Contributing to this heritage was the important figure of the Dance Master. These colorful men traveled through towns teaching dances to the common folk. The Dance Master’s position was well respected, as was his ability to perform. His influence was much like the legend of John Chapman, commonly known as Johnny Appleseed, who went across the pioneer towns in America planting apple seeds. His dedicated work is the reason there are so many apple trees today. Just like Johnny Appleseed, the Dance Masters planted Irish music and dance in the cultural heritage of Ireland and it is a legacy that has flourished for centuries.
The presence of a Dance Master in a small town or village was an immense source of pride for the people. Often when talking with others from neighboring towns, the subject of the Dance Master was proudly talked about. The Dance Master was not only a teacher, but he brought the town together, brought fun during times that were difficult, and gave a gift to the people that they could use over and over without costing any of the townspeople money after he was gone.
The Dance Master was compensated handsomely but justly, some would argue. He not only could dance, he could choreograph his own dance steps, write music, and play an instrument while dancing as well. Dance Masters competed in competition against other Dance Masters, not to see who was the best at footwork or music but who choreographed the most dance steps of his own and how many he could show at one time.
Irish music and dance has spread farther than the Dance Master probably realized it would. Across Ireland seemed large enough to him at the time but what would he say if he knew his dance steps were being translated into many languages and taught in many countries?