Right now, we’re growing into a very specific generation of parents: those who understand and use social media, but didn’t necessarily grow up with the same breadth and pressure of social media that their children are currently facing. Whether you’re a fan of using these platforms or not, facts are facts and social media has become an unavoidable part of our lives--the Pew Research Center reported in 2018 that 95% of teenagers in America have access to smartphones, and 45% of those report being online “on a near-constant basis.” While you can’t completely control what your kid sees online, you can encourage them to develop a habit of positive social media usage where they make better choices about what they decide to consume.
You, as a parent, know the dangers of social media—data breaches, cyberbullying, inappropriate content, and predators among the top issues—and while making your child aware of these possible risks and monitoring their usage is necessary, it’s not the only way to positively influence how they spend their online time. First off, the “social” aspect of social media is something to focus on! While it’s easy to view constant scrolling as isolating (and it can be,) the biggest reported positive takeaway teens get from social media is connection. With friends (81% of polled teens agreed!), with people who like the same TV shows and books and music, with other cultures and viewpoints and ways of life. Teaching your child from their first interactions with social media that it can be a positive way for people to stay connected (especially in this Covid world) is the first step to changing the way they see and then use social media.
Then, we can also help kids be introspective about what they’re looking at and why. If they understand the purpose of social media as positive, they’re simply less likely to be sucked into any negative behavior. However, any lesson works better when you’re given concrete examples. Try scrolling with them through their feed (or yours, if they’re not allowed their own yet,) on Instagram or TikTok (just in case you haven’t heard, Facebook is apparently only for older people now,) and discuss different posts. There are many questions to pose, but there’s two big ones to start: Why did someone post this? and How does it make you feel when you see it? These questions will start your child thinking about the concept of other people having motivation around their posting, and how social media is intrinsically tied to our self-perception. Give an example where you unfollow a creator because their content is no longer serving you—maybe it makes you feel bad, or maybe you’re just no longer interested. Showing your kid how they control their own experience on social media is one of the keys to being able to use social media in a way that gives something, rather than takes away.
Then, as they get older, you can find concrete examples of how social media can be used positively. There are many, but some favorites include: social media for social change and community outreach, social media for learning, and, of course, social media for creativity—including dance! Redirecting versus restricting your kid’s social media use allows them access to the world, but instead helps guide their content consumption in the right direction.
Our recommendations? Do some research! Show your kid things like Greta Thunberg’s Twitter account where she uses her voice to advocate for better responses to climate change, or this report on how social media is letting emergency responders save more lives. And maybe they know more about this than they realize. Ask your child if they know any examples of people banding together on social media--K-Pop fans have been making the headlines recently, for instance—and let them teach you! And while a straight forward educational program might not be able to captivate your kid’s interest, what about a TikTok account that shows tons of cool experiments and the science behind them in easy-to-digest, short videos? The learning doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom—this study shows that our increase in social media use has had positive effects in promoting cross-cultural understanding. Every time your kid gets on their phone or computer, their able to experience far-flung places they’ve never even heard of through the eyes of someone else—talk about a way to build empathy!
And remember: they are called content creators, after all. Opening ourselves up to the wider world helps open up our brains, increasing creativity as we see and consider new perspectives. And since you’re on the SRL blog, we bet your kid is a dancer, or at least an aspiring one. Irish dance social media is booming, and a real place of creation, community, and support. Check out the Irish dance tags across platforms and help your dancer find role models and examples in their favorite artistic sport. You can even encourage them to continue the trend of positive social media if they seem interested in making their own content with the same conversations--Why are you posting this? How does it make you feel? How might it make others feel? Remember: social media learns our habits (through a process too complicated for us to explain here,) and while that can sound a bit creepy, it also means the more your kids focus on positive social media, the more positive social media they’ll see!
While banning social media totally may seem like the best idea, we all know the stories about what happens when you tell a kid they can’t have something everyone else has—they find a way to rebel. Shaping the conversation around social media in your household will help your kid feel a sense of independence and personhood where they’re better able to make good decisions for themselves. And, adults, this advice is for you too! It’s all too easy to get swept away in people’s beautiful vacations and perfect photos on social media—we need a reminder that we control the content we consume sometimes, too!
This post is part of a series. Read our last 411 post, all about the benefits of mixed-age range classes, 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.
A Samhain Feast!
Last year, we covered the Irish holiday of Samhain is great detail (check out these posts if you want to know more!) But, to sum it up—the origins of modern-day Halloween can be traced back to the Irish Pagan tradition of Samhain (pronounced sow-inn,) an ancient fire festival marking the beginning of the “dark half of the year.” Druidic priests would build a large communal bonfire, and, as it was believed that the veil between our world and the “otherworld” was thin on this night, costumes and treats became part of the celebration (to trick bad spirits and feed good ones!)
But, after the fire and turnip jack-o’-lanterns, what was the most important Samhain tradition? A feast, of course! Pretty much all festivals in ancient Ireland included a feast, but the Samhain feast was special and almost like our modern, American Thanksgiving—it was a time to come together as a family and a community before the harder, leaner months of winter. With the last of harvest upon the table, it was a time to take stock and celebrate before minds turned toward survival. In honor of this ancient tradition, we thought we’d clue you in to some of Ireland’s delicacies (both old and new, and with recipes!) so you can have your own Samhain feast at home this year if you wish!
First off, the carbs! As you might assume for such a spooky holiday, there’s quite a few ghostly and fortune-telling traditions revolving around foods eaten on Samhain, and the traditions of eating soul cakes, bannocks, and barmbrack are no exception. Soul cakes are a bit like a shortbread cookie made with sweet spices (and often dried fruit,) but they have a very important job to do: you leave soul cakes out for any hungry spirits (or hungry guests) that may pay your home a visit on Halloween night. Bannocks—a term which covers a dearth of large, round quick breads—were once eaten year-round in Ireland (though aren’t quite as popular now,) but some Samhain-exclusive recipes have the addition of extra salt. Legend has it that if an unmarried lad or lass was to take three bites of a salty bannock on Samhain Eve and then go to bed without speaking (or drinking!) they’d have a dream of their future spouse. Lastly, barmbrack, a sweet bread filled with tea-soaked fruits, was often baked with trinkets inside. Each trinket had a meaning for those whose slice included it, meant to tell of your future—a button means you’ll remain a bachelor, a silver coin for those destined for riches, etc.
Then, you have to have something to drink (though this particular tradition is for the adults, not our dancers!) Mulled wine is traditional all winter throughout the UK, Europe, and Ireland, and nothing smells more delicious than a pot of mulled wine bubbling away on your stove! While spices were precious in ancient Ireland, as it was and is an island (probably where that bland food reputation stems from,) mulled wine’s origins can be traced back to 20 A.D.! While we tend to associate Guinness with Ireland (though it’s technically more popular in Nigeria!), there’s a winter spirit with an even longer tradition--poteen. Also called poitín, it’s essentially Irish moonshine, and was similarly made illicitly, hidden away in a pot from whence it gets its name (it also may be the original whiskey, as it was once generally made with a malt barley as its base.)
Don’t worry, the dancers can have something sweet while the adults are imbibing. How about a traditional apple cake or tea cake? It turns out apples and dried fruits are traditional for an Irish Autumn, just like here! In fact, traditional Halloween activities (that don’t get much play anymore) like bobbing for apples originated in Ireland—though the original version had an apple dangling from a string with contestants trying to take a bite out of it!
Lastly, what about a main course? While traditionally there wasn’t much meat served for Samhain (it being the end of the harvest and all,) the closest to tradition one could get would be some kind of meat pie, stew, or sausage (delightfully nicknamed bangers—as they were prone to explode during the lean war years when they had to use water as filler!) Here’s a recipe for a Guinness and steak pie, or a lamb stew—it’s all about something warm and hearty on a cold Halloween night! But it wouldn’t be an Irish meal without potatoes (it may sound like a stereotype, but these root vegetables are known to last through the long, cold winter—stereotypes do come from somewhere.) You can try out the beloved (to this day) Irish side of colcannon, essentially mashed potatoes with cabbage, kale, or anything green snuck in! Or how about boxty—more or less a potato pancake? Purists can go for champ, which is essentially mashed potatoes with scallions, or fadge, a kind of potato bread…there’s truly no end to potato recipes in Ireland!
No matter what you eat to celebrate Samhain this year—candy and toffee apples or barmbrack and boxty—you’re taking part in an ancient tradition of warding off the darkest part of the year just a little bit longer through celebration. So gather your family together at your table, light a roaring fire, and dig in! The spirits from the other side of the veil have some soul cakes to finish off.
This post is part of a series. Read our last Irish history post, all about the many invaders of 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.
