Core Values of SRL: Respect
The second letter in SRL’s core values of GREATER is, of course, R for Respect. On a basic level, respect has two closely related and essential definitions: 1) “a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.” and 2) “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc. and should be treated in an appropriate way.” At SRL, we try to instill in our dancers that respect doesn’t just mean acknowledging that someone or something is due respect, but an action that needs to be shown to others, the larger community, and also to their selves.
Irish dance begins like any other dance disciplines—before any of the competitions and shiny costumes or awards—in the classroom. Classroom settings, academic and dance alike, are where children are taught the basics of the social contract: listening to your teachers, waiting your turn, giving each other space to learn, celebrating the successes of others, and treating fellow dancers with kindness and empathy, among other active examples of respect. Respect for others is the most basic tenet of a functioning society, and it begins with these small consequence actions, so they’ll be better prepared to make good decisions in higher consequence situations as they grow. A dance class is a microcosm of the larger society they’ll eventually enter as adults, and gives them a chance to practice enacting respect for others so they’ll better know how to treat and others (and how they, in turn, deserve to be treated.)
Speaking of the larger world, the community that Irish dance fosters gives us another opportunity to help our dancers learn the importance of respect. Becoming part of a community with shared goals and interests opens your dancer’s awareness to respect on a larger scale than one-on-one interactions. The Irish dance community shows their respect for each other through their support of one another—whether it be through cheering at feisanna, donating used ghillies, or helping walk a newer dancer through a step or the confusing competition system. Through experiences like our student helper programs and buddy systems for big competitions, we make sure that dancers feel the joy the support of community brings and understand that it’s something they can contribute to, as well—bringing joy to others. And, even beyond that, the deep roots of Irish dance, its adherence to a centuries-old practice that is intrinsically tied to the identity of a nation other than the comparatively young U.S., also help give a sense of respect for history, tradition, and cultures outside their own—opening them to respect for others and others’ communities on a global scale.
And, of equal importance to the above, is helping our dancers learn the concept of self-respect. Self-respect is a complicated topic to tackle, but at SRL we think of self-respect as a facet of the hard work we expect our dancers to put into their dance practice. Working hard isn’t just a way to get better at a jig step, it’s a way to show that you respect yourself—when a dancer puts the effort in to achieve their goals, they are deeming themselves worthy of success, worthy of the time and effort it takes to accomplish it. Self-respect doesn’t come from the accolades and medals, or even positive comments from the teacher, but the actions each dancer takes to improve themselves—seeing and feeling their potential and striving for more. And, in a world rife with media complicating the already complex mire of body image, dance helps that self-respect extend to a self-love and self-acceptance as dancers learn to be confident and comfortable in their own skin and see all the beautiful and powerful things a body can do!
Respect isn’t a nebulous concept—it’s something we help our dancers see as something to be acted upon again and again, each and every day. Respect is not deference, but rather a kind of giving—to your fellow dancers, your community, the world, tradition, your self—a way of showing value rather than simply declaring it. And here at SRL, we make sure to emphasize that these acts of service we do for others and ourselves are as important as any success we can measure on any stage.
This post is part of a series. Read our core values post, all about growth, 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 XIX
Irish Nobel Laureates, Part 2
We’re back with the second half (and then some) of Ireland’s Nobel laureates (if you missed part 1, check it out here.)
Seán MacBride: Peace, 1974
MacBride was born in 1904 in Paris, but his Irish heritage and his father’s death in the struggle for Irish liberation led to him joining the IRA by the age of 13. He parted ways with the IRA in the 1930s (though he continued to use his law degree to helped defend members,) and went on to receive his prize "for his efforts to secure and develop human rights throughout the world." MacBride served as an Irish politician in a variety of roles throughout his life, but was also a member of the United Nations, the International Peace Bureau, and founded Amnesty International, among other peace-keeping efforts.
Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams: Peace, 1976
Together, Maguire and Williams founded the Northern Ireland Peace Movement (later renamed Community of Peace People,) and shared their award "for the courageous efforts in founding a movement to put an end to the violent conflict in Northern Ireland." The only women on this list, both were born in Belfast in the early 1940s, they spearheaded the women’s peace movement, drawing women of disparate communities together to protest the violence they were living in the midst of. Their efforts have been credited in reducing the death toll by half.
Seamus Heaney: Literature, 1995
Heaney, the eldest of nine children raised in County Derry, was born in 1939 and is one of the major poets of the 20th century. The committee gave Heaney his award, after his lifetime work of over 20 volumes of poetry and criticism that explored both modern and mythic Ireland, "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past." Heaney collected innumerable accolades throughout his life and taught at both Harvard and Oxford--learn more about his work in our post about contemporary Irish poets.
John Hume and David Trimble: Peace, 1998
Both from Northern Ireland, Hume and Trimble share their prize, awarded "for their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland." Hume was a Londonderry-born politician who was not only the leader of the Social and Democratic Labour Party in Northern Ireland, but served as a minister in British Parliament, the European Parliament, and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Belfast-born Trimble was the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and a member of British Parliament—and together the two men helped broker the Good Friday Agreement, a multiparty peace accord that helped stop the violence that plagued Northern Ireland.
William C. Campbell: Physiology or Medicine, 2015
Our most recent Irish Nobel laureate, Ramelton-born Campbell, received his award for looking to solve problems further abroad than his home country, specifically “for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites.” Along with his colleagues (his award is shared,) Campbell looked for an easier cure for diseases that largest affect the most impoverished countries on earth (roundworm parasites can cause blindness, along with chronic and disfiguring swelling.) Campbell’s treatment consists of an oral pill that paralyses and destroys the worm, and he even helped persuade his institute, Merck, to donate large amounts of the medicine through the WHO.
Though Ireland didn’t win any awards in the 2021 ceremony, keep an eye out for 2022—the Irish have a lot more to give the world!
This post is part of a series. Read our last Irish history post, all about the phrase "the luck of the Irish," 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.
Children’s Movies, Part 2
As March comes to a close, so does much of the celebration revolving around Ireland—but for an Irish dancer, that never really ends! Participating in Irish dance is a year-round celebration of Irish culture and music, so why not bring that into your home? Here are five kid-friendly films revolving around Ireland and Irish lore (including a particularly exciting new release, all about Irish dance!)
1. Riverdance: The Animated Adventure (2021, G)
77% Rotten Tomatoes
Watch on Netflix
For the little Irish dancer, this is the most exciting new release in years! (And this film has led a lot of new dancers to SRL’s doors, so you know it’s got to be good.) The film follows a young boy named Keegan from the Irish village of River’s End where his grandfather (a former Irish dancer) loves to tell him stories from Irish lore—like the tales of the giant deer called Megaloceros Giganteus whose magical dancing gives water and life to the region. However, when Keegan has to face the loss of his beloved grandfather and the new responsibilities that come with it, he’s understandably overwhelmed. With the help of his Spanish friend, Moya, Keegan travels to a land of myth and legend where he learns his grandfather’s stories were more than stories—and his village may be in trouble! Full of fun and whimsy, with plenty of Irish culture thrown in (though brought together in a whole new fairytale,) the music and dance sequences will have your dancer jigging along! (And with Pierce Brosnan, Brendan Gleeson, and Lily Singh among the talented voice actors, there’s something for the adult viewers, too.)
2. The Luck of the Irish (2001, G)
53% Rotten Tomatoes
Watch on Disney+
Millennial parents might remember this one! While this isn’t the most Irish movie on our list per say, this Disney Channel Original Movie has the nostalgia factor for some, and doesn’t skimp on the entertainment for new little viewers. Junior high basketball player Kyle Johnson seems like just your average teenager, with more than average luck—but he doesn’t know the details of his family’s history. When Kyle finds out his family’s secret, straight out of Irish lore, he also learns the importance of honoring your past while concentrating on the present—with some leprechaun-laden hijinks in between. It’s not the most cohesive film of all time, but that’s part of the fun! It’s a little bit of St. Patrick’s Day silliness for young watchers who will love a scene of leprechauns playing basketball and won’t question magical gold coins dispensing luck. It’s classic 2000s Disney Channel in every possible way—ridiculous, but a heart (or pot) of gold.
3. Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959, G)
77% Rotten Tomatoes
Watch on Disney+
The oldest film on the list, but the second with Disney origins, this film was the brainchild of Walt Disney himself (conceived of on a trip to Ireland and announced there in 1948—though it would take a decade for the film to be made due to WWII.) The story follows the titular Darby O’Gill who’s railing against being forced into retirement when a scare from a pooka causes him to fall down a well and into the stories of his ancestors. What follows is a rollicking adventure where Darby must match wits with the King Brian of the leprechauns to win his proverbial pot of gold. A young Sean Connery plays Darby’s replacement (and his daughter Katie’s love interest—and no, that’s no actually him singing,) and the film uses camera tricks rather than our modern CGI to create the leprechaun illusions—a fun throwback to another time. While kids may not recognize the nostalgia, they’ll enjoy this early Hollywood film that feels fully Irish, rather than Irish-American (don’t take my word for it, check out this think piece in The Irish Times.)
4. The Best of Riverdance (2005, Unrated)
Buy on Amazon
So this one isn’t a narrative storyline like the others, but it is a must-watch for those just beginning to fall in love with Irish dance! This may be a documentary, but the majority of screen time is devoted to incredible dancing, from the original stars Michael Flatley and Jean Butler to the most recent performances. Included are clips of the original 1995 Eurovision contest performance, a 1997 New York performance with Colin Dunne replacing Flatley, and a 2003 performance in Geneva featuring new leads: Brendán de Gallaí and Joanne Doyle. As the show has gradually evolved over the years with its different performers, this film is a rare and unparalleled experience as it splices three different iterations of the spectacular stage experience together into one. (And, if you’re interested in more of the history, the DVD includes behind the scenes footage, a separate documentary, and further performances!) Want a preview? Check out “Reel Around the Sun” (from 11 years ago, a 1996 New York performance!) here.
5. The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns (1999, PG)
80% Rotten Tomatoes
Watch on Prime
Here’s the thing—children’s movies about Ireland are pretty heavy on the leprechauns, which is how we ended up with three on this list. However, this is the only one with Whoopi Goldberg (yes, you read that correctly.) But let’s backtrack a moment: this made-for-TV fantasy film follows two storylines—one about an American businessman visiting Ireland who makes a leprechaun friend, and the second about a pair of star-crossed lovers à la Romeo and Juliet (if they were a faerie and a leprechaun.) The two storylines eventually entwine, but the journey there is full of magic and whimsy, and the overarching theme of the power of love. Also starring Randy Quaid and a very young Kieran Culkin, among other familiar faces, the film is reportedly “charming” (at least to those at Variety,) though it has more than its fair share of fantasy tropes (which is sometimes just the thing for relaxing viewing.) Just give this wonderfully dated trailer a look-see!
This post is part of a series. Read our modern Ireland post, all about St. Patrick's Day around the world, 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.
The Goddess Ériu and the Etymology of Ireland
Etymology, the study of the origin and development of words, is a tricky beast—some words we still use today predate written language and none so much as in a place like Ireland, with such a strong oral tradition. Tracking down the true source of words in the Irish language can be a bit of a wild goose chase, except on the off chance there’s a story behind it. March is indisputably the month of Ireland, especially at an Irish dance school, so today we’re diving into why Ireland’s called Ireland—a myth as old as any on the island, as it refers to the mother of the land itself.
The name for Ireland in Irish is Éire, a word meaning “bountiful,” “plentiful,” and “abundant,” which is derived from the name Ériu (and its anglicized version—Erin)—a goddess in ancient, Irish mythology. First described in print in the 11th century text The Book of the Taking of Ireland (i.e. Lebor Gabála Érenn,) Éiru is known as a sovereignty goddess, representing the country and the land itself in the form of a woman. Together with her two sisters, the lesser known Banba and Fódla (aka a trinity, a symbol strongly connected with Irish culture,) this triumvirate of goddesses were known by a number of epithets: the fair women, a famous throng, the clear voice of achievement, and the bright women of spirited speech.
