastorals, church figures lamented the fact that Ireland could ‘no longer pride herself on “the reserve and scrupulous modesty of her women and girls”‘ (‘Modern Dancing: Condemnation in Lenten Pastorals’, Irish Times, 8 March 1924 – quote from Cardinal Logue) while the President of the Gaelic League, Cormac Breathnach, stated that it was the young men of Ireland who were ‘blameable for the neglect of Irish dances, because they were satisfied with whirling around in “jazz” and other foreign dancing.’ (‘Jazz Condemned by Gaelic League’, Irish Times, 15 September 1928). 

These admonishments, however, did not seem to quell the import of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ in to Dublin. Fashion pages from the paper echo the leading styles of the period; cloche hats, flapper-style dresses, long beads, and furs all make an appearance. Male fashions too, are noted, with an article dedicated to ‘Dublin’s Beau Brummels’, who wear their trousers ‘short, so that the bright rainbow socks may not be concealed’ (‘Dublin’s Beau Brummels’, Irish Times, 28 December 1921). 

Sam Hood, ‘Ingenues arrive, Central Station, Sydney, 1928-1929’ (Image: State Library of New South Wales, Flickr Commons)

Modern dancing also continued, and the newspaper reveals the myriad shows, bands and cabaret acts who performed in the city. Among them, in October 1927, was a dance at the Metropole Ballroom organised by Blackrock College Rugby Club. The entertainments included cabaret by ‘Miss Monti Ryan, an Irish girl … a clever dancer’, ‘Miss Dickie Dixon and Mr Harry Robbins.’ (‘Last Night’s Dance, Irish Times, 11 October 1927). Music was provided by ‘Percival Mackay and his thirteen instrumentalists’. As it turns out Monti Ryan and Mackey were married, and in 1933, British Pathe recorded this video of his band with a tap-dance by Monti Ryan (her dance starts at about 2:05). 

What this research begins to show, I think, is the different layers of life that existed in the city during the 1920s. Of course, not everyone living in Dublin in 1927 would have had the opportunity to go to the Metropole, to dress in the latest fashions or listen to jazz. However, this scene was undoubtedly part of the city’s social life and culture, and had clearly had a strong, and fun-loving, following. 

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One thought on “#fridayfocus…’Modern Dancing’ in Dublin, 1927

  1. Ciara Meehan

    Really enjoyed this post. It also made me laugh — can’t really imagine WT Cosgrave and his cabinet colleagues listening to jazz or dancing the Charleston! I have an obvious interest in the 1920s, but have only really explored the political side. There’s a whole, almost hidden, history of that decade waiting to be uncovered / examined in greater detail. Intrigued as to what else your research will turn up.

    Reply

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