So far in technique review we’ve covered turnout, crossing, and posture—but we’re not done yet! We’re moving away from the arms and shoulders this week and returning to the feet as we discuss one of most important aesthetic and technical components of Irish dance: height on toes. As almost all movements are performed on the balls of the feet, maintaining height on your toes is necessary to properly execute all dances!
While the term “height on toes” may conjure up the image of a ballet dancer in pointe shoes, what we’re referring to here is the ability of an Irish dancer raising themselves fully on the balls of their feet, not the tips of their toes. Though there is an exception to this rule (the “heel” or “stamp”) where the foot makes full contact with the floor, outside of this an Irish dancer must never let their arch or heel touch the floor! And yes, that even includes landing jumps!
This can be particularly challenging for dancers while performing in hard shoe. Though the fiberglass heels of today’s hard shoes are much lighter than their predecessors, they can still often feel very heavy, especially to beginners, leading to dropped heels while dancing. This is an even more glaring issue when in hard shoe (as opposed to soft ghillies) as it’s not just improper technique, but leads to unnecessary additional sounds that can disturb your rhythm!
As dancers move up through the levels, they’re not only expected to stay on their toes, but that their height on toes is so extended that they’re dancing well up on the balls of their feet, close to the base of their toe. Thus, performing strengthening exercises for your calves and feet outside of class is one of the keys to improving as an Irish dancer across the board. While there’s numerous theraband exercises that can help with conditioning your calves and feet, and single leg calf raises are a good workout as well, Miss Courtney recommends “doming” as the best possible way to help increase your arch strength and shaping.
Doming is an exercise (see it in action here!) that not only works the larger muscles of your foot, but aims to involve the smaller, intrinsic muscles that are buried deep within the bottom of your foot. Strengthening these smaller muscles helps stabilize the joints of the foot as a whole, providing a more stable base for dancers to jump, jig, and move. You know how core strength is what keeps us upright? Think of this as core strength for your foot! (Check out some more tips from Irish Dancing & Culture magazine here and from Target Training Dance—a great resource--here.)
It’s incredibly important for Irish dancers to make sure their feet and calves are at full strength, and not just because a lowered heel could knock you down a place during judging. A study in The Journal of Athletic Training in 2017 reports that fatigue in Irish dancers leads to heel drops and thus an increased risk of lower limb injury. Increasing the stamina of your height on your toes is imperative to help avoid the arch and heel release that can lead to injuries such as stress fractures, ankle sprains, and plantar fasciitis, among others. But, like anything else in life, preparation is the best way to avoid any problems, so get your dancer working on calf and foot strength sooner rather than later!
This post is part of a series. Check out our last technique post, all about posture, 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.
Foreign Invaders in Ireland
We’re taking a break from our spooky posts on this Columbus Day (or, if you prefer, Indigenous Peoples’ Day) to reflect on a topic that remains a sore spot for the Irish in modern times: the colonization by outside forces of their island. For as far back as we know, people have been trying to take over the lush, rolling green hills and sprawling farmland Ireland has to offer. And, for as far back as we know, the Irish have been resisting their invaders and would-be colonizers at every turn! Here’s a few of the most notable attempts:
First off, we have to face facts and say: the people who we know as the “Irish” colonized the land first. Most of what we know about the first few centuries of Ireland’s history comes from the 8th century tome The Book of Invasions. As the Irish were the only Celtic-language country that the Romans didn’t colonize (one for the win!), written history took a little longer to catch up in Ireland. The Book of Invasions is thus a mixture of mythology and history, making no distinctions between the two, but it does confirm one major thing: the last of the six invasions of Ireland was by the Gaels/the Celts. Around 500-300 B.C.E., a group of nomadic tribes broadly referred to as the Celts (the Gaels are one such tribe,) discovered how to use iron and made Ireland their permanent home. Who was there originally? According to myth, it was the descendants of Noah (yes, Christianity’s Noah,) then five more races of humans/mythological beings: another group of Noah’s descendants, the Fomorians, the Nemedians, the Fir Bolg, and the Tuatha de Dannan. We can’t know for sure beyond what the book tells us!
Moving forward to recorded history: who else but the Vikings would start out our confirmed accounts of invasions in Ireland? Between 795 A.D. and 1014 A.D., Vikings carried out innumerable raids all along the coast of Ireland, though this eventually turned into settlements. Dublin, Cork, Wexford, Waterford, and Limerick were all originally Viking settlements and remain some of Ireland’s most thriving cities till this day. But have you ever wondered why the Vikings always seemed to be trying to take over, well, everywhere? The answer’s less complex than you’d think (and has nothing to do with their thirst for a fight)—it’s just that Scandinavia isn’t that big! Young Vikings were looking for a place to settle as livable land was scare where they were from.
Then comes a period of invasions that wouldn’t have happened if not for the English…but we’ll cover them last. What may be more surprising than the Vikings is who came calling in 1315: the Scottish! Scottish King Robert Bruce sent his brother along to the Irish to help them with their English problem and form an alliance…or take over. Unfortunately, a Europe-wide famine caused the Scottish troops to dwindle and retreat. The English remained, and 300 years later the Spanish tried their hand at aiding the Irish. Though King Philip III of Spain landed over 4,000 foreign troops on Irish soil in 1601, too many men were lost on the journey and the Spanish-Irish alliance was quickly defeated.
Two other countries we never relate to the Irish but definitely did their best to get in on the action? The Netherlands and France! The Dutch, led by William of Orange, landed in Carrickfergus, Ulster in 1690 and defeated the last Catholic King of England (and Ireland): King James I. This defeat ensured Protestant rule for many years, and made a definite break with the old Gaelic way of life. This wouldn’t be the last time someone came against the English on Irish soil—the French landed on nearly the same spot as the Dutch in 1760 and attacked the English forces there. While the French force proved to be small and retreated quickly, this attack would prove to be the last wholly foreign invader to breach Irish borders in history!
And then, the sorest subject of all, the English. Britain’s long history of (successful but to the chagrin of the Irish) colonization in Ireland began in 1169 when an ousted Irish king invited the Normans to Ireland to help him win back him throne—and the Normans just took over instead. This began a period of 700 years of English/British involvement in Ireland. King Henry II of England still controlled this land in 1171, but still decided to invade it himself (as the first English King to set foot on Irish soil) with a retinue of 500 knights and 4,000 soldiers—just to make sure he was getting his fair share of the plunder. And we can’t forget the Tudor Age (1530s-1630s)! During one of the most destructive periods in Irish history, the Gaelic way of life was nearly decimated as Henry VIII forced the Irish Catholics to bow to his newly Protestant rule (and we all know that didn’t go well for anyone.) And then, there was Cromwell…for all his enlightened politics, Cromwell was particularly harsh to the Irish, with his campaign in the 1650s that wiped out up to 50% of Ireland’s population. Theirs is a long and aggressive history!
So, while the Irish may not be the original inhabitants of the Emerald Isle, they’ve been there long enough (and fought off enough invaders) to call it their own. This spirit of resistance is now part of the Irish identity and character. How else would they still be speaking Irish Gaelic to this day, even after 2,000 years of hostile takeovers? (P.S. Check out this interesting report about Celtic DNA proving how long the current race of people have been there.)
This post is part of a series. Read our last history post, all about the modern reboot of the Tailteann Games, 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.
Something we love about Irish dance? How it sets obtainable and clear goals to work hard toward! This is an element that exists in every level of SRL’s classes—certain skills are a pre-requisite for moving onward and upward from Tiny Jig to Pre-Beginner, from Novice to Prizewinner, and beyond. It’s one of the reasons we think Irish dance is more than exercise and artistry—it’s a place to gain life skills that will serve your dancer across the board as they learn and grow. It’s never too early to learn patience, process, and the importance of persistence and hard work.
Check in on any level of class—from our Championship dancers to our Beginners just starting out—and you’ll notice something you might not see at another kind of dance studio: a mixture of ages across all levels. While most other dance disciplines organize students both by age and skill level, Irish dance tends to organize only by skill level, something we hold to here at SRL. For students starting out in the early levels, this can be a surprise: if you’re starting Irish dance at 11 and are in class with 6-year-olds, you might feel like you’re late to the party or in the wrong class. That couldn’t be further from the truth! We’re here to talk through the benefits of mixed-age classes, and why SRL thinks they’re a benefit to our dancers.
First off, Irish dance isn’t just about dancing—it’s a hard-won skill that builds upon itself. You have to learn your jump-2-3s before you can learn your reel! Much like other forms of exercise that require openness and mindfulness to the process (such as other forms of dance or yoga,) Irish dance encourages dancers to understand their movements (and the paired music) on a fundamental level before they move on to more difficult moves and more complex choreography. When you watch an Irish dancer perform, what you’re really watching is many more basic, singular movements learned over many years that the dancer is in full control of. It’s why they look so light and graceful—practice, practice, practice! This way of determining skill level also functions as a safety measure. With Irish dance’s high-flying moves, proper technique is required to avoid injury. You can’t skip any steps!
