Irish History: Volume XVII
Irish Inventions, Part 2
Catch up on part 1 here!
1. While Robert Fulton was technically born in Pennsylvania, it was in 1765, (before it was America,) so we’re counting this son of Kilkenny immigrants as Irish. He’s not only credited with perfecting the steamboat, but is the inventor of the submarine (in 1800, no less!)
2. Dr. William Brooke O'Shaughnessy was born in Limerick in 1809 and would go on become a visionary in both the worlds of telegraphy and medical science. Not only did he bring the use of the telegraph to India in the 1840s and vastly improved upon the system there, but years before that innovation, he also managed to establish a cure for cholera—the first use of intravenous (IV) therapy.
3. Born in Dungarvan in 1903 as the son of a Methodist Minister, Ernest Walton went on to become a Nobel Prize winning Physicist for his work with his English colleague, John Cockcroft--the two men were the first to artificially split an atom. The device that achieved this, the Cockcroft-Walton Accelerator, was the precursor to projects like the Large Hadron Collider.
4. Ironically, a man by the name of Aeneas Coffey was responsible for a revolutionary invention in service of another beverage—whiskey. Born in Dublin in 1780, Coffey is the inventor of the patent still, a closed-system whiskey still that helped standardize the distilling process and create a smoother beverage with a higher ABV.
5. John Tyndall, a Leighlinbridge-born scientist working in the mid-1800s, discovered in 1859 that that gases (like carbon dioxide and water vapor) can absorb heat, i.e. infrared radiation (i.e. he helped invent the science of climate change!) While he can’t fully claim the discovery of the greenhouse effect (an amateur, American scientist named Eunice Foote made the connection in 1856)—he did make his discovery simultaneously with no knowledge of Foote’s work and is credited with applying that knowledge to explaining why the sky is blue.
6. If you’ve ever taken a chemistry class, Lismore-born 17th-century scientist Robert Boyle will sound familiar. Considered the father of the modern chemistry, he’s best remembered these days for Boyle’s Law: the discover that the volume of a gas decreases with increasing pressure (and vice versa.) He also invented the first vacuum pump—a way to create a small-space vacuum chamber for scientific experimentation.
8. Born in Dublin in 1810, Robert Mallet essentially invented the science of earthquakes and is thus called “the father of the seismology” (he even coined the word—and the word “epicenter.”) His work (with his son as his partner) includes the first known photographs of earthquake devastation and the creation of isoseismal maps.
9. Ireland has been through it when it comes to political oppression, so it’s no surprise that the Irish are the inventor of the word and concept of “boycott.” When Charles Cunningham Boycott, an English agent in County Mayo, evicted 11 tenants in 1880, the locals set about on a campaign of isolation—shops in the area refused to serve him, and he became unable to leave his house due to the mob outside.
10. Dublin-born Lucien Bull was a pioneer of “chronophotography,” defined as high speed photograph that created “a set of photographs of a moving object, taken for the purpose of recording and exhibiting successive phases of motion.” Essentially, the precursor to modern cinematography and animation. He also, in a completely different field, invented an improved version of an electrocardiogram (EEG,) similar to what we still use today!
But we're not done yet...there's a part 3 coming!
This post is part of a series. Read our last Irish History post, all about Irish Nobel Laureates, 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.
Core Values of SRL: Growth
At SRL, our goals aren’t all about dancing, but rather to help your dancer become GREATER—i.e. instill our core values of Growth, Respect, Excellence, Appreciation, Transparency, Enthusiasm, and Resiliency. The world of Irish dance has a wealth of experiences, opportunities, and skills that help impart these ideals to our dancers, and we’re committed to fostering the development of values that will serve your dancer both in and out of the studio. In this new series, we’re looking forward to delving into what these core values really mean to us, and how Irish dance can be so much more than just the steps you learn in class! First up is the capital G: Growth.
