The sounds of bagpipes, tapping hard shoes and upbeat Irish tunes are about to become a lot more common on campus. The College of William and Mary’s own Celtic Dance Troupe sunk its roots in permanently in October and is rapidly gaining members.
Morgan Bass ’13, president and founder of the Celtic Dance Troupe, has been practicing Scottish Highland dance for over 10 years. She had heard that there were once other clubs at the College involving Celtic dance, but that they had disappeared throughout the years. When she threw out the idea for the Celtic Dance Troupe, she was pleasantly surprised to get a flood of positive responses, finding out that others had been thinking of starting the club as well.
“Ideally next semester we would start having performances within the College and community, especially around St. Patrick’s Day,” Bass said. “But we’d always like to keep it open for all different levels to come.”
The club is still gaining momentum, with many interested new members continuing to appear at each of the weekly meetings. Practices are currently geared toward teaching members the basics of Scottish and Irish dancing. However, in the near future, the club hopes to have developed enough to perform throughout the Williamsburg area.
Andrea Gregory J.D ’13 found out about the Celtic Dance Troupe through their announcement about the new club in a Student Happenings email. Without any sort of experience in dance — Irish, Scottish or otherwise — Gregory decided to jump on the opportunity to participate in the club.
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in,” she said. “I’m Scottish and Irish and was actually looking at schools in the area to start dancing before seeing the Student Happenings email.”
Katie Pietras ’14 also heard about the group through the Student Happenings email, but instead of looking for a new experience, she saw it as an opportunity to revive an old hobby.
“I used to Irish step dance, and I really missed it,” she said. “I have about 4 or 5 years of previous experience in Irish Step. I stopped dancing for about 6 years, so I’m very out of practice now.”
The group is more than willing to help students fine-tune their dancing skills, whether they have a past history or not.
“We take any experience level, you don’t need any experience at all to start,” Megan Victor, co-vice president and second year Ph.D., said.
Before coming to the College, Victor attended the University of Michigan, where she did Intensive Irish Dancing, an advanced program where every year counts for two years of experience.
“It’s hard to give it a concrete number,” she said. “But I’ve been dancing since I was very little.”
Currently Victor acts as the choreographer for all of the club’s Irish dancing, both hard shoe and soft shoe, while Bass choreographs the Scottish dances.
“I would like to improve my dancing and get back to the level that I used to be,” Pietras said. “But for the club, my hope is just that we will continue to have fun dancing.”
Bass emphasizes that Scottish Highland should not to be confused with “Riverdance,” something she says happens frequently among those with no experience with the different dance terms. The dancing performed in the world-famous “Riverdance” is not Scottish at all, but in fact is the type of Irish dancing that the Celtic Dance Troupe also performs.
The Scottish Highland dancing that the group practices has far more in common with ballet than any sort of step dancing, and it requires extreme levels of endurance and arm and leg strength. This type of solo dance got its name from the Gaelic Highlands of Scotland, where the dance first developed.
Although the Celtic Dance Troupe hopes to eventually grow to the level of other dance groups on campus, right now they are all content just having fun learning the dances together.
“I just want to get out there, perform and have a good time,” Gregory said. “I might mess up the steps sometimes, but there will be a big smile on my face.”