Secondly, Irish dance holds all dancers to the same standard no matter their age, race, gender, or experience. The strict regulation of Irish dance by the CLRG has led to the establishments of clear benchmarks that any dancer needs to clear before moving on. That means we can have 17-year-old students in class with 10-year-old students, because while these students may differ greatly in many ways, they all have the same foundational skills that makes them equals in the eyes of Irish dance. While the world isn’t always so fair, it does teach an important lesson to our dancers about the benefits of working hard to improve—you only get as much out of Irish dance as you put in and no one is rewarded by moving up a level simply for the fact they had a birthday!
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, here at SRL we love our mixed-age classes because of the peer-to-peer learning environment in encourages! Much like a Montessori school, we find that our mixed-age classes better stimulate all age groups’ development, improve social skills across the board, boost self-esteem, increase the taking on of leadership roles, and better simulate actual community environments. Beyond bonding with your classmates, we also encourage friendships and mentorships amongst age groups through buddy pairings for competitions and our student assistant program. This gives our younger students strong role models within the studio that they’ll then strive to emulate as they grow, but also gives our older students a chance to become those role models and try out teaching at a young age. We find this way of teaching mutually beneficial and motivating for dancers of any and all ages (with our instructors’ guidance, of course!)
So, parents, don’t worry if your Beginner (or not-so-Beginner) dancer is initially unnerved by the older or younger students in their class—it’s all part of the process! While initial misgivings are understandable, especially as most dancers will have only interacted with peers of their same age, there’s benefits they might not be able to see at first glance. At SRL, we look at everything that happens inside our walls as a learning opportunity for our students…whether it be a new step or adjusting to a class they didn’t expect. As long as a dancer is putting their all in, there’s nowhere to go but up!
This post is part of a series. Read our last 411 post, all about communicating with your teen, 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. Dunluce Castle, surrounded by water on all sides and only connected to main land Northern Ireland by only a wooden bridge, reports a ghostly woman in white who gazes out upon the sunset each night. While no one knows her origins for sure, the castle did once slide into the ocean in the 1600s, so we have a guess! (For our Game of Thrones fans, you’ll recognize the now ruined exterior as the Greyjoy’s seat!)
2. Wicklow Gaol is not only considered one of the most haunted places in Ireland, but one of the top ten most haunted places in world! Often compared to Alcatraz, it remains Wicklow’s biggest tourist attractions. You can even take a paranormal tour where you can learn about all the spooky occurrences—from the mysterious smell of roses in Cell 5 to the ghostly apparition that’s known to greet visitors in the dayroom.
3. While Egypt might be the country best known for mummies, Ireland has its fair share! Time and dry conditions transformed the bodies in the crypt under St. Michan’s church in Dublin into perfectly preserved mummies—even as their wooden coffins have decayed. And we can’t forget all the bog mummies on display at Dublin’s National Archaeology Museum!
4. Speaking of Egypt, another one of Ireland’s scariest hauntings is the now ruined building that was once Seafield (or Lisheen) House. Located on the Coolera Peninsula in Sligo, this mansion was built by a rich landowner named Phibbs during the height of the famine. Karma came back for one of Phibb’s decedents who filled the house with stolen Egyptian artifacts (including a mummy—there’s way more mummies in Ireland than we ever would have believed,) and apparently conjured a violent poltergeist! The family left suddenly in 1938, leaving the huge property to fall into disrepair.
5. On Saint Patrick’s Day in 1888, the front page of The Weekly Irish Times proclaimed to offer “Fireside Tales of Many Counties”—which it turns out meant ghost stories and creepy legends! While we don’t usually associate scary stories with Saint Patrick’s Day, this newspaper decided it was on the table that year and reported on everything from the haunted house of Bride Street to the Queen’s County ghost. Click here to read the stories in full!
6. Belvelly Castle (Ireland has even more castles than mummies) in Co. Cork is a 14th-15th century structure overlooking the bridge connecting Fota Island and Great Island, and is said to be haunted by a 17th century inhabitant (among others!) Lady Margaret Hodnett was known for her vanity and was said to keep innumerable mirrors around her. After a spurned suitor laid siege to the castle, Lady Margaret’s beauty faded as her health did and she smashed all her precious mirrors! Her spirit is said to wander the halls, rubbing at spots on the walls until they gleam so she might see her reflection again.
7. Marsh’s Library in Dublin is best known for being the oldest public library in Ireland (it’s been around since 1707!), but is also said to play host to the ghost of its founder, Archbishop Narcissus Marsh. It’s said that Marsh’s niece, whom he raised as a daughter before she ran off to elope, left a note for Marsh in one of the library’s many volumes—and his spirit is still searching for the letter!
8. You’ve heard of haunted houses, but how about a haunted river? Nore River in Kilkenny was the site of a great tragedy when John’s Bridge collapsed during an overwhelming flood in 1763. Today, residents of the area report eerie figures in the river, on the banks, and leaning up against the structure built to replace the collapsed bridge!
9. While St. Patrick’s cathedral in Dublin is said to contain multiple ghosts, perhaps the best boy of them all is Captain John Boyd’s faithful dog, whose spirit is said to still wait for his master after over 150 years. Captain Boyd was considered a hero after he passed on trying to save the lives of those on board 135 ships caught in a storm between Howth and Wicklow. A life-size statute was erected and his faithful black Newfoundland pup is still seen as his feet today. The good boy never left his side, no matter the time passed!
10. While vampires (though called the Abhartach) have long been lore in Ireland (that’s where Irishman Bram Stoker got it from!), Slaughtaverty in Co. Derry has it’s own, particular vampire lore. It’s said that under a grassy mound called O’Cathain’s Dolmen (marked only by a single thorn tree,) a brave man named Cathain was able to contain the Abhartach back in the 5th century. The locals still avoid the area at night!
This post is part of a series. Read our last batch of fun facts 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.
Contemporary Fiction Recs, Part 2
1. Beautiful World, Where Are You, Sally Rooney
New release alert! Sally Rooney’s much-anticipated third book just hit the market a few weeks ago and has proven to be an instant best-seller around the world. This erudite 30-year-old writer took her evocative title from a 1788 Friedrich Schiller (best known for “Ode to Joy”) poem, reflective of the larger social questions the narrative poses. Largely an epistolary novel interspersed with Rooney’s sharp, witty narrative, the plot follows two best friends, Eileen and Alice, as they navigate both their own friendship and romantic relationships as they enter their 30s. Set in both Dublin and a small, oceanside Irish town, Rooney criticizes class hang ups and late capitalism in Ireland all while asking the question: is it moral for one’s focus to be on what’s beautiful in life instead of what’s wrong? But don’t expect Rooney to hand over the answers—instead you’re given a tenderly wrought story of complex connections that lets each reader experience their own answers as they’re drawn through. (Note: this one comes highly recommended by our Office Manager, Devon, but you can read a more critical review of the book here.)
2. This Must Be the Place, Maggie O’Farrell
Maggie O’Farrell’s 2020 book, Hamnet, was considered one of the best books of its year (by more or less every literary outlet,) but as it was set in England instead of Ireland, we’re here with another one of this beloved Irish author’s works. This Must Be the Place is instead set in rural Donegal and is considered to be O’Farrell’s “breakout book” that placed her on the contemporary literary map. The novel follows two Americans building quiet lives (mildly in hiding) for themselves in the Irish countryside—former linguistics professor Daniel and former (famous) actress Claudette. Through multiple, time-hopping (but easy to follow,) and dynamic storylines, the reader is treated to a tantalizingly slow reveal of the character’s inner conflicts and pasts as they hurtle toward what may or may not be predetermined fates. Take it from NPR’s Heller McAlpin: O’Farrell’s “fascinated by women who refuse to conform, by the secrets withheld even from our nearest and dearest, and by the unpredictable, serendipitous nature of life, the way a chance encounter can change everything and come to feel inevitable.” As the joy is in the discovery here, we won’t say anymore!
3. The Blackwater Lightship, Colm Tóibín
Best known in the U.S. for his 2015 book, Brooklyn, (and the award-winning movie adaptation starring Saoirse Ronan) about an young, female Irish immigrant in New York in the early 1950s, Tóibín’s body of work has several overarching themes: the Irish identity versus personal identity, the creative process, and the self when confronted with loss. The Blackwater Lightship, one of his 3 “Wexford” novels, is no exception, inspired by the death of Tóibín’s own father and his own childhood home of Enniscorthy. Set in Ireland in the trouble-filled 1990s, this is a family story—of family lost, family found, and family chosen—concentrating on three generations of estranged women confronting the untimely, upcoming death of a beloved brother, son, and grandson. With a light hand and sparse prose, the narrative is an exploration into forgiveness, memory, and the seeming impossibility of a future beyond loss, backdropped by the Irish sea. The novel was short-listed for The Man Booker Prize in 2014 and adapted by Hallmark into a made-for-TV movie of the same name (though possibly not set in Ireland as it’s starring, of all people, Dianne Wiest and Angela Lansbury.) While we’d recommend the book, jury’s out on the movie version.