With our Tiny Jig program, the growth of our dancers can be taken very literally—taking dancers as young as 2 means we get the privilege of watching them grow up—as dancers, and as people. (Not only that, but we have several dancers that have been with us since the start, 8 whole years!) Dance is undeniably good for your dancer’s physical development--it promotes spatial awareness, flexibility, coordination, balance, etc., the list goes on and on—but at SRL, we try to look beyond the physical.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that dance is also a boon for your dancer’s emotional growth as well. (After all, psychologists have found that “the better children were able to synchronize their movements with music, the more they smiled.” And as Time recently reported, happy kids are more likely to turn into successful adults.) Not only is there room for pure joy in every dance class, but studies show that dance helps build important social-emotional learning skills, including how to better express their own emotions, emotional regulation, and to understand other’s emotions.
Beyond emotional growth, we also look toward helping our dancers grow as people into creative, focused, hard-working, intelligent, problem-solving, empathetic young adults. The microcosm of the studio, and then the secure world of performance and competition, can be seen as a crucible to hone extremely valuable life skills, rather than just a perfect jig! (Though we do that too!)
An example of this growth? For our youngest dancers, this growth comes in small steps: learning to wait your turn, listen to instructions, be kind to your fellow classmates, practice and be prepared for class, and let loose and have fun in an environment outside the home! Then, as our dancers continue to develop and move up through the levels, they’re met with new challenges: goal setting, dealing with the rejection that can come with competition, working as a team, lifting up others rather than comparing yourself to them, how to be both a student and a teacher, and above all: hard work and the knowledge that they’ll only get out of anything what they put into it.
Overall, capital-G Growth means more to us at SRL than measuring your success at each feis—it means maturing as a person, as a whole. While we always make sure to balance it with fun (dancing is, above all, incredibly fun, after all!), the way we approach Irish dance isn’t just about improving in one aspect of your life. It’s about how growth in one facet can mean growth in all others.
This post is part of a series. 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.
Irish History: Volume XIX
Irish Nobel Laureates, Part 1
We’ve all heard of the Nobel Prize and know it’s an incredible honor, but what are they exactly? Simply put, they’re intended to be “the most prestigious awards given for intellectual achievement in the world.” Conceived of (and continuously funded) by Swedish inventor and industrialist Alfred Nobel in 1895, the awards have run every year since 1901 in five categories: Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace. A sixth award, for Economics, was added in 1968 (funded by the Bank of Sweden.) Today we’re going to explore many of the Irish winners over the prize’s 120-year history (including those from Northern Ireland, of course! Less than half of people in Northern Ireland reportedly think of themselves as British, despite being a part of the UK, after all.)
W.B. Yeats: Literature, 1923
Yeats was born in Dublin in 1865 and is considered one of the foremost figures in 20th century literature (and also served as a Senator for the Irish Free State.) He was a poet, a dramatist, and a prose writer who, despite being born into the ruling Protestant, Anglo-Irish minority, both clung to and celebrated his Irish roots throughout his lifetime body of work. The Nobel committee chose Yeats in 1923 "for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation."
George Bernard Shaw: Literature, 1925
Another Dublin born writer (1856,) Shaw was a comic dramatist, social propagandist, satirist, and literary critic. He was chosen to receive his award "for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty." Despite his often-controversial opinions, his more than sixty plays are infused with his dedication to political activism and change, and their influence continues to be felt 70 years after his death.
Ernest T.S. Walton: Physics, 1951
Walton was given his award with his research partner, British Sir John Douglas Cockcroft, "for their pioneer work on the transmutation of atomic nuclei by artificially accelerated atomic particles." Born in Dungarvan in 1903, Walton’s work at Cambridge with Cockcroft led to the development of the Cockcroft-Walton generator, which split the atom artificially for the first time—and led to our ability to create particle accelerators. This device allowed scientific research in particle physics to move forward exponentially.
Samuel Beckett: Literature, 1969
The third Dublin-born writer on this list (1906,) Beckett was given his award "for his writing, which—in new forms for the novel and drama—in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation." Beckett wrote in both French and English, and his most influential works were all produced in a highly productive period in the 1940s after his experiences as part of the French resistance during WWII. During his lifetime, he was a poet, translator, director, novelist, short story writer, and dramatist—all of his work was imbued with his intensely dark humor.
But there’s still five more to go! Keep an eye on the blog for the next installment of Irish intellectual excellence!
This post is part of a series. Read our last Irish history post, all about love stories in Irish history, 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.
