Does your child love to jump, wiggle, and move? Have they been bouncing off the walls all year? Are they obsessed with watching dance videos on YouTube when they get their coveted screen time? (Us, too!) Maybe it’s time to find a new outlet for all that excess energy…and why not try Irish dance?
With Scoil Rince Luimni’s Intro to Irish Dance Summer Camp program, dancers from ages 2 to 12 will spend a week of classes letting that built up energy out, learning a new skill, and having safe, positive social interactions with new friends! This program is designed to really let your child try out this extremely active and fast-paced artistic sport in a secure and fun environment, but also to let you, as a parent, see if this is the right fit for your family. During one of our two Intro Summer Camp sessions, your dancer will take one class each evening (at a work-friendly time for parents,) for a full week to help them gage their interest (and get in some social time and physical exercise!)
As Irish dance has innumerable benefits (like increased coordination, flexibility, balance, and strength…along with musicality and life skills such as goal setting, teamwork, and self-determination,) we’ve added extra value to the Intro to Irish Dance Summer Camp program, as well! While you’ll be able to meet our staff, explore the studio, and get a feel for what Irish dance is all about, your purchase of a session also gifts you the first four weeks of classes come September for free! For our littlest dancers in our Tiny Jig or Pre-Beginner programs (2-5) this comes to only $125, and for our Beginners (6-12) only $155.
Sign up and see the full details here:
Session 1: July 18-22 or Session 2: August 15-19
Ages 2-3, 5:00-5:25PM
Ages 4-5, 5:30-6:00PM
Ages 6-12, 6:00-6:45PM
Have any questions? Feel free to shoot our Office Manager an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They're happy to help!
We look forward to meeting you soon!
This post is part of a series. Take a look at our last 411 post, all about the general benefits of summer camps, here. Also: 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.
Granuaile, The Pirate Queen
Irish history has no lack of strong female role models. From Saint Brigid of Kildare to in the 5th century to women’s rights activist Teresa Deevy, who lived into the 1960s (not to mention all before, between, and after!), Irish women have been breaking through the societal confines of their gender as long as there’s been people on the island. At SRL, we’re all about girl power, so tonight we’re bringing you the story of a headstrong woman in a male-dominated “workplace”--Granuaile, Ireland’s Pirate Queen.
Born Grace O’Malley in 1530 in County Mayo to the fierce, seafaring O’Malley clan, Granuaile grew up and was educated in Belclare Castle and on Clare Island. Her family rose to prominence in the 14th century, ruling the southern shore of Clew Bay and the majority of the Murrisk barony for over 300 years. From their early days, clan O’Malley took to piracy, boarding ships that were on their way to or from Galway while taxing all those who fished in their territory. They were a powerful and feared family all throughout Ireland, with their reputation making it all the way to British, French, and Spanish shores where their trading made them rich.
Grace was willful and determined from a young age—legend tells that at only 11 years old she pleaded with her father to join him on the sea. He refused (saying her long, red hair would get tangled in the ship’s rigging) and set off, only to find Grace with all her hair shorn off next time he returned home. She had convinced him and from that day forth was known on all the ships she worked on and eventually commanded as “Gráinne ni Mhaille” aka “Bald Grace”—a name which morphed into the almost mythical title of Granuaile.
At the age of 15, Granuaile married the son of equally influential O’Flaherty clan, Donal O’Flaherty, heir to yet another family known for their seafaring and piratical ways. The pair quickly had three children—Owen, Margaret, and Murrough— all while Granuaile continued to rise in her fleets’ esteem as a fearless leader. Donal died when Granuaile was only 23, making her head of both the O’Malley and O’Flaherty families (despite there being male heirs able to take over!) She would marry one more time—another political alliance with Richard Burke—who she famously “divorced” by calling to him through a window: “Richard Burke, I dismiss you” after one year of marriage. She kept control of much of his lands.
Her life continued to prove to be legendary and boundary-breaking until her death in 1603 at Rockfleet Castle, one of her many properties (including the O’Malley Castle, Doona, and Kildavnet—her reach extending all throughout the Mayo region.) It’s said she slept with the mooring ropes of her ship strung through her bedroom window so she could board her own ship at a moment’s notice and had an elaborate colored smoke signal system to communicate between her strongholds. Her one son with Richard Burke, Toby Burke aka “Tiobóid na Long or "Toby of the Ships,” was born in 1567 and was so named because Granuaile notably gave birth at sea. Not only that, but within an hour of his birth the ship was attacked by Algerian pirates. Rather than continue to recover, Granuaile appeared on the deck, wrapped in a blanket, and lead her crew into battle. They won.
