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Music & Dance

Most of the recordings that Aidan O’Hara made are of song. But dance is also important elements of Cape Shore traditions. During the 1970s, Dermot Roche, Lucy Nash, Mary Power, and Anthony Power formed a group that became known throughout Newfoundland as “The Branch Crowd.” They performed set dances known as the Lancers and the Branch Set (a square set associated with the Cape Shore).

In addition to set dancing, a solo percussive dance tradition exists in the Cape Shore. Aidan O’Hara met a man named Mick Nash who told him about the old dance masters who used to compete when they came ashore.

And Coffey was out fifteen minutes on the floor and when he knocked off he went over and shook hands with [the other dancer], and he challenged him out on the floor then, y’know, for the dance. And when he challenged him out of the floor … he was 45 minutes on the floor with a different step for the 45 minutes after Coffey got off of it. He won the championship.
-Mick Nash, on a dance competition between Coffey and Dick English

Those competitions happened a long time before Aidan O’Hara visited the Cape Shore. They happened before Mick Nash, who was in his 90s at the time, was born. By the 1970s, solo percussive dance was happening in the informal setting of a “time” (house party). People like John Hennessy were known as good dancers and called upon to “do a bit of a scuff.”

The photographs in the gallery depict a mixture of set and solo dancing in a variety of settings: a benefit concert, on stage at the Newfoundland Folk Festival, and in the more intimate setting of the Roche household. Be sure to check out the related items at the bottom of this page to read Mick Nash’s account of the old dancing masters, to listen to Patsy Judge describe the dances of a set, and to watch video footage of the Branch Crowd and John Hennessey.