Irish History: Volume XVIII
Real Life Irish Love Stories, Part 2
Valentine’s might be a few days gone, but we’re stretching the celebration of love into a week this year by coming back with a part 2 (check out part 1 here!) of love stories in Irish history. While Irish love stories may not always be happy ones, they are often the big, beautiful, epic love stories we associate with literature and poetry…except these ones are real. As another ill-fated lover in Irish history, Oscar Wilde, once said: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple, ” and, even more appropriately, “Hearts are made to be broken.”
Charles Stewart Parnell and Kitty O’Shea
A bit of a scandalous story, but one beloved in Irish history all the same, Parnell was known as the “uncrowned king of Ireland” before he met Kitty O’Shea. Parnell was a formidable Irish politician in the late 19th century who wielded almost unheard of power in his campaign against British rule, making him a hero to all of Ireland as he backed the bid for Irish independence (even the British were impressed!) But public favor turned against him when it was revealed he had risked his career for love of a married woman—Kitty O’Shea, wife of fellow politician, Captain O’Shea. Many people knew of the affair, including O’Shea (it was called “the worst kept secret in London,”) as the couple had been together for many years and even had multiple children together. The real scandal came when O’Shea filed for divorce (he had been waiting for an inheritance from one of Kitty’s relatives that never came,) something unheard of in highly Catholic Ireland. O’Shea spitefully made the divorce as public as possible, which caused Parnell to be forced to step down from his position as the leader of the Irish party lest he destroy Ireland’s chance at independence. Parnell and Kitty married in a register office when they were denied a church wedding, and lived the rest of their short lives in obscurity—but at least together.
Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan
Michael Collins was an Irish nationalist revolutionary who was imprisoned, but luckily not executed, for his part in the Easter Rising of 1916—after which he met Kitty Kiernan, the daughter of wealthy landowners in Longford in 1917. After a bit of a competition for her affection between Collins and his friend, Harry Boland, Kiernan chose Collins and they embarked on a love affair that would last the rest of Collins’s life. Shortly after their first meeting, the couple was engaged to be married, but as Collins became a major player in the Irish resistance to British rule, him and Kiernan often found themselves separated. As Collins became a brilliant tactician and made devastating blows against English forces, he wrote to Kiernan every day of his love for her--over 300 letters. His hard work led to the Anglo-Irish treaty, but even as he signed it, Collins knew many would disagree with how many concessions he had made—and he was right. The signing of the treaty was the beginning of the Irish Civil War, which led to Collins’s eventual death at the hands of an anti-treaty faction. While Kiernan was inconsolable for a time, she did eventually marry—though she kept a portrait of Collins hung in her home for the rest of her life, and even named her second son Michael Collins Cronin, as proof of her enduring love.
Patrick Kavanaugh and Dr. Hilda Moriarty
As many Irish love stories begin, this one too begins with a poet: this time, with impoverished poet Patrick Kavanaugh and his love for a young medical student named Hilda Moriarty. When Kavanaugh moved to Dublin from Monaghan he first lived in a boarding house on Baggot Street, near Raglan Road, where he first spotted a beautiful, dark-haired young woman he immediately fell for. The paired dated for a short time before Moriarty moved on at her parent’s behest (and because of her own disinterest,) largely owing to the fact that there was 18 years between them—Hilda was 22 when they met, and Kavanaugh 40. But while Moriarty finished her medical degree and went on to marry Donagh O’Malley (a political leader under multiple Irish governments, eventually the Minister for Education,) Kavanaugh never stopped loving Moriarty and even immortalized his love in verse. Kavanaugh’s poem “Dark Haired Miriam Ran Away” (Miriam being his pseudonym for Hilda to save her any embarrassment) eventually became the beloved Irish song “Raglan Road,” known best for its opening: “On Raglan Road on an autumn day I saw her first and knew / That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue.” Kavanaugh became a lauded name in Irish poetry over his lifetime and when the documentary Gentle Tiger was made about him after his death in 1987, Hilda Moriarty was interviewed about her influence on his work and opened up about their continued friendship that had led to some of his greatest work.
Next week we’ll be back with something more uplifting, but we’ll leave you with one more Oscar Wilde quote to lift your spirits: “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” Aka, we know when to sign off. Happy Valentine’s Day!