But why is the island named after Ériu? Legend tells us that when the Milesians invaded Ireland, Éiru and her sisters, members and rulers of the race of the god-like Tuatha Dé Danann, stood against the colonizers, demanding they leave. When the tides began to turn against the Tuatha in the battle for their land, Éiru and her sisters each took the high ground on top of their favorite hilltops to concede to the invaders, on one condition: that the land be named after them so their names would be remembered. The Milesians—Gaels who traveled through Spain in order to reach their new home, ancestors of those we consider Irish today—agreed, but as Éiru was standing on top of the sacred peak of Uisneach, hers became the main name used (though Banba and Fódla remain poetic terms for Ireland.)
Over time, Éiru has become a personification of Ireland, appearing in innumerable nationalist poems and songs into the modern era. Using the concept of Ireland as a woman, often weeping and emotive over the state of the country, has been used for years as a way to stoke the fire in the hearts of Irish patriots. One of the best known pieces of literature that uses this trope is William Dreannan’s 1884 poem “When Erin First Rose,” which is also considered the text that first called Ireland “the Emerald Isle”:
When Erin first rose from the dark swelling flood,
God bless’d the green island and saw it was good;
The em’rald of Europe, it sparkled and shone,
In the ring of the world the most precious stone.
Of course, we know it even better in slogan form, as in: Erin Go Bragh! The anglicization of Éire go Brách, meaning literally “Ireland till the end of all time,” this rallying cry stems from the Irish rebellion of 1798. (Though it’s still often used today as the motto of Irish athletics clubs, politics parties, and even war battalions with Irish members in other countries, as a song or poem title, and generally to expressed Irish national pride.)
One more fun fact? If you remove the accent from the e (i.e. “eire” instead of “Éire,”) the name of the country transforms into Irish word for burden—a fact that, with Ireland’s complex political history, must get a chuckle out of the Irish. Erin Go Bragh and praise Éiru!
This post is part of a series. Read our last folklore post, all about Irish winter superstitions, 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.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, one and all! As shockingly American as this holiday is (though with approximately 32 million people of Irish ancestry in the U.S., maybe not so shocking,) it’s still a day to celebrate all things Irish—and not just here. Turns out, Ireland is so beloved (and those with Irish heritage so spread out…) that St. Patrick’s Day has traveled far abroad from its Celtic roots. Come explore some (we couldn’t possibly cover them all!) of the most surprising countries that put on their own St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (besides our own!)
There are only two countries in the world where St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday—Ireland and the island of Montserrat! This mountainous Caribbean Island is technically a British Overseas territory and is home to a disproportionally large number of people of Irish heritage stemming back to the days of colonization. The celebration reflects this complicated history—St. Patrick’s Day in Montserrat is part of a ten-day-long festival of independence celebrating a failed slave rebellion and the island’s unique mixture of Irish and African ancestry. It’s one of the most unique St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world!
Next, we travel to Singapore, the capital of which has the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in Southeast Asia. Festivities include dying the Singapore River green (à la Chicago,) a full cavalcade of costumed celebrants, and, of all things, a Harley-Davidson convoy kicking off the affair. But that’s not all—the St. Patrick’s Society Singapore (made up largely of Irish ex-pats who have made the island city-state their home,) throws a lavish ball each year at Singapore’s luxurious Shangri-la Hotel. A far cry from green beer at your local pub!
But Singapore and Chicago aren’t the only places with a penchant for turning things green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day—just check out Mumbai’s Gateway of India around March 17th. The arch’s colorization isn’t the only nod to the Irish holiday—India loves a celebration, and as St. Paddy’s falls just around the Holi festival (a celebration of spring and love best known in the West for its playful spreading of colors) it’s an easy way to keep the festivities going! There’s an astounding number of Irish pubs and restaurants in Mumbai that are packed for the holiday, many of which host large events that are dotted throughout the city (including a parade or two!)