4. Exciting Times, Naoise Dolan
While Dolan’s novel may be set in Hong Kong, it’s still a definitively Irish novel. Narrator Ava, a Dublin-born ex-pat, is in her early 20s, directionless and in China teaching English to the children of rich natives. When she meets English Julian, a well-off and highly educated banker, she embarks on a strange and ill-defined relationship that will change the way she sees herself and the world around her. Then…enter Edith (Hong Kong born and bred,) and things get even more complicated. Similar to Rooney’s exploration of personal relationships as a gateway to larger, societal issues, Ava’s experiences are given to us as a representation of the worldwide experience of the Irish diaspora and the perception of the Irish identity outside of Ireland. Deftly avoiding love-triangle tropes with her equally deadpan and witty prose, this is Dolan’s debut novel. (Note: this is another personal recommendation from Devon, but the reviews have been divisively both for and against—it’s an either you love it or hate it kind of book! But we’re a fan of Vogue’s summation: “This debut novel…is half Sally Rooney love triangle, half glitzy Crazy Rich Asians high living—and guaranteed to please.”)
5. Strange Flowers, Donal Ryan
Winner of An Post Irish Book Award Novel of the Year in 2020 and set in Tipperary in the 1970s, the story opens upon Paddy and Kit Gladney’s discovery that their 20-year-old daughter Moll has disappeared with a suitcase and without a trace. Five years pass in a blink, and just when the couple is coming to terms with their loss, Moll returns with as little an explanation as she left with. This family story of seclusion, secrecy, and class hierarchies within Irish villages has an idyllic, almost hermetic backdrop that belies the tumultuous country it resides it, instead concentrating on the turmoil within his character’s hearts and relationships. Donal has been twice long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, but many reviewers claim that this, his sixth book, is his best to date. (Here’s a more in-depth review to peruse!)
This post is part of a series. Read our last Modern Ireland post, all about Irish language in Irish schools, 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: Posture
What does the word “posture” conjure for you? A young lady at finishing school balancing books on her head? Well, if you’re an Irish dancer you might have a different answer! When most people think about “posture” for Irish dance, the first thing that comes to mind is the unique form Irish dance utilizes: an unmoving, straight spine as their feet are flying. But good posture isn’t about just not moving your upper body—there’s a lot more to it than that!
Good posture in other forms of dance is a little simpler than Irish dance (what isn’t,) with the term generally referring to an alignment of the spine and body—from the top of the head through the heels. Good posture isn’t just about correct technique--it’s about putting the least amount of stress on your ligaments, muscles, and body in general while performing an activity. There are benefits to maintaining good posture, whether or not you’re a dancer—less wear on bones and joints, decreased back pain and spine issues, and helps prevent muscle fatigue—but for dancers the stakes are even higher. Not only will the adjudicators notice incorrect posture (and dock you!) but maintaining a correct posture while dancing can also help prevent injury. With back pain as one of the most common complaints for dancers across disciplines, the best option for avoiding it is maintaining proper posture from the get-go to lessen the strain!
But posture for Irish dance goes beyond standing up straight—it’s all in the arms! To get into the right posture for Irish dance, first stand with your spine straight, heart up (make sure to avoid arching your back and pushing out your ribs!), and push your shoulders back as far as you can—ideally until your shoulder blades touch at your spine! Try it at home, parents—it’s not comfortable, is it? It’s not any way to go about your day to day, but it’s the standard, required posture for solo Irish dance. And that’s not all! The arms need to be kept completely straight to the sides, hands always in fists. It’s a lot to remember while also remembering those steps!
Issues with posture tend to stem from dancers not holding the correct amount of tension in their bodies. Too stiff and your movements will become jerky and awkward versus smooth and graceful. Too loose and the upper and lower body won’t appear to be in sync. Either of these issues encourage the biggest mistakes we see with Irish dancer posture: shoulders rolling forward (think what your dancer looks like hunched over their phone all day,) loose and untamed arms, bent arms, or arms pulling away from the body.
But how can we encourage correct Irish dance posture? A technique we like to use in class (but can easily be utilized at home as well!) is pinning rubber circles (or paper plates) between the elbow and the ribcage. If the arm comes away from the body at all, the plate drops! This is a great way for your dancer to practice their feis performances—muscle memory is everything. The other key is core and upper body conditioning. A strong core and arms allow the position necessary for Irish dance to be held, even while the feet are constantly moving.
There are so many exercises and tutorials available to help your Irish dancer with their posture! Miss Courtney suggests lateral pulses, shoulder rows, “dead bugs,” superman pulses and holds, and any core work at all! For our littlest dancers, egg rolls (and the paper plate trick) are the best starting point. Wherever your dancer starts from, these exercises and practices will not only improve their dancing, but help with their overall back health—whether they keep dancing or not!
Tune in next time for a more advanced technique review, but a pivotal one as your dancer continues on their Irish dance journey: height on toes!
This post is part of a series. Take a look at our last technique review, all about crossing, 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.
Part 4: Gaeilge/Éire
It’s easy to forget that in Ireland people once mainly spoke, well, Irish. The Irish language, Gaeilge (also known as Éire or Irish Gaelic to differentiate it from Scottish Gaelic,) is the official language of Ireland (definitely not English.) Old Irish is considered the predecessor of all the Gaelic tongues, dating back at least 2,500 years (with its first known use in the Roman alphabet dating to the end of the 6th century—making it the oldest known written vernacular north of the Alps.) However, with the suppression of Irish culture by the British beginning in the 11th century, much of the original use of Irish was lost as English became the predominant language in governmental and legal affairs. By the time of The Great Famine from 1846-1848, Irish as a language was almost extinct.
However, the Celtic revival and resurgence of the national Irish identity in the 1800s lead to increased interest in Gaeilge, lest it be forgotten. In 1897, the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language was founded, and they were able to help reintroduce Irish into all levels of education—from primary to university. An official standard of the Irish language was set by the Irish government in 1958—though, the 2016 census reported that in modern times only 1.7% of the population speak Gaeilge daily.
But what does this have to do with school life in Ireland? Quite a bit! Under current educational statutes, all students attending government-funded schools in Ireland (both primary and secondary) have a state-mandated Irish language curriculum. That means, in Ireland, you’re learning the country’s original language from at least first grade onward! In recent years, the requirement for a passing grade in Irish Gaelic for a graduating senior’s Leaving Certificate (see our previous post to have this better explained!) has been eradicated—meaning you still need to take the class, but aren’t tested on it as you will be for other subjects. This has caused some controversy within Ireland, as students argue that once they’re past primary school, Irish is no longer taught to them as a living language—it’s more a subject to get through. In fact, while only 5% of polled students said they thought Irish was properly emphasized as part of their cultural heritage, 67% of students believe that Gaeilge should be compulsory and further pushed as part of the country’s cultural heritage.
But there are places where Irish continues to exist as a living language: Gaeilge-only schools! They’re called Gaelscoil or Irish-medium schools (while the majority of schools remain English-medium,) and while they can be hard to get into, they are completely immersive. While English is sometimes spoken in school as well, the primary language remains Irish throughout schooling. Parents often chose to send their children to a primary-level Gaelscoil and a standard secondary school, though secondary-level Gaelscoil have become more popular in recent years. While most parents cite language-acquisition and the importance of Irish culture and identity for choosing an Irish-medium program, there are other notable benefits that come with being bilingual: better academic performance overall, improvement in cognitive function, improved communication and social skills, and increased ease in learning third or even fourth languages.
Like most topics that touch the political sphere, there’s plenty of controversy about Irish language requirements—most recently, primary school principals calling for a waiver of a Leaving Certificate qualification in Irish in due to a lack of suitable candidates (it’s not required, after all!) But the fact remains that Irish truly is a living language—just take a look at any government street sign, the average Irish person’s name, or innumerable place names and slang terms that still retain their Gaeilge roots. And then there’s the Gaeltacht areas of Ireland! These are places in Ireland where Irish remains the majority language, and they still exist today. Most of these areas dot the west coast of Ireland’s peninsulas where the language was protected by their remote locations. Though all that schooling might not prepare an Irish student for a conversation—while there’s a government-standard Gaeilge, there’s also three distinct dialects in the county: Ulster, Connacht, and Munster!
Where you fall on the bilingual debate? Immersive, required, or at parent and student discretion? Let us know in the comments!
This post is part of a series. Take a look at our last modern Ireland post, all about university in Ireland, 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.