This post is part of a series. Read our last Irish history post, with three more love stories from Irish history, 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.
Irish History: Volume XVIII
Real Life Irish Love Stories, Part 1
We’ve covered it before: Irish love stories tend to be tragic ones, and it’s thought that this tradition (old as it—going back before the written word into mythic times) has been a major influence on dramatic love stories throughout the ages. But for every myth, theatric, and literary romance, Irish history has a real-life love story that matches up to the imagination. From the tragic to the beautiful (with most somewhere in between,) we’ve gathered a few of Ireland’s most epic, historical romances this Valentine’s Day!
William Butler Yeats and Maud Gonne
W.B. Yeats is one of Ireland’s most famous and lauded poets, and the inspiration behind much of his work was the striking actress and Irish republican activist Maud Gonne. Gonne was significantly younger than Yeats when they met in 1889, and not particularly interested in his pursuit of her. Yeats proposed not once, not twice, but at least four separate times by the early 1890s—and she turned him down each time, though they remained friends. His love for her resulted in some of his most iconic lines, such as the last lines of “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”: “I have spread my dreams under your feet; / Tread softly for you tread on my dreams.” When Yeats tried to insist he couldn’t be happy without Gonne, she is said to have replied in 1914 (25 years after their first meeting!): “Oh yes you are, because you make beautiful poetry out of what you call your unhappiness and you are happy in that. Marriage would be such a dull affair. Poets should never marry. The world should thank me for not marrying you.” Yeats proposed once more in 1917, after Gonne’s husband was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising, but she remained steadfast in her refusal.
James Joyce and Nora Barnacle
Fiction writer James Joyce had more luck in love than Yeats—his muse was his partner and eventual wife, Nora Barnacle. After a tumultuous childhood for Barnacle (including two boyfriends dying before the age of 20) and being disowned by her family for her relationship with a Protestant, the pair met on June 10th, 1904 at Finn’s Hotel in Dublin. Their first date occurred later that week on the 16th, and they proved inseparable from that day forward until Joyce’s death in 1941. The couple had their share of difficulties—constant relocations across Europe, financial struggles, creative struggles, two children and their daughter’s subsequent mental illness and institutionalization, as well as their naturally opposing personalities and differing interests—but they made it through. Their love was so famous that it was quite a surprise when they were discovered legally marrying in 1931, 27 years after they first met—everyone had assumed they were already wed! Joyce even commemorated their love by setting his magnum opus, Ulysses, on June 16th, 1904—the day of their first date—and reportedly modeling the main heroine, Molly Bloom, after Barnacle.
Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford
Joseph Plunkett is a poet (his collection The Circle and Sword was published when he was only 24,) but one better known for his revolutionary activities and his tragic love story with artist Grace Gifford. Plunkett’s whole affluent Dublin family was supportive of the Irish Nationalist movement, so when poor health kept Plunkett from taking an active role he turned to his education to support the fight instead. This led Plunkett to co-found and edit the revolutionary magazine The Irish Review, where he met his twin flame in caricaturist and cartoonist, Grace Gifford. The couple was meant to marry on April 23rd, 1916, the day before the Easter Rising (which Plunkett was heavily involved in planning)—but the chaos of that time led them to postpone. Unfortunately, Plunkett was captured and sentenced to death for his role in events, though the British allowed Plunkett and Gifford to marry just hours before his death (with guards pointing bayonets at them as their witnesses.) Gifford continued the fight, eventually being interred in the same jail (Kilmainham Gaol) as Plunkett, where she painted images on the walls of her cell that are still there today (she was eventually released as the tides turned.) She never remarried, and when she died in 1955 the President of Ireland attended her funeral—and awarded her full military honors.
But we’re not done with these romantic stories yet—as sad as they sometimes can be. Come back Thursday for three more stories that celebrate love in Irish history!
This post is part of a series. Read our last Irish history post, all about University College Dublin, 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.
Modern Ireland: Uni Spotlight
University College Cork
We’re traveling to a new part of the country for this week’s uni spotlight: picturesque Cork! University College Cork (UCC) is perched on a limestone bluff above the River Lee, a beautiful spot chosen for its proximity to Saint Finbarr’s ancient monastery and school. Saint Finbarr is the patron saint of Cork, as his monastery essentially founded the city, and was the impetus for the school’s motto: Where Finbarr Taught Let Munster Learn.