Her most famous exploit, however, was her meeting with Elizabeth I. When the British captured brother and her two sons, Granuaile sailed up the Thames herself to petition the crown for their release. Granuaile and Elizabeth met at Greenwich Castle in September of 1593, a meeting during which Granuaile refused to bow as she was a Queen herself and recognized no other. The parlay was a success with the prisoners returned on the condition Granuaile and her fleets cease harrying British ships. Though Granuaile would eventually support the Irish insurgents who resisted British rule, she did end her piracy against the British and the two queens were said to have mutual respect for each other--they even died in the same year!
As a pirate (and a woman who broke societal norms,) much of the Irish histories, which were typically written by monks, erased Granuaile from their annals. Today, most period accurate accounts we have of her life come from the British—but the Irish are attempting to rectify that. In 2021, the Mayo City Council, in conjunction with Ireland’s largest tourism board (Failte Ireland,) announced a plan to create a “Pirate Trail” honoring Granuaile and her place in Irish history. The plan is to post sign posts throughout the Mayo region, leading people through the history of the Grace O’Malley’s historic, intrepid lifetime. This comes on the heels of 100 years of Irish independence from the British, celebrating Granuaile as “one of the last Irish leaders to defend against English rule in Ireland.”
While a pirate may not technically be a role model for young women, someone like Grace O’Malley, who chases her dreams and breaks through the proverbial glass ceiling, certainly is. We might not condone the looting, plundering, and commandeering, we can condone someone who bucks society’s expectation of women. Strong, bold, and brave—just like our SRL dancers!
This post is part of a series. Read our last Irish History post, all about Irish inventors, 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.
Summer is here! That means long months of no school--which can be a benefit or a problem, depending on which side of the parent/child divide you're on. But since the 1870s, parents have been turning to the most active possible solution to keep their kids engaged during the hottest months…summer camp!
Connecticut has a long history with summer camps, with the first American summer camp having been founded in Gunnery, CT just after the Civil War. The idea caught fire and in a less than 20-year period around the turn of the century the number of summer camps in the United States rose from 100 to over 1,000. These first camps were all about removing children from urban environments to reconnect with nature, and this kind of summer camp hasn’t changed all that much since. But after WWII, parents were eager to return their children to a more innocent time and summer camps had a second boom—this time with a wider range of variety as special-interest camps such as sports camps and arts camps popped up all over the country.
But what has made the summer camp an American institution? The skills taught at summer camps—be it outdoorsmanship or art forms like dance—have always been only part of the equation. The Harvard Graduate School of Education puts it this way: “All those classic camp dynamics—being away from home and parents, making new friends, being part of a team, and trying new things—are building blocks to crucial social-emotional [learning (or SEL)] skills.” Foundational, SEL skills include “self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making” and have been found to be crucial for both success in school and in later, professional life. But, unfortunately, due to the restraints placed on teachers by state-mandated curriculums, we often see this type of learning not prioritized in the classroom. Americans have been turning to a solution outside of school for 150 years now, and we have the data to back it up: a 2005 study conducted by the American Camp Association found consistent and significant growth in SEL skills (and self-confidence) in children after only a single summer camp session!
As important as SEL skills are, there’s another factor that’s helped give summer camps such staying power: the physical benefits. The majority of summer camps have always included a focus on physical activity, and in our increasingly digitized world, finding a healthy and active outlet for kids is more important than ever. We all know that our country has been facing issues for years when it comes to the health of younger generations—but it turns out summer camp could be of help. In a 2011 edition of the Journal of Adolescence, a study reported that adolescents with no organized summer activities were at the greatest risk of obesity, while a 2010 study found that day camp campers who were exposed to active peers and active teachers were more likely to be physically active even after camp ended. While a week of physical activity is definitely good, the way camps instill the habit of exercise is even better!
While our registered dancers here at SRL Irish Dance Academy (from Pre-Beginner level up!) know all about how fun one of our summer camps can be, what about someone who’s never attended an Irish dance class? Don’t worry, we have a great option for even the newest dancer, as well! SRL is hosting two, week-long “Intro to Irish Dance” Summer Camps this year. Each week consists of five straight days of one class a day (at work-friendly times for parents!) to give new dancers a real feel for our year-long programs. Click the link above to learn more about our two upcoming sessions from July 18th-22nd and August 15th-19th. We hope to see you there!