South America isn’t known for its parades, but rather its wild street parties, and St. Patrick’s Day is no exception! Buenos Aires, Argentina marks the day (which they call El Dia de San Patricio) with a celebration organized by the Argentina-Ireland Association and the Irish Embassy—which does include a parade, but also a street party full of costumed dancers and live music, as well as Irish pubs serving dark beer and Irish meals cooked in Argentinian fashion. Maybe all this excitement for Irish culture has something to with the fact that an Irish-born man, William Brown, founded the Argentinian Navy in 1814?
As a country, Japan has begun to take to St. Patrick’s Day in recent years, with at least 13 cities across the island hosting March events celebrating Irish culture and history (sorry, possibly 15!) The largest event (the “I Love Ireland” Festival in Yoyogi Park) happens, unsurprisingly, in Toyoko, followed by the largest parade in the same place—an event held by the Irish Network Japan. In recent years, these events have even repeatedly hosted different Irish governmental officials—like the Irish Minister for Culture in 2019. As the weather is rather mild in Japan in March (and St. Patrick’s Day coincides with the cherry blossoms blooming!), it’s become an affair with over 180,000 participants!
If Japan seems far afield from Ireland, get ready for this one: there’s a St. Patrick’s Day celebration held approximately 11,500 miles away, very literally the furthest point on the globe one can get from Ireland, in New Zealand! This is another place where many citizens claim Irish heritage (1 in 6!), and in honor of that a large parade is held in Auckland (and more around the country, like Wellington and Christchurch,) before the Auckland Sky Tower is lit up green for the night!
This is barely the tip of the shamrock! There’s more celebrations and St. Patrick’s Day traditions to discover from Brazil to Lithuania, from Paris to Egypt, not to mention all the incredible parades and parties North America has to offer. But however and wherever you’re celebrating Ireland today, we do hope you’ll take a minute to dance!
This post is part of a series. Read our last modern Ireland post, recommendations for St. Patrick’s Day children’s books, 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.
Children’s Book Recs, Part 3
St. Patrick’s Day Edition!
What better way to get your dancer excited about St. Patrick’s Day than a good book? We’ve gathered five books themed around March 17th and all the traditions that come with the holiday here for you! (And if you’d like a few more suggestions, check out our first two sets of Irish children’s book recommendations here and here!)
1. The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day, Natasha Wing
Illustrated by Amy Wummer
Wing’s imaginative tale is part of a series of “The Night Before…” books, all modeled after (and in the verse form of) the Christmas classic, but taking place just before alternative holidays. Full of humor and whimsy, the story follows siblings Tim and Maureen as they stay up the night before this Irish holiday setting traps to catch, you guessed it, a leprechaun! The story breaks from its source material by extending into the next day, when the kids awaken to the smell of green eggs cooking and the sound of Dad’s bagpipes (no, this isn’t a mistake, there’s Irish bagpipes too!) But what are they supposed to do when they realize their trap actually worked? Will they be able to get the leprechaun to lead them to his pot of gold, or will the little trickster outsmart them? If you want a preview of the story before buying, check out a read along here!
2. A Fine St. Patrick’s Day, Susan Wojciechowski
Illustrated by Tom Curry
With a moral that stays solid rather than straying into the saccharine, Wojciechowski brings readers the story of two rival villages: Tralee and Tralah, who compete each year in a St. Patrick’s Day decoration contest. Our heroine, feisty but kind six-year-old Fiona O’Reilly, lives in Tralee—the town who’s never quite won the golden shamrock for best decorations, but she knows this will be their year. But when a small stranger appears in Tralah needing help to rescue his cows, only to be turned away by the busy villagers, Fiona is the one who keeps her priorities in check. Rallying her own town to the man’s aid, even though it takes them away from their contest preparations, Fiona’s kindness (and the town’s) is rewarded with a little Irish magic! Richly illustrated with gorgeous, bold paintings of a bucolic green countryside, this tale is one of cooperation and compassion over personal gain. See a read along of the story here!
3. Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland, Tomie dePaola
If you want to go with a slightly more historical route, check out renowned author-illustrator Tomie dePaola’s child-friendly account of the man the holiday is named for! A Connecticut native (Meriden-born!), dePaola is the product of an Irish-Italian upbringing and his bold and rounded, simple but effective, artistic style is immediately familiar to anyone who was a child from the 1970s-today. Best known for his Strega Nona books, among others, dePaola brings the folktales and customs of a variety of cultures to life, including his own Irish heritage (this book about St. Patrick is one of many!) The narrative covers both all we know to be true about St. Patrick—from his noble upbringing to his captivity in Ireland and subsequent visions that led him to his spiritual vocation—and all the rumored folklore (from driving out the snakes to his association with the shamrock.) As dePaola has won virtually every awards a children’s book author can, you know this one will be both entertaining and educational!
4. Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk, Gerald McDermott
Caldecott Medalist author-illustrator McDermott is, like dePaola, known for his impressively diverse work that travels the globe to teach children about different cultural mythologies. And among his man tales, we have one that focuses on the most popular of Irish myths: the leprechaun. Based on a tale common to many mythologies—a man who wins three magical gifts/wishes—McDermott brings this familiar tale to new life with his “well-honed, Irish lilt” and “lively, expressive” illustrations. This story of a poor Irishman and his wife (Tim and Kathleen) who stumble upon some kindly, but mischievous leprechauns (and the dastardly landlord Mr. McGoon!) is both a delight for kids and teaches an important lesson about following directions! Enjoy this read-along before buying!
5. The O’Brien Book of Irish Fairy Tales and Legends, Una Leavy
Illustrated by Susan Field
Irish author and poet Leavy brings ten classic tales from her homeland’s lore to life in this richly illustrated collection. Irish fairy tales are sweeping epic stories of bravery, lost love, and the oldest magics, certain to enchant readers of all ages. From tricky leprechauns (certainly a theme in all St. Patrick’s Day books!) and Oisín’s descent into Tir na nÓg to the sad tale of the Children of Lir, Leavy’s training as a poet, as well as Irish oral tradition, shines through her beautifully told takes on the age-old fables. Complete with an Irish Gaelic pronunciation guide that will help you and your dancer read along, this book captures the true spirit of St. Patrick’s Day in its skillful and faithful adherence to Irish cultural tradition. Not to mention the beautiful illustrations—which Field has said were all inspired by ancient, Celtic artwork—that help you see these tales through new eyes. (And consider trying the audiobook simultaneously—narrator Aoife McMahon’s beautiful accent does wonders to make you feel like you’re really in old Ireland as you read!)
We hope these get you and your dancer into the St. Patrick’s Day spirit--Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit!
This post is part of a series. Read our modern Ireland post, all about NUI Galway, 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 XX
Luck of the Irish
With roughly 32 million people in the U.S. now claiming Irish descent (with at least one in every county,) it can be easy to overlook the difficult history of the Irish immigrant within the States. Many of the stereotypes of the Irish we still hold on to today, ones that rear their ugly heads most prominently every year in March, were born from a legacy of intolerance and purposeful cruelty. Claims of the Irish as heavy drinking (even though pubs were closed by law on Saint Patrick’s Day until the 1970s,) red-haired (only about 10% of Irish people are redheads,) hot-tempered (though there are finally calls to combat the offensive “Fighting Irish” Notre Dame mascot in recent years and Ireland is known for its lack of serious violent crime,) deeply religious (though the number of people in Ireland who don’t identify with any religion has risen over 70% in recent years and are the second largest “religious” group in the country,) and as liars (plainly defamatory and probably stemming from the Irish tradition of storytelling and oral history) may be more of a joking matter now, but were once the basis for very real and harmful discrimination.