The school was originally established by Queen Victoria at the same time as universities in Belfast and Galway in 1845, but became a national university in 1908 with the enactment of the Irish Universities Act. Today, UCC is an award-winning university in every category with approximately 22,000 students (about 3,000 international, from 104 different countries!) They’ve even received an “Award for Outstanding International Student Satisfaction” with a score of 9.5, with their International Education Office at the forefront of adapting students to life in Ireland. Students can study almost anything they can dream of and receive a degree in 3-4 years, with the school roughly divided into four colleges: Arts, Celtic Studies, and Social Sciences, Business and Law, Medicine and Health, and Science, Engineering, and Food Science. UCC consistently ranks in the top 300 universities in the world and has a student rating of 4.4 stars (by survey site StudyPortals) for its high quality of both study and student life. It’s also been named Irish University of the year on five separate occasions by The Sunday Times.
UCC is considered the leading research university in the country (and top 2% worldwide,) with the highest research income in the state (in 2016, for example, the university had €96 million in funding and a five-year allocation plan.) The university chooses what research to fund based on global need for innovation, considering impact over monetary gain, and its top research subjects include food, health, and perinatal medicine. Many top research labs are located at UCC, including the Environmental Research Institute (which studies climate change, sustainable living, and the circular economy) the APC Microbiome Institute (which looks into alimentary health and functional foods,) and the Tyndall National Institute (concentrating on microsystems, nanotechnology, and photonics.)
But science isn’t the only place where UCC is innovating: the university houses 40 Gateway companies that were started as high-potential start-ups with UCC’s support. With a focus on entrepreneurship, UCC enjoys a graduate employment rate of over 90% with many courses of study including internship and work-study programs (often utilizing the on-campus companies!) Even their Humanities programs put innovation first with its groundbreaking Digital Arts and Humanities degree, which utilizes technologically advanced tools to explore the arts of humanities in new, pioneering ways. (Though, don’t worry, it’s set against Ireland’s rich history—for example, the university’s extensive archival holdings include the Ogham Stones, the earliest known artifact of a written Irish language.)
Alongside the rigorous academics, attendees experience a balanced student life living on a quiet campus in the middle of a bustling, cosmopolitan city (this is another college, like most in Ireland, with a wealth of student-friendly accommodation throughout the city, versus on campus—though there is international student housing.) Cork is the second largest city in Ireland, after Dublin, housing everything from the famed Blarney Castle and Crawford Gallery to jazz festivals and culinary marvels. The campus also strikes a balance between the old and the new: while the Aula Maxima (the “Great Hall”) is original to the school’s 1847 construction, UCC was the first school to be awarded the international Green Flag for its environmental friendliness. This sense of history within positive change creates a close community at University College Cork—from long held superstitions (it’s rumored if you walk across the Aula Maxima’s quad before graduation you risk failing your exams) to over 100 student societies (including a beloved Irish language club,) 50 sports clubs, and innumerable charitable efforts throughout all the various colleges. UCC is undoubtably a place that both holds the past close while looking forward!
Next time, we’re off to yet another part of Ireland: Galway! Check back soon!
This post is part of a series. Read our modern Ireland post, all about romantic movies related to Ireland, 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.
It’s February, and you know what that means…love is in the air (or at least on your TV screen.) Since we’re not going out nearly as much as we used to these days, we thought we’d provide you with some Ireland-related romantic movies to snuggle up on the couch with this upcoming Valentine’s Day (that’s right, it’s only a week from today!) From the touching stories to the beautiful scenery, your date will thank you.