This camp is multipurpose, for not only will it ease a parent’s mind about how interested their child is in Irish dance before enrolling for the year, but it will provide that social and physical outlet kids need every summer (but this one especially!) Even if your child finds out Irish dance isn’t right for them, they’ll still be invited into a fun, welcoming environment, taught to stretch and move their body in new ways, and be able to interact with their peers as both team mates and friends while they increase their self-esteem by learning a new skill. We’ve been holding classes in our clean, appropriately socially-distanced studio since September without any issue, and are excited to introduce your child to the world of Irish dance!
We could go on and on about the benefits of starting dance early (and we already have! check out our post about it,) but the real takeaway from SRL’s intro program is the same as any camp: increasing your child’s SEL skills while allowing them to express themselves in a healthy way and have fun! This opportunity creates a break from technology, lets them develop a sense of independence, let all that silly energy out, and have more and varied social interactions. And, not to mention, it gives parents a much-needed break, too!
Learn more about our “Intro to Irish Dance" Summer Camp—which comes with a very special package deal for the Fall! Or feel free to reach out by phone or email (email@example.com) for more info. We look forward to dancing with you soon!
Children’s Books, Part 4
With summer vacation just now getting underway, there’s a lot of extra time to fill for all our SRL parents! We’re here with some book recommendations for our littlest dancers (aka picture books) to help keep your child’s interest on Ireland and Irish dance over the break while entertaining them. (Maybe it will even inspire some practice!) Enjoy!
1. The Irish Cinderlad, Shirley Climo
Illustrated by Loretta Krupinski
This one is an incredible mash-up, with a twist to boot: not only is it a reimagining of Cinderella mixed with Irish folklore—it’s a gender-swap with a male protagonist! Becan’s always been worried about his big feet, but his worries multiple when his father remarries and his stepmother and her three daughters treat Becan cruelly. Becan runs away to escape a life with only bread crusts to eat and toiling in the field, and finds himself on a grand adventure. With a magical bull for a fairy godmother for help, Becan defeats creatures out of Irish lore and rescues a princess—running off and leaving only his remarkably large boot behind. When the princess is searching the kingdom for the owner of the giant boot, Becan wonders: what will be his fate when his feet give him away? This book has overwhelmingly positive reviews on Goodreads and Amazon for its mix of familiar fairytale with Irish myth (and for being one of the rare fairytales that centers on a male!)--get a preview with this video of the book being read out loud!
2. Kathleen O’Byrne: Irish Dancer, Declan Carville & Brendan Ellis
Books about Irish dance are rare, and we’ve covered a few already in previous posts (check out part 2 or some holiday gift ideas for more,) but if you look hard enough you can find a few hiding out there on the internet! This one tells readers about a young Irish dancer named Kathleen, who practices her jigs, reels, and hornpipes any available moment of the day. Kathleen longs to wear an embroidered dress at a feis like the older dancers, and she’s absolutely crushed when she’s told she isn’t quite ready for that step. However, with the help of some neighborhood friends, she learns how to deal with disappointment and that the most important part of Irish dance isn’t the costumes or competitions, but the joy the art can bring her and others! This very important lesson for any Irish dancer to learn is complimented by beautiful illustrations painted by medical illustrator Ellis and even has a special feature about the history of Irish dance!
3. Fin M’Coul: The Giant of Knockmany Hill, Tomie dePaola
Tomie dePaola’s books are all classics for multiple reasons: his iconic and instantly recognizable illustrations, his ability to translate the mythology of a multitude of cultures for little readers, and his ability to fill any lore with charm, kindness, and grace. This ALA Notable Book is no different as dePaola tackles one of the most iconic stories in Irish mythology: Fin M’Coul and the creation of the Giant’s Causeway. When Fin M’Coul is spending his days in peace on Knockmany Hill when he’s challenged by the Scottish giants across the sea. M’Coul spends his days building a causeway to go confront the Scottish when he learns that a much bigger and stronger giant, Cucullin is the one waiting to fight him. Terrified, M’Coul tells his wife Oonagh of his fears, and she comes up with a clever plan full of magic and cunning to save her husband. Along with the detailed borders based on ancient Irish metalwork, you can’t get more Irish than this! (And don’t miss dePaola’s other Irish books: Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato and Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland.)
