From the humble beginnings of small performances in local restaurants to hosting their first showcase, the Celtic Irish Dance club has grown from a group of four people to a cohort of talented dancers who performed for a packed house Nov. 5.
The Celtic Irish Dance Club meets every Tuesday evening to rehearse Irish and Scottish dance routines. Co-president Sarah Hardy ’19 said the group had extra practices leading up to their performance Saturday. Hardy said the group has existed on campus for some time but was not active until the spring of her freshman year, and from there, the dance group has been slowly growing, adding more performances throughout the school year.
Hardy, who grew up competing nationally in Irish dance, sees the club as a fantastic way to introduce people to Celtic dance. Hardy taught Irish dance while she was in high school and said that she loves teaching her peers a dance style that has been a part of her life for so long.
“My favorite thing is definitely being able to introduce Irish dance to other people, because I think that a lot of people don’t know a lot about it,” Hardy said. “I love that we have members who have never danced before, [who] decided to [join the group] and just pick it up, how amazing it is, how they get into it and how they are so excited to learn things.”
Co-president Erin Gallagher Howell ’19 has also been dancing and competing in Irish dance since a young age. Gallagher Howell said her Irish heritage is initially what inspired her to begin exploring traditional Irish dance, and she loves that the dance club exists, enabling Celtic dancers to continue their involvement through their college years.
“I think what originally got me into [Irish dancing] was that I am almost completely Irish,” Gallagher Howell said. “My grandparents are all from Ireland and Scotland, so I think it was a way for me to connect to that. I did ballet for a while, but I just love Irish Dance, and I love how different it is. What inspires me to keep going is that it was such a big part of my life until college; I practiced every day and competed every weekend, and I think that is really hard once you get to college to not do that anymore. So, this is a way for me to keep pursuing that. It’s in a different way, but I still enjoy it.”
The team is composed of dancers with all levels of experience. Along with Hardy and Gallagher Howell, Claire Johnston ’18 and Katherine Olrick ’18 began Irish dance between the ages of three and five and have competed in national competitions. The other team members’ experience levels vary, with some entering into the club without any prior knowledge of Irish dance.
There was much anticipation for the showcase amongst the dancers as they prepared for their Saturday performance. Previously, the club had performed at small local restaurants like the College Delly and Green Leafe. Hardy said she was excited about the opportunity to perform in a larger space, which unlike the previous performance locations, allowed the group to include a wider variety of dances, including several competition pieces.
“I think we are really showcasing the talents of everyone in our group a little more,” Hardy said. “[It’s] really exciting, and it’s fun for us to be able to relive our glory days of competing and being able to do these dances that are a little bit harder, [as well as] to also have our other members show what they know.”
The fall showcase also included the addition of a traditional Scottish dance performed by Anne-Marie Berens ’21. Gallagher Howell said she was looking forward to watching Berens perform and learning from her as the club explores the Scottish style. Gallagher Howell was also excited about each dancer’s solo during the show.
The audience in attendance at the fall showcase was encouraging and enthusiastic. Saturday’s performance concluded with a group piece performed to Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl.” Morgan Pincombe ’21 said that she particularly enjoyed this piece and was very excited when the pop song came on the speakers.
“My favorite part of the Irish Celtic Showcase was the diversity,” Pincombe said. “I loved the differences in styles and in experiences and in songs. I loved how they had people doing Irish dances and Scottish dances and also [dancing to] traditional music as well as pop music.”
Andrew Peck ’21, attended the show with a group of friends to support a friend as she performed. Peck said that he really enjoyed the show and seeing the different types of dance.
“It was really nice seeing how they all worked together,” Peck said. “It was nice knowing how people were at different levels. Even entering college, some hadn’t done this before, and they did a really nice job putting on the show.”
In addition to performing, the dancers also cherish the community aspect of their club. Hardy said that the club is more than a dance group — it’s also a social group. She said that she wants the club to mix more with other dance groups, become more involved in campus events and become an outlet for meeting people. Gallagher Howell also said that she treasures the friendships that her involvement with the dance club has brought her.
“I would love to maintain the members that we currently have,” Gallagher Howell said. “Even though we only meet once a week, it is truly a friendship. I’ve become friends with people that I probably would not have known otherwise, and [although] we have only seen each other for a few weeks, I truly do consider them my friends and enjoy spending the one hour a week with them just dancing.”