So, your littlest dancer is finally through their transition period and back into the school year schedule, but the burnout hasn't seemed to stop for your teen. What's going on with them? Is there too much stress or not enough structure, do they now dislike all their favorite activities or are they just...a teenager? Most every parent is grappling with the constant ebb and flow of their kid's moods during this time in their life, and it's no surprise—they're figuring out who they are. There's no easy answer to any of your questions flat out, but we're here to help keep you better informed about the whys of these mood shifts and interventional tactics to help start conversations that help solve problems rather than start arguments.
So what is the current generation facing? Between the pressures social media puts on their self-esteem, cultural shifts, concerns about the environment, the continuing pandemic and its linked uncertainty, complex and divisive political upheavals, increased academic competition and expectations, and the time-honored teen stresses of bullying and peer pressure—the truth is, they may be dealing with more than any generation before them. Not only that, with our exponentially and rapidly changing world, the classic complaint of parents just don’t understand is also likely more true than ever. It’s easy to see how everything, sometimes even the littlest thing like heading out to their favorite dance class, becomes an argument—teens today are dealing with a lot of adult issues and stresses a lot earlier than past generations, and it must be overwhelming!
You can couple that with the fact that the teen brain and the adult brain are biologically different. Fully developed, adult brains generally come at problems with the rational, empathetic, long-term considerations of the pre-frontal cortex, while teen decision-making stems from the emotional amygdala—this explains why they can’t always explain why they reacted the way they did…it’s possible they literally weren’t thinking, just feeling. But this doesn’t make your teenager any less intelligent. The truth is, that while they’re still learning, the brain’s ability to formally plan, abstractly reason, and memory retention in general is done developing by 15 or so—if asked about a situation hypothetically, they can respond as any adult might. The issue stems from a mixture of amygdala-based reactions in the moment and the laundry list of increasing and changing hormones (one example: the adolescent male brain is producing 10x the amount of testosterone it previously was!)
But do you do about it? First off, expect it! It can be shocking when your sweet, well-behaved kid turns depressed, angry, or apathetic, but coming at it from a place of understanding is the best way to model healthy ways to deal with those feelings. As adults, we know that sadness, anger, and apathy don’t exist in a bubble—those feelings are the product of different stresses and chemical combinations in an individual’s brain. For example, generally, the problem isn’t that you asked them to load the dishwasher, the problem is something that happened at school, how much homework they have, etc. It can be extremely difficult not to react in a negative way to someone slamming doors and yelling, but taking the time to help them express that anger in a healthy manner (i.e. finding the root cause of it and helping them work toward solutions, looking at scenarios and their consequences together, and practicing techniques (breathing, exercise, talking through it, writing it out, ec.) to help them deal with their emotional upheaval,) models better ways to deal with stress that will follow them into their adult lives.
Communication, like anything else, is the kind of skill that takes practice—especially when it comes to its give and take nature. One of the easiest ways to slow down a meltdown (or get your teen to talk) is to ask them a simple question that can help put expectations on the interaction for both parties: Do you want me to listen, or do you want me to help you find a solution? There’s plenty of ways to make sure your dancer knows you care about them and the way they’re experiencing the world, but listening to what they need from you when they’re experiencing high emotions may be the best one. It not only continues to model healthy emotional behaviors, but puts your trust in their ability to know what they need, validates their emotional life, and lets them trust their self. It’s a step toward emotional independence and it puts the interaction in their hands—giving them concrete decisions to make while their amygdala is rioting.
But listening doesn't mean giving in to every demand--innumerable studies show that teaching your teen to honor commitments and keep to a schedule can help in every area of their life. From academic success to personal integrity and an increase in self-confidence and easier adjustments to adulthood, it's all about learning to be a responsible person in a safe environment. It also helps them become more empathetic and community-minded (i.e. my choices effect others) in a time in their lives it's easy to revert to an inward-facing gaze. Another equally important aspect? Exercise! Everything listed above goes for exercise too! Not only does exercise have academic, physical, and emotional benefits, it helps create healthy, lifetime habits in your teen. It's all a balance between their wants and their needs, with their parents the best judge and lead how to balance these sometimes conflicting desires.
Like we said at the beginning—there’s no simple answer to how to be a parent of teenagers, and it’s not always going to go well. You can help encourage them keep to their commitments, to keep a schedule, to exercise, to get enough sleep, to eat healthy, as well as support them and let them know you believe in their resilience, intelligence, and abilities, and they could still be the same moody, anxious teenager. But, the key really is the listen half of communication—when your child is looking to drop a favorite activity, for example. Is this stress and pressure and too much going on for them? Or is there something else underlying the decision? Have they changed and want to pursue something else and have thought through the consequences of the change…or are they reacting emotionally because of something else? The only way to know is to open up communication and truly hear what they have to say.
This post is part of a series. Check out our last 411 post, all about back to school burnout for your younger dancer, 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
Part 3: University
The thing about Irish dance is that it’s more than dance—it’s a cultural art form that incorporates traditional music and even lore into its performance. And the thing about Irish dancers is that they tend to not only fall in love with the dance part, but all of it, the entirety of Ireland. For many parents the idea of your dancer flitting off across the Atlantic for college (sorry, university) is a terrifying one (though Miss Courtney completed her entire degree—in Irish dance and music no less—in Limerick, and Miss Devon studied abroad for a full year in London. We promise we called home a bunch!) But for many Irish dancers, it’s the dream—so we’re here to tell you a little bit about university in Ireland!
First off, it works a little differently to a typical U.S. college: to start, undergraduates don’t apply simply to the school of their choice, but to a specific course of study within that school. It’s essentially like deciding your major before you get in! While some students also take on a secondary, usually related course of study, all your classes revolve around the specific department you’re in or, as they would say, course that you’re on. These courses of study are also typically shorter than the U.S. with the standard for general study being three years (though some programs are four and others, say medicine or architecture, can take up to five, though some include post-graduate work.)
The way teaching itself is approached can be a bit jarring for American students, too, as the structure can seem a bit loose compared to what we’re used to. Most U.S. colleges would be considered overbearing to the typical Irish college student, with each class typically having a large number of assignments and tests that determine your grade with strict and direct instructions. Irish higher learning has a completely different pedagogical philosophy that concentrates more on critical thinking and relies less on the number of assignments and more on the quality of your work. While this can be a difficult adjustment for Americans, it works well for disciplined students as it fosters independent thinking and the ability to take initiative. While no real rubric can be a learning curve, we speak from personal experience when we say that professors are generally extremely helpful and mindful of that adjustment period!
But the differences don’t end there! Grading in Ireland (and the UK in general) can be a bit of heart-stopping surprise—the scale, instead of 0-100, is 1-70 (though you can receive up to an 80 on an assignment, sometimes. It’s unclear when, as it largely seems to be at the professor’s discretion.) That means a 65 isn’t a D, but an A or even an A+, though Irish schools don’t use a letter grading scale. Instead, 70 or above is considered a First Class Honors, 69-60 an Upper Second Class Honors, 59-50 a Lower Second Class Honors, 49-45 a Third Class Honors, and 44-40 a Compensating Fail, i.e. the lowest technically passing grade. However, each school’s scale is slightly different, with many professors viewing a 70 or above as something students should be working all three years toward—meaning many won’t award high grades to first year students, wanting to see them progress toward that “perfect” goal.
The cost is another huge difference, especially you’re an Irish citizen. Getting a bachelor’s degree in Ireland at one of the state’s universities is free for Irish citizens, citizens of any EU/EAA countries, and Swiss citizens. Just last year the Irish government committed 11.1 billion EUR into its educational system. But what’s the cost like for American students? The average American student’s education (BA) in America will cost them between $35,572 and $120,376 (depending on the school and if they graduate in four years—and remember these are the average and only includes tuition, not room and board, books, plane tickets, etc.) The average cost for an American student in Ireland is 18,000 EUR ($21,231) to 36,000 EUR ($42,463.) Two points here: not only do the fees have a smaller range (and are less subject to change,) the most exorbitant possible cost is less than $10k more than the average cost of the least expensive college option in the U.S. With the average student debt in the U.S. coming up as approximately $29k, an Irish education might be saving you and your dancer money in the long term. (Check out some more detailed cost of living stats here.)
Then you get down to your choices—and there’s a lot of them! For a small country, Ireland has a staggering number of schools to choose from, with seven governmentally-funded universities, a number of institutes of technology (which include a wide range of vocational courses,) colleges of education, and private colleges—many if not all of which offer a similar level of tertiary degree. These universities (Dublin City University, National University of Ireland, Galway, University of Limerick, Maynooth University, University College Dublin, University College Cork, and Trinity College Dublin) are the ones most similar to a U.S. state school. However, the term “state school” can leave an underwhelming impression, while the truth is that Ireland’s universities all rank within the top schools in the world--Trinity College Dublin, for example, was founded in 1592 as an Irish answer to Oxford and Cambridge.