4. Irish Dancer: Oireachtas, Katherine Monahan
Illustrated by Katy Jackson
That’s right, we managed to find not one, but two books about Irish dance! For our Irish dance parents a little newer to the world, let us explain the second part of the title: Oireachtas (pronounced, roughly, ee-ruck-tuhz) is a larger dance competition for dancers competing at a higher level (a step above a feis, let’s say—you have to qualify to compete!) Monahan is a veteran Irish dancer who started dancing at 9 and ended her career by attending the Oireachtas World Championship in Ireland, so you know she knows her stuff! Accompanied by Jackson’s lively illustrations that help capture the unique movements of Irish dance out in the wider world, this story follows an Irish dancer as she practices and prepares for a big competition. But it’s not just about competing! It’s about determination in reaching your goals, as well as the happiness, confidence, and the strength that comes from the incredible artistic sport of Irish dance—a must read for our future World Champs! Listen to Monahan talk about her book on The Irish Dance podcast here.
5. A Pot O’ Gold: A Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, and (of course) Blarney, Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by David M. Phail
With a classic illustration style that will remind parents of the nursery rhyme treasuries of their childhood, Krull’s collection tackles the huge historical, mythological, and literary lore of the Emerald Isle. Combining everything from beloved recipes and stories to timeless poems by Yeats and Joyce and traditional songs (never forgetting those bits of blarney all the way through,) this collection is meant for families to enjoy throughout the years together. These tales and this rich history has engaged imaginations throughout the world for thousands of years—and these legends of everything from leprechauns and faeries to the real life culture of Ireland helps continue the tradition. A truly unique volume for both its expansiveness (over 50 individual entries!) and its effectiveness, this is one that every generation can enjoy together.
This post is part of a series. Read our last modern Ireland post, all about Irish slang, 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.
We’ve made it! We’re officially at the end of our core value acronym of G.R.E.A.T.E.R.--R for Resiliency. While every one of our core values are equally important, resiliency does hold a special place in the heart of SRL: it’s the thing that makes sure your dancer is able to make use of all those other qualities! While most people would automatically equate resiliency with a kind of “toughness,” the word means more than that. It’s not actually about being tough per say, but about being flexible, about the ability to adapt to both new and adverse situations, and about being able to reform oneself after you take a hit. Resilient people are tough, but not just tough—their particular form of toughness allows them to strengthen their sense of self as they learn, adapt, and grow.
The word flexible is one dancers hear a lot about, and while it might be a key part of high kicks, flexibility is nothing on its own—you still have to have the strength to keep your form. That’s the truth of resiliency: not just flexibility, but the ability to stay strong while being flexible—essentially, embracing mistakes and difficulties as improvement opportunities, rather than focus on the negatives. A resilient dancer doesn’t give up just because a combination is challenging, but rather finds the reward in the hard work and delayed gratification of mastery (a quality studies show helps produce healthier and happier adults.) The combination of strength and flexibility is all about learning, rather than being discouraged—something that adults functioning in the real world need to embrace as much as Irish dancers in the studio.
The world of dance is all about progress and growth (another core value!,) and that means constantly adapting as things change. Periods of transition (i.e. change in circumstance) are consistently evaluated as the biggest stressors in anyone’s life, no matter their age—moving, divorce, unemployment, grief, we all know the stereotypical examples. Like everything in life, learning how to deal with these big moments of transition start small: by learning how to adapt to changes on a micro-scale. Whether it be a classmate moving on to another level when you haven’t quite gotten there yet, disappointing feis results, or an injury, instilling resiliency allows our dancers to take a step back from their situation, problem solve, and continue forward. It’s easy for an unsuccessful moment to get you down, but resilient dancers (and people) know that chancing failure by taking safe, considered risks, and continuing to do so even when they don’t work out, is the only way to succeed.
Lastly, resiliency isn’t just about outside influences—it’s equally about a dancer’s sense of self. The key for anyone to be able to adapt versus change when presented with a new or difficult situation is to have a strong sense of self that includes self-review, self-care, and self-love. Not all change is bad, of course, but there’s a difference between changing yourself for growth, and changing yourself to fit in—and while we want our dancers to adapt, we want them to be their best selves, not a forced self, while they do it! One of the main definitions of resiliency includes a substance’s ability to return to its original form after being bent, stretched, etc.—and that’s the kind of resiliency we want to instill in our dancers: the hard times in your life don’t define you, but rather your determination to recover from them. This stems from an ability to take stock, take care of yourself, and do what’s best for you—true resiliency is a dedication to the health of the self in each and every circumstance.
