Name: Christian Cairone TCRG
How long have you been working at SRL?
Almost 2 years.
I loved the atmosphere that Courtney had created and wanted to be a part of the team.
How long have you been dancing?
I was a competitive dancer for 20 years, but I've been dancing since I was 3.
Why Irish dance?
My older brother saw Riverdance on TV and wanted to start doing it. I went to the first practice and was hooked. My teacher at the time didn't allow for children to dance at 2, so I would go to class and dance in the back of the room doing everything everyone was doing in class. My teacher let me start the following year and I haven't looked back!
What did you want to be when you grew up when you were little? Why?
I always wanted to be a veterinarian because I loved animals so much growing up.
What are you interested in that most people aren’t?
Star Wars and culinary arts.
What weird food combination do you enjoy?
As a chef I love many different flavor combos, but the strangest might just be: a piece of toast with peanut butter, topped with an over-easy egg. (Trust me, you need to try it!)
How has dance affected your everyday life?
Dance has given me the ability to have friends all around the world that share the same love and passion for Irish dance that I do.
What’s the coolest place you’ve ever visited? (Remember travel?!)
The Azores, which is a subsection of islands off the coast of Portugal.
What movie can you watch over and over and never get tired of? Why?
Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It was a story my grandfather would read to me all the time when I was a kid and whenever I watch it I always remember him and the different ways he would tell the story.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
I would love to time travel!
Why do you think people dance?
I believe there are many reasons behind why people dance, including because friends or family members did it in the past or currently do it now. But I think that some people dance for the same reason I did: for a way to escape reality from time to time. I remember going to the studio, totally forgetting about the outside world, and just living in the moment that was happening throughout dance class.
What advice do you have for aspiring dancers?
The best advice I have is this: "Believing in yourself is the first step to achieving greatness."
This post is the last in the series (at least for now!) Meet our whole staff: Courtney, Bailey, Codi, Devon (and, of course, Christian, above,) through their Q&As. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Dr. James Barry
In 1809, a short, slight man named James Barry boarded a boat in his hometown of Cork and set sail to Edinburgh where he planned on enrolling in medical college. Barry’s previously affluent family had fallen on hard times—his father had been let go from his position due to rampant anti-Catholic sentiments and eventually landed in a debtor’s prison. At nineteen, Barry had been well-educated by his tutors with the intention of becoming a tutor himself—but with no work experience and a disgraced family name, there was no work to be had.
Barry’s height, soft voice, and delicate features (hard to see in the not particularly skilled portrait that’s our only image of Barry from the time period, featured here) led many to believe that Barry was lying about his age once he reached Edinburgh. While the faculty there had let Barry in to study, they were reluctant to let him take his final exams to become a doctor. Luckily, a friend of the family, the Earl of Buchan, vouched for the young man, and in 1913 Barry went to London (where his family now lived) to pass his exams and become Dr. James Barry at the age of 22.
And it’s a good thing he did: Dr. James Barry’s fifty-plus year long career as a military doctor proved to be an illustrious one. He entered the service as an officer and quickly rose in the ranks to eventually become Inspector General in charge of all military hospitals—a role equivalent to Brigadier General. While his personality left much to be desired—there’s the complaints about him Florence Nightingale made in her diary (she thought him “a brute,”) as well as his court-martials and duels—Barry was a surgeon of unprecedented skill. Most notably, while stationed in Cape Town, South Africa in 1820s, he performed the first successful caesarian section where the mother and child both survived in modern history. His legacy also includes his tireless efforts in sanitation reform, as well as better medical practices and care for soldiers, military families, prisoners, lepers, and all other underserved communities before his death in 1859. Many are still benefitting because of his efforts till this day.
And that would be the end of Dr. James Barry’s story, if it wasn’t for a charwoman who didn’t follow instructions. Barry left some specific last wishes: to be buried in the clothes he died in, with his body unwashed. But when the woman tasked with laying out the dead reached Barry, she stripped the body to prepare him for burial and found something shocking: Dr. James Barry not only had female anatomy, but stretch marks that implied she had once carried a child.
While Barry’s colleagues and friends were perfectly happy to keep this fact to themselves, (Barry’s doctor, Major D.R. McKinnon, said in a letter that it was “none of [his] business” if Barry was actually female,) the revelation was leaked to the press and became a sensation. Many people claimed to have known the whole time, but it’s equally possible no one did: when Barry entered the military in his twenties, he entered as an officer, which requires no medical exam. Of course, we have accounts of Barry’s effeminate nature, but that brash personality seemed to have swayed a lot of people away from the truth.
However, the entire story above does stand as truth except for one thing: Barry’s name. Barry was actually born Margaret Ann Bulkley and only became James Barry when a number of liberal-minded family friends and mentors (including the Earl of Buchan, from earlier!) decided Margaret’s intelligence would be wasted as only a wife and hatched a plan that fooled the world for 56 years. Dr. James Barry remains one of the most accomplished humanitarians and surgeons of the 1800s, no matter their gender—we can just add the first female doctor in the UK and Ireland to their long list of accolades!
This post is part of a series. Read more about Ireland's history by reading about ancient Irish Yule traditions here, here, and here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Name: Tara L.
How long have you been dancing? Why Irish dance? Do you still dance?
I was a competitive Irish Dancer for 15 years, regionally ranked numerous times at the New England Regional Oireachtas and nationally ranked at the North American Irish Dance Championships. I retired in 2019 after my freshman year of college.
Irish dance was a life changing experience that provided me with so many opportunities to learn and grow. It was a daily challenge, which inspires my work ethic today. I always aim high and dream big. Through Irish Dance, I learned by working hard and practicing my craft, I could achieve anything.