All in all, there’s a ton of positives to higher education in Ireland. Between shorter courses of study, a teaching pedagogy that encourages independent thinking, a grading system that encourages progress over perfection, more affordable costs overall, and plenty of high-quality choices—there’s not much to complain of beyond the distance. So sure, if your dancer wants to head to Ireland at 18 it’ll be a long flight to see them—but they could also be exposed to a culture they’ve been invested in for their entire childhood, with benefits galore!
This post is part of a series. Read our last Modern Ireland post, all about primary and secondary school uniforms, 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.
Last time, we took a look at the importance not only of turnout for the sake of technique and aesthetics, but for the safety of every dancer. This, of course, extends to other aspects of technique, including: crossing. Whether you’ve been dancing one year or twenty, crossing is one of the most basic techniques to master, as it’s the beginning and end position to any Irish dance move you might perform—one leg in front of the other.
To determine what state your crossing technique is currently in, first turn out your feet (which we covered last week!) Then, starting with your heels still together, move your right leg in front of your leg without shifting the position of your turned-out foot, knee, or hip. The first goal is get your right heel touching your left toes. As you improve your turn out, the next goal would be getting your right toes to touch your left heel in the same position (with your right foot still in front.) This is the ultimate crossing goal in the Beginner and Early Intermediate levels, along with getting that first progression in every movement!
As you move on to the highest grades of Irish dance, you’ll want to increase your crossing ability. To do this, you’ll want to keep moving your already crossed feet further apart—your left leg further to the right and your right leg further to the left—until you can’t move them any further. The goal for the best possible technique in Irish dance would be as much space between your shins as possible while you’re in a crossed position.
However, it’s important to keep body alignment in mind when crossing, as the act of crossing can often lead to dancer to be facing diagonally instead of straight ahead. If this is happening, you want to correct yourself into a less turned out or less crossed position where you belly button is facing forward. A study of dancers across disciplines from the Clinics in Podiatric Medicine determined that 53% of dance-related injuries are of the ankle or foot (with a higher proportion in Irish dancers--83% in this specific study) citing lack of proper body alignment as one of the primary sources of said injuries.
Crossing your feet may seem like no big deal, but as all jumps in Irish dance are expected to begin and end in this position, correct crossing technique is imperative to a dancer’s health and safety. Research from BYU in 2017 asserts that Irish dancers land with a force of 4.5-6 times their body weight, making proper technique while jumping one of the easiest ways to avoid injury. With the effects of dance shoes across disciplines being a relatively new area of study in sports medicine, mitigating this force with proper technique becomes paramount.
There are many exercises to help improve your crossing technique, and some of Miss Courtney’s favorites include cross walks up to the mirror (to be able to see your alignment all the better—make sure to always practice with proper technique, it’s the only way to improve!), as well as floor butterflies to increase the strength in your inner thighs and glutes. Take a look at our last post in this series to see a few exercises that will help increase your turnout, too—turnout is important in every aspect of Irish dance, including crossing! The better your turnout, the better technique in your crossing.
Miss Courtney also recommends mental cues while dancing to help you remember to both start and end in the correct position, such as “keep only one knee showing” or “keep space between your shins.” While the longer you dance, the more muscle-memory will kick in (read more about movement memory here!), it’s always good to have the mental cues tied to those muscle memories to reinforce this basic tenet of technique if you ever get flustered. It could save you from injury, and will wow the adjudicators!
Tune in next week for another technique review—all about posture!
This post is part of a series. Take a look at our last technique review, all about turnout, 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.
Part 2: Uniforms
Last week, we took a shallow dive into how the Irish school system works, grade to grade. But we all know the most fascinating part is the human interest bit: so what are Irish school kids experiencing? More specifically: what are they wearing day to day? Since the United States isn’t big on uniforms, it can be a bit of a shock to see the universality of the school uniform in Ireland—a mainstay since medieval times. Let’s learn more!
The school uniform has a long history in Ireland, but the image you have in your head of a blazer with a crest and a matching tie isn’t quite where it started. While the history of the Irish educational system is a complex one—from bardic schools in medieval times to the repressive hedge schools of the 18th century—our first solid records of what Irish school uniforms actually looked like come out of rural Ireland in the first few decades of the 20th century (thanks to invention of the camera!) Before WWI, boys were generally the only ones receiving much of an education and wore long shirts (dresses, really) called petticoats, with a short coat (similar to the brat you’re still allowed to wear for Irish dance.) Petticoats are similar to both the ancient léine or tunics worn in ancient Ireland, a precursor to the kilt. This is our best look into the past uniform of the monastic schools that dotted Ireland years before!
After petticoats went out of style and until the 1980s, younger male students wore shorts and knee socks with a blazer, button down, and tie until 12, 14, or even 16 depending on the school and parental preferences. Getting to wear pants to school was considered a sign of manhood within the community, and while this is now considered outdated, the wearing of a school uniform (often with the crest of the school) is still considered a way to help students feel they’re part of said community. It’s often cited as a reason to keep uniforms up through college, as the wearing of the school colors and crest can create camaraderie and school spirit, lets the students see their place as a part of something larger than themselves—possibly increasing empathy. (Fun fact: that's the same reason SRL has its students where our school colors of red, black, and white--why many Irish dance schools do!) It’s just one of the positives cited for school uniforms, with others including: easier to get dressed in the morning, less distracting, less bullying, and easier to enforce for the teachers, among other pros.
Female uniforms have transformed the least over time, generally consisting of a skirt or pinafore—with sweaters and button downs for the younger girls and a button down, tie, and blazer for those in secondary (or at least the senior cycle) of school. Knee socks or tights are generally also required. You may have noticed something there...I didn’t say pants. That’s right, at the majority of Irish schools, female students are considered in breach of dress code if they come to school in pants—even if they’re the same pants the male students are required to wear. This had led to a movement in Ireland calling for gender-neutral uniforms across age groups, citing the fact that pants aren’t revealing (in fact, are less revealing than the short skirts that are standard,) and are perhaps less comfortable for many students.
Then again, school dress codes have been in the news for years now, with female students protesting the policing of their bodies, and many believe school uniforms are a remedy for that problem. Many parents in Ireland, however, disagree, citing the strictness of the code as an undue stress, particularly for the youngest students. We’re not talking about rules like the fingertip-length skirts and wearing the correct tie—these are more trifling rules, like what color hair tie’s in your hair, that many Irish parents find arbitrary and an unwarranted burden on both them and their student. That’s to say nothing of the cost—while many underfunded schools in economically disadvantaged areas in America have less expensive uniform options, this doesn’t generally follow suit in Ireland. With a tradition of the school’s crest emblazoned upon everything, many Irish people have found the costs prohibitive—especially as a breach of those rules could lead to their student not being able to remain in class to receive their education.
And then, there’s what every kid cites as the biggest negative about school uniforms: a lack of independence and identity. There’s a lot of back and forth about the truth of this, with some saying that wearing a uniform for twelve plus years takes away a sense of independence and makes the transition to adulthood harder. Similarly, Ireland, whose population is currently 12% non-Irish citizens, is also facing backlash over the perceived forced assimilation the traditional Irish school uniform has on students from other countries and cultures.
Whether you’re pro- or anti-school uniform, they seem to there to stay in Ireland, especially as their usage across the world increases (and, we have to say, a little kid in a tie is always pretty cute.) Who knows, all our dancers might be heading off to school in a plaid skirt this time next year. Where do you land on the school uniform debate? Let us know in the comments!
This post is part of a series. You can learn more about the Irish school system, which we covered last week, 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 post on this topic last year, here.
Let’s face it: last year was one of the most exhausting of any of our lives, your dancer’s included. Now, as a new school (and dance!) year begins, it will be easier than ever for your dancer (and you) to feel overwhelmed, tired, and just plain burnt out. While adults have to shoulder the challenges of their own responsibilities, our day to day lives have less change month to month, no matter the season. In contrast, kids are learning, changing, and growing every day, making each new school year a completely new adventure—all while trying to figure out who they are in the
It’s hard to imagine with the remove of age the incredible stress our dancers go through as they grow in these tumultuous times, and that’s why we wanted to take a moment to talk about back to school burnout. It’s real. It can transform your energetic, happy kid into a someone else: lethargic, disinterested, and combative. And it may be coming to your household soon (if it hasn’t already arrived!) So what can you do to help?
The first steps to any problem are always the same: recognize the reality and breadth of the issue, make a plan to help fix it, and stick to the plan. First off, burn out during (and especially at the beginning of) the school year is completely normal, to the point that innumerable psychological studies have researched it. These studies largely agree that not only is burnout a problem across the world, it can negatively affect a student’s academic achievement throughout their lives--so the earlier it’s mitigated, the better. When left untreated, it’s been found to increase a student’s general exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of inadequacy. It’s never too early to help your child learn how to better mitigate stress, especially as it may improve the quality of their entire life ahead of them. Now that we can see how big the scope of the problem is, let’s focus on how to fix it.