There’s our SRL Core Values: G for Growth, R for Respect, E for Excellence, A for Appreciation, T for Transparency, E for Enthusiasm, and now, R for Resiliency. It’s a resilient spirit that allows our dancers to take challenges as opportunities for growth, that in turn allows them to strive for excellence, and to appreciate even the hard moments in their dancing careers and life. It allows them to be transparent with themselves about their skills and abilities—knowing they’re able to keep going—and allows enthusiasm to be their leading way of looking at the world, even when things get hard. Ultimately, helping our SRL dancers become G.R.E.A.T.E.R. isn’t just about dance, but the life lessons your dancers can take out of the studio to become successful in whatever they set their minds to.
This post is part of a series. Read our last core values post, all about capital E for Enthusiasm, 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.
Read our last ten fun facts here!
1. The first documented immigrant that passed through Ellis Island hailed from Cork! The 17-year-old girl was named Annie Moore and she was traveling with her two younger brothers to reunite with the rest of their family in New York City on New Year’s Day 1892.
2. There’s a reason Ireland’s so green--County Dublin is home to over 130 named rivers and streams, not to mention innumerable unnamed tributaries! Some of the best names? Bloody Stream, Cemetery Drain, Cuckoo Stream, Kill o’ the Grange Stream, Little Dargle River, River Poddle, Robinhood Stream, Scribblestown Stream, and Sruh Croppa River are some of the most notable!
3. Limerick was briefly a Soviet City. During the War for Independence, the British government declared the area a Special Military Area—but the locals weren’t having it. The Limerick Trade and Labour Council went on strike in protest and declared the city “Irish Soviet.” They went so far as to print their own money and organize food supplies, despite the fact this only lasted for 12 days—April 15th-27th, 1919!
4. One of the most experienced early Antarctic explorers, Tom Crean, was from County Kerry. He was born in Annascaul and went on to join both the Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions (led by the even more famous Captain Robert Falcon Scott,) as well as Ernest Shackleton’s mission aboard the Endurance. He survived it all and went on to open a pub back in Ireland called The South Pole Inn. It’s still in operation today!
5. The first motorboat race in the world (and an international competition, to boot) was held in Cork in 1903! It’s was called the Harmsworth Cup (though it’s now more popularly referred to as the Harmsworth Trophy,) was held in the town of Cobh, and was held through 2011!
6. Little known fact: famed boxer Muhammed Ali has an Irish ancestor—with ties to County Clare in particular. Abe Grady, Ali’s great-grandfather, was born in Ennis before he immigrated to America in 1860. He later married an emancipated slave who became Ali’s great-grandmother.
7. Galway has the largest Gaeltacht (aka “Irish-speaking community” that typically holds fast to Irish traditions and culture) in Europe (and thus, in the world.) Unfortunately, a recent study showed that up to 70% of people in Gaeltacht areas don’t speak Irish (aka Gaeilge) daily (meaning only roughly 27,000 people use it every day,) though there are many movements that hope to preserve the language.
8. While the words “Ireland” and “surfing” don’t seem to have much in common, people have been surfing in Ireland since a man named Joe Roddy cobbled together Ireland’s first surfboard together from spare pieces of furniture in 1949. The sport is currently having a surge of popularity in Ireland—especially as one of the world’s biggest, surfable waves breaks regularly in Mullaghmore, County Donegal.
9. Valentina Island in County Cork is home to the world’s oldest known footprints! Discovered in 1993 by an undergraduate geology student, these tetrapod tracks are thought to be 385 million years old.
10. Dublin is a UNESCO “City of Literature.” This honor was bestowed as acknowledgement for having produced so many literary giants including, but not limited to: Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and Bram Stoker, as well as Nobel laureates W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and Seamus Heaney. (The other recognized cities are: Norwich in England, Iowa City in the USA, Edinburgh in Scotland, Melbourne in Australia, and Reykjavik in Iceland.)
This post is part of a series. Read our last fun facts post 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.
Read our original post on this subject here!