If you had to work, but didn’t need the money, what would you do?
I think I would be a teacher, whether that would be for school or dance. I always loved my time as an assistant teacher for Courtney and still keep in contact with some of my students today. When they finally got their jumps or skips, it was such a proud moment for me. I miss working with them!
If you could meet any historical or famous person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
As everyone knows, I am a huge Taylor Swift fan. I would love to meet and interview her, asking how she got to where she is today, what does she hope fans take from her music, and why she decided to pursue a music career. I think she is such a great role model for young people and has such an interesting story that I would love to hear more about!
What’s your favorite outdoor winter activity and why?
I love ice skating with friends! It is so fun to skate with music and just have a good laugh.
What advice do you have for aspiring dancers?
There were many times during my career where I felt stuck and thought I would be better off quitting, but I did not. There were many times the chips did not fall my way, whether that be in class or at a competition, but I told myself that I had to keep trying because deep down I knew I could make my goals. My advice is no matter how the chips fall dance because you love it and because you can see yourself achieving your personal goals.
Why do you think people dance?
I think people dance because it is freeing. In Irish Dance, it is you and the floor working in harmony to produce something beautiful and culturally significant. It is a personal challenge, similar to golf, where the only opponent is yourself. It is also an opportunity to celebrate a culture very few understand. To represent and celebrate my Irish heritage through dance has connected me more with my family’s ancestry.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Why?
I would love to mind read... it would have been super helpful to know what the judges were thinking while I was dancing! Now as a journalism major, I would love to know what my sources are really thinking when I ask them a question.
What was your favorite SRL memory?
My favorite memory was competing at my final North American Championships in 2018. It was probably the most fun I have ever had at a competition and I danced my personal best. While I fell just short of my goal, I admire the work I put in from January to competition day to put my best foot forward and succeed. However, I miss the daily classes the most. Seeing my friends and classmates always brightened my day and you never really knew what was going to happen that day! There were always plenty of jokes to go around!
How do you think your time at SRL positively affects your everyday life as an adult?
As an adult, my time at SRL taught me the value of time management, passion and persistence. Until college, I was a multi-sport athlete, competitive dancer and a participant in various other extracurricular activities. I learned quickly how to manage my school load with these other commitments to keep everything in balance. I hold myself to a high standard to do everything the best I can, so being able to manage that while maintaining a passion for the sport taught me so much. Today, I approach everything I do with passion and persistence while remembering I have to manage my time well to accomplish all of my goals.
What’s the most important quality to have in life?
The most important quality to have in life is to be hardworking. Without some level of hard work or effort, you will never reach your full potential. Talent can only get you so far. Hard work gets you to the finish line.
This post is part of a series. See our Q&A with another former dancer, Lindsey H., here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
Check out our first ten fun facts here!
1. The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest, uninterrupted coastal driving route in the world. Officially opened in 2014 by the Irish tourism board, the route covers the entire west coast of the country, from the border of Northern Ireland all the way to (almost!) Cork. Passing through three provinces and nine counties, the route displays some of Ireland’s most beautiful scenery.
2. As Dracula is set largely in England, most people don’t realize its author, Bram Stoker, is an Irishman. In fact, the character of Dracula and this concept of vampires that became our standard was based on the Irish legend of the Abhartach.
3. The Titanic was built in Ireland—in Belfast at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, specifically. Pre-COVID, there was even a large, interactive, narrative monument and museum dedicated to Belfast’s shipbuilding called “Titanic Belfast.” (Miss Courtney's been!)
4. While we tend to think of it as an “Irish accent,” there’s really hundreds of Irish accents, all specific to different areas, education levels, and classes, with a variety of complex, social histories behind them. (Though phonologists tend to divide all these varieties into 3-5 larger groupings.)
5. The Croaghaun Cliffs on Achill Island in County Mayo are the third highest sea cliffs in all of Europe at 752 meters (that’s about half a mile!) Only Hornelen in Norway (860 meters) and Cape Enniberg on the Faroe Islands (754 meters) has them beat! (Barely.)
6. There’s evidence that people have populated Ireland for over 10,000 years. It’s a little later than much of Europe due to the climate (and the fact it’s an island,) but impressive nonetheless! The oldest artefacts have been found in the North of the country.
7. Ireland once had its own version of the Olympics! They were called the Tailteann Games (or the Lughnasa games after the Irish hero of legend, Lugh.) They took place in 1924, 1928, and 1932 and were a celebration of traditional Irish sporting events. Unfortunately, the event didn’t take off worldwide, but smaller versions still exist to this day!
8. Speaking of sport (as they’d say in Ireland,) Ireland has one of the oldest consistent sporting traditions in the world (at least 3,000 years old!): hurling. It’s considered the fastest game played on grass and bears a vague resemblance in equipment to field hockey or even lacrosse (though definitely not in play.) P.S. The women’s version of hurling is almost identical, but called camogie.
9. The hollow, hypodermic needle was invented by an Irishman and surgeon named Dr. Francis Rynd in 1844. The world’s first subcutaneous injection was even performed at the Meath Hospital in Dublin! Even if you hate needles, this was a revolutionary advancement that has allowed to save and better billions of people’s lives.
10. In 1970s Ireland (and still today at English boarding schools and some places in India) there was a tradition known as “bumps.” Essentially, if it was your birthday, you’d be grabbed by your classmates and thrown repeatedly into the air to be “bumped” on the floor, often upside down—once for every year of your life. It would often end in a big finale throw where you might or might not be caught on the way down. (You can see why it’s not often practiced these days!)
This post is part of a series, read Volume I here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram
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