March 20, 2019

Overseas and Off-Campus Programs Blog

Irish Dancing Where It All Began

Author Name

Maddie Caples

Author Program

Ireland: Social Sciences

Program Semester and Year

Spring 2019

Since I was a little girl I have been an Irish dancer, so one of the things that I was most excited about when applying to the Dublin abroad program was being able to Irish dance in Ireland. Luckily, the Irish dance community worldwide is quite small, so it didn’t take long before I was able to find a dance school to dance with while I’m here. I was extremely nervous for my first class. There is just something about Irish dance in Ireland that makes you think that the standard of dancing is so much higher… not to mention the fact that the Irish typically do very well at the world championships! So on the first day I nervously got on the bus and sat for over an hour as the bus took me across Dublin during rush hour. When I finally got to the dance studio I sat outside until the last second possible and then went inside to be met by the other dancers in the class staring at me and the dance teacher coming over to greet me. The greeting that I ended up receiving was no different than the greetings I have received in other places in Ireland: warm and enthusiastic. The kids in the class took a little longer to warm up, but after the first hour they were asking me to say something and they would giggle at my accent. I felt a sense of relief to be doing what I love in a new place.

Since the first class I have been going to classes between 1 and 3 times a week! I have felt myself improving, and the dance teachers have really made me feel like I belong and give me great feedback. While I now realize I had no reason to be nervous, I was right: the caliber of dancing here is very good! Other than that, I have been surprised to see that there are not many other differences between dance classes here and back home in Oregon.

Something that I have noticed about Irish dancing in Ireland is that there is a much bigger emphasis on recreational dancing. This makes sense because it is something that is much more ingrained in the culture here, but it is refreshing to see a lot more noncompetitive dancing as there is a huge emphasis on competitive dancing in the states which, at times, can really drain my love for dancing. In the noncompetitive scene there is a wide range of ages, which is also refreshing to see as many people in the states believe that Irish dance is only for younger children because competitive dance requires such a large amount of physical ability and energy. Recreational dancing at events called Ceilis (group Irish dancing) allow for the original purpose of Irish dancing to come to the forefront: to bring people together, preserve Irish culture, and enjoy traditional Irish music. I have really enjoyed my time dancing in Ireland, and it has really made me love dancing more than ever. As corny as it sounds, I feel much more connected to Irish dancing and the place that it plays in Irish culture now that I have had the opportunity to dance in Ireland.