At SRL Irish Dance Academy, our annual Showcase (aka our end of the year recital) is just around the corner! We have more first time Showcase participants than ever this year—both because of our bounty of new students, and the pandemic having paused the tradition for two years. We’re here to provide some tips that will hopefully help our dancers (and, by extension, their parents,) have a stress-free and fun time during this performance that’s more celebration than anything else!
First off, we make sure to frame the recital in a casual way, and recommend you do so at home, too! We don’t stress this being a big, cumulative performance, but rather talk about it as a fun, low-key way for our dancers to share the skills they’ve learned this year (and the joy of dance) with friends and family. The audience isn’t the focus of the conversation—the dancer is! When they practice in class, we emphasize the importance of doing our best and showing our best skills, looking straight ahead and focusing on technique—not who’s watching them.
However, the audience is there and the dancers, no matter how little, will realize it eventually. Just make sure they remember—this isn’t any audience, it’s a friendly audience! It’s an auditorium full of moms and dads, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, and grandparents and friends that are there to do one thing: cheer each and every dancer on. Mistakes will happen, but no one in the audience will mind—they’re there to support and know that everyone on that stage is learning! Your dancer’s expectation of their self is likely higher than yours, just make sure they know that!
And if they’re still feeling nervous? Practice makes perfect isn’t just a saying! There’s lots of way in this last week or so before the performance to help soothe their nerves. First off, try to make sure there’s no mirrors around while they’re practicing, so they can get used to an environment without them. However, feel free to record them performing for them to watch back—self-critique is an important skill to practice, and this is a fantastic opportunity. Lastly, try to work up a “mock audience”—this may be just your family, all their stuffed animals, or some friends from the neighborhood—the key is to help them treat the practice like the performance so it will feel normal day of.
But our biggest tip? Don’t stress it! When you talk with your dancer about performing the emphasis should always be on the fun of performing. It’s a good idea to discuss what happens if and when they mess up—after all, even the most professional dancers still screw up on stage—and it comes down to three words: just keep dancing! This Showcase is supposed to be a fun time for them—if they fell down while playing tag, they’d get right back up and keep on running! Framing the performance as just another fun thing they’re doing with their dance friends is the best way for nervous dancers to keep going if they get scared.
Don’t stress it goes for parents as well. Your dancer might freeze on stage, or decide to freestyle, or do everything backward. And that’s okay! It doesn’t mean they’re not learning in class, or not cut out for dance, or not cut out for performing—and we can guarantee there’s no mess up that will scar them for life. It’s important for both of you to remember this is the beginning of the road, emphasizing the achievement of going out on stage no matter what happens, and helping build their confidence on that bedrock. We have parents every year that swear their dancer is too shy or not ready—only to have that dancer go out on stage, and come back more independent, confidence, and proud of themselves then they were that morning. Just like Irish dance, performing is a skill that takes time to build, and this is just the beginning!
For our new and younger dancers, Showcase has a second opportunity in store for them: there’s no way they won’t leave inspired by the performances of the older and more experienced dancers. Many of our younger dancers will have never seen Irish dance performed at a higher level live, and can be a real moment of motivation for them—to see something like an “end” goal. Highly talkative dancers will likely leave and chat on and on about the hard shoe or Championship numbers, while our quieter dancers might show their passion for Irish dance in subtle ways—practicing more while no one’s watching, or writing or drawing about the Showcase. In any case, it’s the kind of excitement we’re looking to foster!
Remember: the doors open at 2:45 pm for gold ticket holders and 3:00 pm for the rest of the audience. (Need to buy your tickets and can’t find the link? Email firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP!) There will be opportunities before the show to enter our raffle for some fantastic prizes, the proceeds of which will go to SRL’s fundraising efforts towards new costumes, competition stipends, scholarships, and equipment. We can’t wait to see you there!
This post is part of a series. Read our last 411 post, our recital rundown, 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.
Most Famous Tales, Part 2
Missed part 1? Check it out here!
We’re back again this week with some of the most famed tales in Irish mythology! Much like Americans grow up hearing all about the Headless Horseman (which likely comes from an Irish myth originally!) and Rip Van Winkle, the French Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, and the Danish the Little Mermaid and Chicken Little (though those have made their way here, as well,) the Irish have their own common folklore and fairy tales. (Though, theirs tend to have actual faeries.) Enjoy!