Above and beyond all other interventions, exercise has been found to be the best possible practice to combat back to school burnout, across the board. We’d, of course, recommend Irish dance for something that’s a fun, culturally enriching social outlet that helps builds other stress-mitigating habits like goal setting and confidence (read more about Irish dance’s benefits here,) but movement of any kind truly is the key. 2.5 hours—which is less than a half hour a day—of any moderate movement-based activity a week is the standard recommended by medical organizations across the board. Beyond the most obvious reason--physical health—exercise has been proven to help decrease stress and increase endorphins (among other happy-brain chemicals,) as well as boost overall energy and mental acuity. At the same time, exercise classes (like dance!) promote community and social development, while also promoting better sleep habits when your kids get home.
So, we have at least one, big idea of how to combat the burnout—but what is that isn’t enough? There’s a ton of tips to integrate into your family’s life from experts all over the world, and it’s all about finding the right combination for you and your family. Here’s a few to try to integrate, but feel free to leave your own, more specific solutions in the comments!
1) Commit to a reasonable number of activities, but don’t say yes to everything.
2) Be flexible, but be clear about your expectations.
3) Keep as regular sleep schedule as possible.
4) Eat a balanced diet.
5) Forge open communication within your family.
6) Encourage asking for help whenever you need it.
7) Put a limit on screen time.
8) Make sure to make time to relax and decompress.
9) Set goals and celebrate achieving them.
The last part of the plan might be the most important: whatever plan you make, stick to it! The literature is clear on this: kids thrive when given a routine to follow. Simply put: the big, big world becomes a little less overwhelming when you help your dancer understand exactly what’s coming next. And it won’t just help now: regularity in daily and weekly routines has been proven to produce better adjusted and more successful adults across the board, in all fields. Other benefits include improved attention span and self-control, better time management, decrease in anxiety, better social skills, a higher level of emotional intelligence, better academic performance, and even increased employability in adulthood (among others.) Routine is like building a structure for your child to grow into—it’s up to you to determine what that structure looks like.
And, just as importantly, don’t forget to include yourself here too! Adults spend so much time taking care of others, it’s easy to push our own wellness to the back--but a parent’s mental health has been determined to have a direct effect on their children. Fighting against that burnout is a family endeavor, and all the above tips apply to our SRL parents as well! We look forward to seeing you all back in the studio, hopefully armed with some tips to make the transition as smooth as possible for the entire SRL community!
This post is part of a series. Read our last 411 post, where our dancers tell you why they love SRL in their own words, 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.
Part 1: Moving through the System
You did it! You’ve almost made it through the summer (and what a hot and humid one it was here in Connecticut,) and back to school here. Since the way the American school system works is embedded into your brains as something you just inherently know, it can be confusing when we’re faced with another country’s version. I’m sure you’ve experienced it: that dissonance that occurs when you’re reading or watching something about anyone school-aged in another country, including Ireland. Are they a freshman if they’re a first year? Wait, what do you mean, no? Let’s break down the Irish educational system for you:
First off, we have classes for our Tiny Jiggers: Preschool and Kindergarten—aka Junior Infants and Senior Infants. Much like America (or at least, most states,) school is compulsory for children in Ireland from the ages of 6-16, meaning their Junior Infants year (or two) is optional—though one year of Junior Infant education is free, paid for by the Irish government. While America currently has a scattered network of government-subsidized education before 6-years-old, President Biden is currently backing legislation that will secure more government funding for universal preschool programs across the country…I guess someone else has been checking out Ireland’s school system.
Primary school continues on past kindergarten in exactly the fashion we’re used to, except the Irish use the term class instead of grade for the younger students: i.e. 1st grade is 1st class, 2nd grade is 2nd class, etc.—all the way up through 6th class aka 6th grade. While 6th Grade is often part of what we call middle or secondary school, Ireland’s system is divided in two, rather than the three (elementary, middle, high) we use here: primary school (our grades Kindergarten through 6th) and secondary school (our 7th grade through 12th grade/senior year.)
Secondary school in Ireland is where things get a little more confusing: we start back at one. An American 7th grader would be a 1st year in an Irish secondary school, an 8th grader a 2nd year, and so on until you reach 6th year, aka the US senior year. That’s easy enough once you get the hang of it, but the way a secondary education is approached is decidedly different from most parts of the states. The last six years of school are divided into two cycles*: Junior Cycle, 1st year-3rd year and Senior Cycle, 5th-6th year, with 4th year (aka sophomore year) considered an optional, Transition Year. This year is supposed to be used to gain life experience, work experience, or travel, or just generally for “maturity and personal development.” You can skip this year and go straight into 5th year—but you’re not allowed to take a transition year later!
(*Fun fact: the term college in Ireland is generally considered to refer to secondary education, (rather than higher education, as in the states—though universities do have “colleges” within their institution that are schools within the school) often specifically the last two years or senior cycle.)
The linchpins of the Irish secondary school education are two major tests: the Junior Certification/Cert (taken after 3rd year aka freshman year) and the Senior Certification/Cert, also called the Leaving Cert.* The Junior Cert is a series of tests in all subjects over a course of 3-4 weeks and the results are mostly about determining where you are academically so you can start making plans for after school—no one will ask you about these results later on in life! The Leaving Cert is the more serious test (also 3-4 weeks of tests in 2-6 subjects at varying levels that award varying points,) and is akin to our SAT as yours “points” on the Leaving Cert determine what universities you can apply to, and even the subjects within that university you’re able to study (i.e. you’d need 480 points minimum to study medicine, but only 476 for literature at Trinity, one of Ireland’s best schools—don’t worry, we’ll cover universities later!)
(*It’s important to note that not everyone takes the Leaving Cert examinations, with alternatives including: Quality Qualification Ireland (QQI) courses as an alternate route to college (a bit like community college before transferring,) the Leaving Cert Applied (which is focused on work experience and group work,) or the Leaving Certificate Vocational Program that could lead straight into the work force or help place students in technical schools.)
Ireland is considered one of the best educated countries in the world, with 56% of 24-35 year olds receiving some for of higher education. (Is it the subsidized preschool year? Many people think it helps!) This is not only the highest percentage in Europe, but the fourth highest in the world (Ireland’s beat out only by Korea, Russia, and Canada) and significantly higher than the 44% average. But what’s it actually like to experience school in Ireland? Tune in next week to learn more!
This post is part of a series. Check out our last Modern Irish Culture post, full of children’s book recommendations, 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
Welcome to technique review! In this new series of posts, we’re looking at some of the most important basics of Irish dance—from Beginner level to Championship. It doesn’t matter how many medals you may have won; every dancer needs to continuously refresh themselves on the fundamentals and continue to work on them! First on the docket: turnout.
Turnout is one of the most critical tenets of dance generally, and Irish dance in particular as every movement of Irish dance is performed in a turned out position. Not only is correct turnout one of the key points noted by adjudicators on both a technical and aesthetic level, it’s also crucial for safety of the dancer. In a study published in Sports Medicine-Open in 2018, researchers concluded that improper or overcompensated turnout is one of the leading causes of injuries across dance disciplines. This expanded the conclusions published in Open Access J Sports Medicine in 2013 that decreasing the likelihood of dance-related injuries is possible with attention to proper technique and physical training. And as Irish dance’s gravity-defying jumps are performed with less cushion (both in shoes and technique) than other forms of dance, the need is all the greater to know what proper turnout is and to practice on improving it!
Turnout in dance refers to an outward rotation of the leg, starting from the hip and continuing through the thigh, knee, ankle, and foot. The goal is a “perfect” 180 degree turnout—a straight line running from the left toe, through the left foot to the left heel, then through the right heel, foot, and toe. While some dancers win the genetic lotto and start with close to that 180 degree ideal, most dancers will have to continuously work on their turnout to achieve this!
First: what’s your turnout like naturally? Stand with your feet together, heels touching, and then try to make a V-shape with your feet, turning the entire leg from the hip while keeping your heels together. You’ll know if you’re overcompensating your turnout through a number of signs, including: discomfort, knee position not matching foot position, and a slight (or not so slight) forward roll on the inside of your foot. Any of those signs and you’ll want to close your V-shape into a narrower position—as we said before, dancing when overcompensating puts dancers at a much greater risk of injury (and your teacher won’t be happy either!)
But how does one improve their turnout? Like everything else in Irish dance: practice, practice, practice. The most important considerations are increasing the strength of your hip flexors and maximizing the range of motion in your hip joints. Exercises like clams, seated leg rotations, and parallel/turn out drills (among many others you’ll learn in class!) are the key to increasing that range of motion and strength. But none of this will help unless you also stay aware of your turnout while in motion while dancing. This focus can be difficult to maintain while you’re counting along to the music in your head and remembering your choreography, so Miss Courtney recommends giving yourself mental cues! Learning to remind yourself “heels forward, “toes out,” “show the inside of your heel,” or something similar while you dance is as important as the turnout itself–otherwise all that work won’t show in your dancing!