There’s one stereotype that seems like it couldn’t possibly be harmful, but like most origins, has a darker side: the luck of the Irish. These days we associate the phrase with rainbows, leprechauns, and pots of gold—though only one of those items is at all related. The fact of the matter is, the phrase “the luck of the Irish” was originally meant to be derogatory.
Edward T. O’Donnell, an Associate Professor of History at Holy Cross College, has determined the phrase has a western American origin, linked to the silver and gold rushes in the second half of the 19th century. As many of the most successful miners in this period proved to be Irish immigrants and Irish-Americans, the term “the luck of the Irish” found its feet—but not in a congratulatory way. Rather, the phrase was meant to imply that its only by sheer, dumb luck that the Irish were succeeding, rather than through their intelligence or hard work. This stereotype, of the Irish as lazy or dumb (tell that to a country with the highest rate of third level education in the EU,) coupled with the many others, led to a decidedly negative experience for the Irish immigrant during this time period.
In fact, life in 19th century America was certainly far from lucky for many Irish immigrants—many of whom never even made it across the Atlantic as they fled the Famine, leading to the term “coffin ships” for Irish vessels docking on the Eastern seaboard. If you made it to the U.S., you may have been greeted with “No Irish Need Apply” signs or signs in boarding house windows that said “No Dogs, No Irish” (these remained common in Britain into the 1950s.) And these examples are only the tip of proverbial iceberg—the full weight of the troubles the Irish suffered in America could, and does, fill many books. As the Irish were considered barbaric, savage heathens by the invading British as far back as our records go, that close-minded attitude continued to affect the U.S. populace long after we severed our ties from England.
This month we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day—and we’re not here to rain on that parade (fingers crossed it’s a beautiful day for the Hartford one!) However, as we don our green clothing and drink our green beers, it’s important to remember that our country hasn’t always celebrated all things Irish and pay respect to the more complicated history that lies behind us. While Irish luck has certainly turned in the past century as the Irish have spread across the globe, reminding ourselves of history is the best way to make sure we don’t repeat it.
This post is part of a series. Read our last Irish history post, all about Irish inventions, 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.
March is here, and for the Irish dancer that means one thing: performance time! Irish dance performances are never more in demand than in March, and we’re so excited for the number of opportunities this St. Patrick’s Day will have for dancers at all levels and dispositions. But after the last few years have posed more than the normal number of hurdles for in-person performances, we now have dancers that have been with us for multiple years that have yet to been able to perform with us on this most Irish of American holidays. Some dancers may be ready and raring to go, while some may be nervous…and we’re here to support and encourage your dancers no matter their stance on the matter!
First off, why perform? While we definitely don’t require it, we certainly do encourage it for a number of reasons. To begin, taking dance classes without the further step out into performance is a bit like going to basketball practice, but never playing a game. The act of performing is another part of your dancer’s training—where they learn to dance outside of the “safe space” of the studio and adapt to their audience and environment, lending a gravitas and feeling of accomplishment that just can’t be replicated in class. While their nerves could get the better of them, part of what dance teaches us is how to persevere and overcome, building self-confidence as we improve—both in the studio and on the stage!
Beyond that, while Irish dance can be performed alone, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum! Irish dance comes from a rich, age-old tradition that may stem from one country, but now links millions around the world. Performing has always been at the heart of the Irish dance community—and it’s a community that will welcome your dancer with open arms. From the support of the fellow SRL dancers and parents, to the small, low-stakes, and always grateful audiences St. Patrick’s performances can provide, March at SRL is the perfect opportunity for a dancer to make their first foray into the Irish dance community and feel its embrace. This will also help them gain confidence for the showcase in June!
But don’t take our word for it, we’ll let the dancers who have already experienced this speak to it! Here’s what a few of our veteran dancers have to say about why they love performing:
“Irish dancing is a part of my life. It brings me, and my family joy when I dance. So it’s amazing when I can give this joy to other people as well. This is why I perform, and I love to do it.”
“I love the joy in people’s faces when you dance, and all their cheering gives you energy and confidence! Also, it’s great to have a way to show off everything you’ve been working on all year.”