1. Leap Year (2010, PG)
23% Rotten Tomatoes
Rent on Amazon Prime
Okay, so this definitely isn’t the highest rated movie on the list, but it may be the funniest (Irish romances tend to be a little serious, but this one’s technically an American rom-com.) Anna Brady (played by the ever-delightful Amy Adams) is a little uptight, but a romantic at heart, and is doing her best to make it to Dublin for a very special day. She’s planning on proposing to her boyfriend (played by Adam Scott) on February 29th, aka Leap Day, on which Irish tradition dictates that a woman can propose to a man and he must say yes. Unfortunately (or fortunately,) inclement weather lands Anna in the small, Irish town of Dingle with no way to Dublin but a surly, handsome innkeeper named Declan (played by Matthew Goode—who’s actually English, but never mind) who only agrees to take her to save his bar from foreclosure. But the course of true love never did run smooth, and neither has any rom-com in history—so the road to Dublin is paved with many a fun and funny mishap (and some absolutely gorgeous shots all over Ireland—the real reason to give it a watch!) This movie may not be perfect, but you can’t beat the setting and it doesn’t skimp on fun!
2. The Quiet Man (1952, G)
91% Rotten Tomatoes
Rent on Amazon Prime
If you and your date are more into the classics, then you may want to check out John Wayne’s (yes, the cowboy) turn as an Irishman in this landmark piece of cinema (it’s even part of the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, where films that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” are preserved.) The film follows Wayne as Sean “Trooper Thorn” Thornton as he retires from his Pittsburgh-based life as a boxer and returns to his hometown of Innisfree and his old family farm. He immediately falls for the red-headed girl next door, Mary Kate Danaher (played by the actually Irish Maureen O’Hara,) but Mary Kate’s brother Will is having none of it. It turns out Will is interested in purchasing the same family farm Sean is after buying…and has decided to prevent the union out of spite. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won two: for Best Director and Best Cinematography (in color!) While it’s known best for a long and comic fist fight, tune in for the Oscar-winning shots of the Irish countryside!
3. Brooklyn (2015, PG-13)
97% Rotten Tomatoes
Rent on Amazon Prime
This one, as you may be able to tell by its name, is largely set outside Ireland, but does have the distinction of being the top-rated movie on this list, based on a best-selling book! (By Irish author Colm Tóibín, with the screenplay by another best-selling author: Nick Hornby.) The film follows Enniscorthy-born Eilis Lacey (played by triumphantly by Saoirse Ronan—this role won her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress) as she leaves Ireland for New York to find employment…and finds love with a local, as well. Set in the 1950s, the film is an exploration of the Irish immigrant experience as much as it’s a love story, the interplay between a home country and a new identity, the life you’re born to and the life you chose for yourself. It was widely regarded as one of the best films released in 2015 (it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, among so many other accolades we couldn’t possibly list them here,) and while it may largely be set in New York, it has some truly stunning Irish moments in it too! (Bonus points for also starring Irish actor Domhnall Glesson.)
4. P.S. I Love You (2007, PG-13)
25% Rotten Tomatoes
Rent on Amazon Prime
Another American film, but more of a tearjerker (though with some levity throughout!), P.S. I Love You stars Hilary Swank as Holly, a young widow. When Holly’s husband Gerry (played, in flashbacks, by Gerard Butler) dies of cancer, Holly withdraws from her life—until her 30th birthday, when the letters Gerry wrote her before his death start arriving. The letters lead her to his homeland of Ireland where she begins a journey of grief that may, the viewer hopes, lead her to a new self and new love. With a star-studded supporting cast that includes Harry Connick Jr., Lisa Kudrow, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Kathy Bates, the film takes the typical rom-com and does something different with it. While Butler’s Irish accent isn’t the best (he has since apologized,) and most of the cast is American, the film still makes excellent use of its Irish setting. Between some interior Dublin shots (Whelan’s Bar, one of Dublin’s beloved live music venues, among them) and the exterior shots of Wicklow Mountains National Park, it will make you feel like you’re on vacation in Ireland yourself.
5. Wild Mountain Thyme (2020, PG-13)
26% Rotten Tomatoes
Watch on Hulu
Our newest release on the list, starring the ineffable Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan (who’s actually Irish—Blunt is a Brit) with a supporting cast of Jon Hamm and Christopher Walken, this film tells the story of two strange and introverted neighbors, Rosemary and Anthony. The two have lived their entire lives on adjacent farms, and Rosemary has always been in love with Anthony—though he’s never shown any interest. But family and love are always more complicated than they seem, and sometimes communication is the hardest bit of all. Set among the stunning fields of County Westmeath, this film didn’t garner amazing reviews, but the incredible cast does bring a charm to a strange love story. Director John Patrick Shanley adapted his own (Tony-nominated) play, Outside Mullingar, for the big screen himself, expanding it from its original four-person cast. If you’re looking for something different—this one’s for you.