The Pangs of Ulster
This one’s for all the mom’s out there! Long ago there was a cattle farmer named Crunniuc mac Agnomain (aka Crunden,) who tragically lost his wife. He struggled to work and take care of his three children, until one day he returned to the field to find the house in perfect order, dinner bubbling in the hearth, and a beautiful woman sitting at his table. She said her name was Macha and that she has decided to be his wife—Crunden agreed, and though he could tell she was of the Otherworld (more on that later) by how swiftly she could run, she was a wonderful partner and they were very happy. Then, one day, all of Ulster was invited to see the King Connor of Ulster’s fine new horses and before Crunden left, Macha warned Crunden not to boast of her of disaster would follow. However, when the King claimed no one in the land was as fast as his new horses, Crunden couldn’t help himself and bragged his wife was faster. King Connor declared Crunden prove it or forfeit his life, even though Macha begged the King and his men or mercy as she was heavily pregnant. When they all refused, Macha ran the race and the won, but the activity caused her to go into labor. When the twins she bore didn’t make it, Macha cursed the warriors of Ulster. Whenever they most needed their strength, it would desert them and give way to the pangs of labor for nine days and nine nights, lasting for nine generations.
The Cattle Raid of Cooley (Táin bó Cuailgne)
Considered the Ulster cycle’s most epic story, this tale takes place in the 1st century AD and centers around Queen Mebh/Maeve, jealousy, and fragile egos. As daughter of the High King of Ireland, she was greatly offended when her husband, Ailill, proved himself to be wealthier due to the prized white bull in his possession. Maeve learned there was only one other bull in all of Ireland more prized than her husband’s: Donn Cuagilnge, the Brown Bull of Ulster, owned by the powerful Daire of Cooley in Ulster. Maeve asked him to loan her the bull for a year in exchange for many treasures and he agreed—but when he overheard Maeve’s men boasting that if the Daire hadn’t agreed they would have taken it by force, he was angered and reneged on the deal. Maeve and her husband combined forces, and with the Daire’s men also afflicted with the Pangs of Ulster, Maeve thought she would be victorious. However, a great warrior named Cú Chulainn from Connacht defeated each of Maeve’s warriors one at a time, including the greatest (Ferdia) in an epic, five-day battle. Finally, the bulls fought, with Donn Cuagilnge emerging as the winner. Queen Maeve and the Daire then made a peace treaty that ensured there would be no battle between them for seven years.
Oisín and Niamh
The most commonly known legend of the Otherworld (aka Tír na nÓg, the Land of Youth,) is the tale of Oisín and Niamh. Many years ago lived a legendary warrior named Oisín, son of the leader of the great warriors known as the Fianna, and together they explored and protected all the beautiful green hills of Ireland. One day, Oisín and warriors came upon a beautiful maiden on a stately white horse surrounded by golden light. She introduced herself as Niamh, and said she was looking for the warrior Oisín, as she had heard tell of his skill, so she could bring him back with her to her home in magical land of Tír na nÓg where no one aged or knew sadness and lived forever. Oisín agreed, promising his father he would return soon, and though Tír na nÓg was all Niamh had promised and they were happy together, he missed his homeland. Niamh was reluctant to let him return, for though Oisín believed only a few short years had passed, 300 years had passed in the human world. But she agreed, with one condition—he would ride her white horse to visit and never let his feet touch the ground while he was there. Oisín was saddened by the changes he saw, but stayed to help a few old men move a rock—however, when he leaned off his horse to assist, he fell. When Oisín touched the ground he aged immediately, living only long enough to tell his tale.
Diarmuid and Gráinne
Another famous hero in the Fianna’s ranks, Diarmuid, was known for his fighting skills, but even more for his great beauty--he was born with a Bol Sherca (“love spot”) in the middle of his forehead, causing all who saw him to fall in love. Diarmuid was very loyal to the Fianna’s leader, Finn Mac Cumhaill (aka Finn McCool,) and was there at his side when Finn decided it was time to take another wife. He chose Gráinne, the most beautiful woman in Ireland. Gráinne had fallen in love when she was only 12-years-old with a boy she saw playing hurling, but many years had passed and she hadn’t seen the boy again, so she agreed to marry. But at her wedding feast she saw him again for the first time in so long: the boy she had always loved was none other than Diarmuid. Gráinne hatached a plan—she drugged the wine of all the warriors so they would sleep and put Diarmuid under a geasa to run away with her (meaning an act had to performed or great misfortune would ensue—a kind of oath.) Though it broke his heart to betray his leader, Diarmuid could not break a geasa. Aengus Óg, the god of love, approved of their match and decided to help them, though Finn McCool pursed them in revenge and they could never stop running. They ran for years and years, while Diarmuid and Gráinne lived as man and wife and raised five children, but they were tired and wanted to make peace with Finn. Though they resolved their issues and lived peacefully for a time, Finn McCool eventually got his revenge. When, years later, Diarmuid was gored by a boar, Finn McCool initially refused to heal him with water from his hands (one of his magical abilities.) Though he changed his mind, it was too late and Diarmuid passed on.