“ I like the preparation it takes. I love learning the new steps, and working with other dancers—it takes away some the stress of performing solo and makes it fun!”
“I like performing because it’s fun to do it with all my friends and the dances are so funny to learn—you get to cool moves you might not get to do in a normal dance. And…it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s just for fun!”
“I like to show the reason why I love to Irish dance—the fun part of performing. And I love encouraging younger dancers to start Irish dance!”
The deadline to signing up for any performance is 48 hours in advance. All the information you may need is in the 2022 Performance Handbook (or check your email and the parent portal for details about different performances!) but if you have any questions about the best performances for your dancer to attend, what they’ll be performing, how it works, costuming, etc., feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to help!
This post is part of a series. Read our last 411 post, all about the parental role in dancer development, 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
Galway, also known as the cultural heart of Ireland, the festival capital of Europe, the fourth largest city in the Republic, and home to one of Ireland’s top universities: National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway or NUIG.) Located in the heart of the city on the River Corrib, NUIG first opened its doors in 1849 as Queen’s College Galway and the western Irish city continued to build itself around the school. It’s come a long way since then—from less than 100 students to over 19,000, from 173 years in the past to one of the leading public research universities in the world.
Ranking in the top 2% of universities in the world, with 98% of graduates working or pursuing higher study within 6 months of graduation, NUI Galway’s reputation has been on the rise in recent years. In fact, in the past five years, NUIG has been the only university in Ireland to consistently rise in ranking in both the QS and Times University Rankings. This is mainly due to NUIG’s concentration on cutting edge, inter-disciplinary research programs that are of pressing importance to the wider world, drawing experts in five urgent fields: Applied Social Science and Public Policy, Biomedical Science and Engineering, Environment, Marine, and Energy, Humanities in Context (including Digital Humanities,) and Informatics, Data Analytics, and Physical and Computational Sciences. These programs include partnerships with over 3,000 outside institutions in 114 different countries.
As you can tell from the above, there’s essentially nothing that’s not on offer at NUI Galway—including the arts and not only Ireland’s, but all of Europe’s vast and expansive culture. Galway is a city just on the edge of Europe, meaning there’s nowhere better in Ireland for opportunities to travel and to expand students’ cultural experiences. And with international students making up 18% of the NUIG student body—that’s over 4,000 students from over 110 countries—the school itself is also a chance for students to explore new cultures…all while in the heart of Ireland’s own rich and vibrant culture (just check out their Celtic Studies department!)
With the motto Shared Vision, Shaped by Values, NUIG’s core tenets are respect, excellence, openness, and sustainability—looking toward kindness, striving for equality, and using academic greatness as a jumping off point to empower students to change the world for the better. It’s this view that education is for the social good versus individual edification that helped NUIG become the Sunday Times’s 2022 University of the Year—but also its reputation as a place where creativity thrives, no matter the subject matter. They’ve also made huge changes to adapt to the way the pandemic has challenged the traditional college experience, allowing students to explore more broadly in their first year before specializing—this “Designing Futures” program is a departure from most Irish and European schools.
The campus proves to be yet another plus—considered and consistently voted one of the most beautiful campuses in Europe, it combines the charm of a university town and all the benefits of a larger city (though the student body does make up 20% of the population during term!) Only moments away from a cosmopolitan experience with non-stop cultural (and plain old fun) festivals on one end or the rugged Irish country of Connemara and the Aran Islands on the other, NUIG has something for every student. And with details like their Aula Maxima being a replica of Christ Church’s in Oxford (but built of local stone,) these diverse experiences are also steeped in rich tradition. Student life is as varied as academic life—besides all the opportunities beyond the school’s walls, there’s a booming art and media scene, volunteer work, tons of sports clubs, and over 100 student societies to join. And while, like most schools in Europe, housing is largely outside of campus, NUIG does all it can to help facilitate the process!
Tune in next time, where we’ll be covering something a little different…one of Ireland’s technological universities!
This post is part of a series. Read modern Ireland post, all about UCC, 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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