This post is part of a series. Read our last modern Ireland post, all about Maynooth University, 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.
Technique Review: Stretching
Okay, so, maybe stretching isn’t part of Irish dance’s technique per say, but it is a key component to every dancer’s success. It’s also the most often and easily skipped part of a dancer’s at-home practice—especially younger dancers, as younger muscles are more elastic (as we age, our muscles begin to shrink and lose mass.) However, that doesn’t mean stretching is less important for younger dancers! Stretching remains the primary way dancers can protect their bodies from the fatigue and strain that can build up over a lifetime (or even just their first few years!) of dance, and help prevent both minor and major injuries.
But what are the benefits of a regular stretching practice? First off, the key word is regular. Researchers make clear distinctions in their findings--occasional stretching can actually decrease muscle strength if immediately followed with activity, while regular stretching enables muscles to work “most effectively.” But that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. While the obvious benefit is an increase in flexibility (and what dancer doesn’t want that?), it’s also proven to improve performance in all physical activities as it increases joint mobility and, as we’ve mentioned, prevents injury. This is because stretching increases blood flow to your muscles as you temporarily lengthen your muscle fibers.
Here’s the number one tip for stretching, one we could shout from the rooftops if we could: stretching is NOT a warmup! Your muscles should be warmed up (some low intensity cardio where you’re not overextending yourself is all it takes) before the stretching starts--stretching cold muscles can potentially cause strain, pulls, or tears. Stretching after dancing is just as important—this is when your muscles are at their warmest. This is a dancer’s best opportunity to really increase flexibility without causing undue strain, as this would be the most pliable your muscles are during a workout.
Other tips? While genetically most dancers have one side they favor and are most flexible on, Irish dance strives for symmetry and your stretching should too! Make sure you’re repeating each side-specific stretch on both sides, while focusing on major muscle groups and your most used joints. This will also help with a dancer’s balance! While your dancer stretches, we’re looking for smooth movements with good posture that are held for 30-60 seconds. No bouncing allowed, as this can cause both injury and muscle tightness—and that smooth motion and hold should under no circumstances be painful. What you want to feel is tension, not pain!
And don’t forget: make sure your dancer’s stretching routine is sports-specific. That means making sure the stretches they’re doing aren’t just the generic ones they might learn in P.E. class, but a stretching routine that benefits Irish dancers and the ways they move their bodies specifically. There are innumerable resources specific to Irish dance out there, but, of course, Miss Courtney and our SRL instructors are a wealth of knowledge of what stretch to do for specific issues, and the stretches our dancers learn in class will always be a good idea for at-home practice. Our most loved resources here at SRL include Target Training Dance (here’s an Irish dance-specific stretching YouTube playlist from them!), as well as Irish Dance and Culture Magazine (here’s a great article!) and Ready to Feis (and another!), but always feel free to share what you find in our parent and dancer Facebook group—it’s a community effort!
Does your dancer get bored while stretching and tend to rush through it? Remember there’s more than one kind of stretching! While we’ve largely been discussing tips for static (i.e. holding a stretch) stretching in this post, dynamic stretching is recommended by many as one of the best options for before dancing (while static is best utilized after dancing, when the muscles are their warmest. Dynamic stretching is a series of controlled, activity-specific movements performed at a gradually increasing intensity to help prepare your muscles for the activity you’re about to do. Check out Celticore Pilates for a great workout that includes dynamic stretching, for example!
The most important thing to remember? Keep it up! Making stretching a regular practice—whatever that practice looks like, as long as it’s done safely and with Irish dance in mind—is the primary factor in whether stretching will be beneficial to your dancer. It’s something that can be done every day, in a variety of places and situations, even if there isn’t time to practice their slip jig. Making it a part of your dancer’s everyday life and practice will only be a benefit!
This post is part of a series. Read our last technique post, all about timing, 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.
Find all of our latest news on our Scoil Rince Luimni Facebook page!