As we say in English: The End! Or, if you prefer, in Gaeilge: Sin Sin (which really means: that’s that!)
This post is part of a series. Read our last mythology post, filled with four other famous Irish tales, 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.
With SRL’s annual Showcase recital just around the corner (we hope you’ve marked your calendar: Saturday, June 18th!) we’re on the blog tonight with a rundown of all you need to know! After the past two years getting paused for the obvious reasons, we know many of our parents and dancers have never participated in an annual Showcase, so we’ve gathered all the info here for you to refer back to.
First up: beforehand prep! While all dancers should have their costumes all set at this point, we recommend double-checking them now so nothing’s missing day of (no one wants to go looking for a second poodle sock in a scramble at 8 am for that afternoon’s performance.) And parents, if you don’t have your ticket yet, it’s time to buy! There are two kinds of tickets available: the Gold tickets, which allow you in to the auditorium at 2:45 pm to get priority seating, or the Standard, where you’ll enter at 3:00 pm for the 3:30 pm show! Remember: tickets are nonrefundable, but they are transferrable. If something comes up, you’re able to pass your ticket along to a family member or friend! Since this is a private event, all parents have received the link to buy tickets in the monthly announcements…but if you’re having any trouble locating it just reach out to email@example.com.
Now, the big stuff: day of! Dancers should be dropped off by their parents at 11:30 am at the East Catholic High School auditorium in Manchester for the all-important dress rehearsal (Tiny Jig dancers will arrive a little later at 1:30 pm.) The reasons for this early arrival are many. Dress rehearsals help newer dancers (and the experienced ones!) get used to the stage after only practicing in the studio, tamp down their nerves, get in some last-minute practice, and let dancers receive any last-minute corrections and tips before the big show! For our staff, it makes sure we can nail down things like lighting and cues, while working out any logistical kinks. Also, since dancers are backstage for the majority of Showcase, it gives them a chance to see the show!
In the case of our littlest dancers (Tiny Jig and Pre-Beginner classes only,) one parent is allowed to attend rehearsal with each dancer and stay throughout the day until showtime. As only one parent (and no siblings, friends, etc.) are allowed to join each dancer, we understand that some parents may need to drop off their dancer—don’t worry, each class will have a parent volunteer assigned, so there will be plenty of supervision! While dancers Pre-Beginner and above will head back to backstage once they’ve performed, our Tiny Jig dancers will have a special place to sit to watch the rest of the show. One last bit of info for all ages: make sure your dancer eats before rehearsal and comes with plenty of snacks! It’s a long day, and we need our performers properly fueled!
Then, on to the show! The Showcase will begin at 3:30 pm, wrapping up around 5 pm. This is our 8th Annual Showcase and aims to celebrate all our dancers—from 2-years-old to our Championship dancers—doing everything from showing off the new skills they’ve learned this year to displaying the best Irish dance has to offer in fun, exciting numbers! It’s also an opportunity to celebrate our 2022 graduates, scholarship recipients, and do some all-important fundraising for the studio. Make sure to check out all the incredible prizes we’ll be offering in our raffle this year, from Hartford Yard Goats tickets to Bear's Smokehouse gift certificates, and so much more!
The final reminder? To have fun! Performing can be stressful, especially for young or new dancers, so our biggest focus is to make sure the fun of performing is emphasized for them so they’ll be excited to return to Irish dance and all its innumerable benefits next year! While performing isn’t necessarily every dancer’s goal, it can be a confidence-boosting and exciting experience that helps dancers mark their progress after a year of hard work. We look forward to seeing you, your dancer, and your enthusiasm there!
This post is part of a series. Read our last 411 post, all the parental role in a dancer's 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.
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