Sound like a lot of extra work on top of learning all that choreography? It is! But because of the safety issues (here’s another study looking specifically at injury in Irish dancers that correlates improper landing technique with injury,) not working on your turnout may slow down your progress as an Irish dancer. Not only is it a basic principle of any dance you perform, but Miss Courtney and your other teachers care about your safety first and foremost, and may choose not to teach you more advanced moves until your turnout improves. As, for example, landing jumps or leaps on a straight foot can lead to severe ankle sprains or even cause ligament damage that can take years to fully overcome, you can’t progress without good turnout!
This post the first in 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.
Children’s Books, Part 2
With the summer winding down and regular dance classes about to start up again, it can be hard to get back into the school year groove. Back to school burnout is real and it happens to a lot of our dancers—so why not get them excited instead? We’ve gathered together five highly reviewed children’s books all about Ireland (and one about Irish dance!) that will get your dancer excited to be back in the studio (or at least more excited about it than school.)
1. Am I Small?
Philipp Winterberg & Nadja Wichmann
This story follows a young girl named Tamia as she takes a journey through a whimsically illustrated landscape, interacting with all sorts of magical and realistic creatures, and asking each of them: Am I small? But this book does more than tell a beautiful story (that comes to conclusion that size is relative and everyone is perfect just as they are)—it also has the distinction of being a part of the World’s Children Book project. Writer Philipp Winterberg has dedicated himself to not only writing books with positive messages, but has gotten over 400 translators in on the fun in an attempt to find universal touchstones for all the world’s children. Imagine a world where across every culture and border, we’ve all read Am I Small?! While the copy we’re linking is a bilingual copy in English and Gaeilge, the official language of Ireland, the book comes in over 200 languages, with a goal of 500 languages in the future.
2. The Children of Lir: Ireland’s Favorite Legend
Laura Ruth Maher & Connor Busuttil
In this version of one of Ireland’s most beloved legends, Maher’s rhyming, lyric poetry is paired with Busuttil’s rich illustrations that call to mind the illuminated manuscripts of ancient Ireland. The story is one older than written record, stemming from a tale from Ireland’s millennia-old oral tradition, and tells of King Lir and his four children: Fionnula, Aodh, Fiachra, and Conn (this is also definitely an opportunity to learn some new names!) But, like many fairytales, all was not well in King Lir’s court after a mysterious woman arrives and becomes his wife. Like most fairytales, this new stepmother isn’t all she appears to be and transforms the children into swans, a form they remain in until the curse cam be lifted. This is a typical Irish legend, so not the happiest story, but don’t worry—it’s being told for little readers and skips the scarier parts! Want a preview before you buy? Check it out here.
3. O’Sullivan Stew
Meet Kate O’Sullivan: bold, brave, and always getting into trouble. When the witch in Kate’s village has her horse stolen, the whole town feels the effects: no fish in the nets, no food in the fields, and no milk from the cows. Kate takes matters into her own hands and enlists her brothers to help her steal back the horse and save the town from hunger—but there’s a problem: it was the King who took the witch’s horse! When the palace proves too challenging for a heist, Kate finds herself in front of the King with only her wits to save her and her family. Luckily, Kate is an excellent storyteller and the wild stew of stories she concocts just might do the trick! This rollicking adventure is full of creative, fantastical details, humor, and the most Irish thing of all (besides dance, of course): a good story or two! Sound interesting? Check out an elementary school principal out of Oregon reading it out loud for all!
4. Let’s See Ireland!
Come along with Molly and her cat, Mipsy, on their tour of Ireland! Bowie is a Dublin based author and illustrator with a comic art style perfect for children of any age—with some learning snuck in! Your child will meet the animals of the Dublin Zoo before stopping to feed the pigeons at Christ Church Cathedral, and then it’s on to peering over the Cliffs of Moher. Full of humor that doesn’t take away from the facts, from the Giant’s Causeway to Hook Lighthouse and Newgrange, Molly’s story will introduce all of Ireland’s most beloved sites—even the Titanic Belfast! While most kids will be able to recognize Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower from a young age, why not let them in on all the coolest sites in the country their favorite activity is from? (And it sure beats the price of a plane ticket!) Hear (and see!) the story, read by a staff member from the Kilmihil Library in Ireland in her beautiful accent, here.
5. Rínce: The Fairytale of Irish Dance
Gretchen Gannon & Don Vanderbeek
Does the word rínce (ring-ka) look familiar? It should! It means dance in Gaeilge and is the R in SRL, after all! This fanciful story creates an original myth about the origins of Irish dance, that, while not necessarily factually accurate (check out our “Origins of Irish Dance” series on the blog for that!), is certainly fun! Gannon’s narrative brings us back to ancient Ireland, where faeries and humans lived together peacefully in a town called Rínce. This richly told and illustrated account (that anyone who loves fairytales will delight in) tells of Irish dance evolving from a pact between the Fae and the humans—creating a new legend for everyone to enjoy! Gannon might never have been an Irish dancer herself, but she married into the world—her mother-in-law hails from Limerick and founded the St. Louis Irish Arts School of Music & Dance—and this book is clearly a labor of love: her two young daughters have been Irish dancers since the age of four!
This post is part of a series. Read our last set of book recommendations, for YA readers, 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.
Welcome to our new series, where you can get to know SRL’s staff better with some hand-picked recommendations! Next up is Devon—our Office Manager and New Student Concierge!
Books: I love all books, but Margaret Atwood is my favorite writer (and Ada Limón is my favorite poet!) For younger reading levels Rick Riordan is my favorite and for teens, Rainbow Rowell. If you want a personal recommendation, tell me what you or your dancer is into and I’ll come up with something. I’m always excited to talk about books at any level!
TV Shows: I recommend The Great British Baking Show (or The Great British Bake Off in Britain!) to quite literally any person that asks. It is the most soothing, delightful program I have ever seen—so wholesome. Nothing like an American competition, but it is on American Netflix.
Coffeeshop: I LOVE Rebel Dog Coffee (they have locations in Farmington and Plainville) and I started going to Birdhouse Coffee in South Windsor on my way in to the studio on Saturday mornings—it’s the cutest!
Restaurant: I think about Bricco’s Nutella Pie on a near-daily basis and my last meal would be a cheeseburger from Plan B Burger Bar.
Favorite Quote: “Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
--Leonard Cohen, “Anthem"
Vacation (One Day!): I grew up in San Diego and can’t recommend it enough for a vacation. Balboa Park (and the beaches, of course) should be top on your list, and definitely, definitely Mexican food all day, every day. (Just make sure to get a California burrito while you’re there—they’re exclusively a San Diego thing and there’s French fries inside!)
Dessert: Go to any location of Taste by Spellbound and pick any dessert (there’s a few in the immediate area!) They’re all incredible.
Music: I used to not like Taylor Swift—no reason, just wasn’t really my thing. But it’s been months now and I can’t stop listening to folklore and evermore on repeat. I am now her biggest fan?
Important Thing to Learn: Be kind. You’re never going to regret being the bigger person, or taking the time to think about others.
First Job: Everyone should have to work in retail and food service before they’re allowed to be a customer. It really makes you appreciate how much work goes into your everyday experiences and have a newfound respect and kindness when interacting with people!
Gift to Give: If you can swing it, an experience over a thing every time. My go-to wedding gift is usually a cooking or dance class!
Artist: Nan Lawson is an incredibly talented illustrator who takes pop culture and cult favorites an adds her own style to them. (I own Harry Potter and Salinger prints from her and they’re gorgeous. She only does limited runs, so check her out on Etsy!)
Cheesy Song That’s Actually Great: “Tiny Dancer,” Elton John (I mean, remember that scene in Almost Famous?)
Strange, But Delicious Food: Did you know you can make a float out of pretty much anything carbonated? Fruity-flavored seltzers with vanilla ice cream may sound weird, but it’s actually amazing!
Must See Natural Wonder: This is an obvious one, but when I saw the Grand Canyon I was completely stunned. Nothing does it justice—even being there in person it feels unreal. (And I wrote this before I realized I'd be posting it after so many of our dancers were at Nationals in Phoenix!)
Current Obsession: I was late to the party with this one and it’s the first video game I’ve ever played…but I love Animal Crossing. It’s essentially a digital dollhouse in the form of an island (though you have a house to decorate and an avatar to dress, too!)—low consequences, just arranging items and performing small tasks. It’s perfect for a type-A person to unwind.
CT Outdoor Activity: Hiking up to Hueblein Tower or reading in Hartford’s Elizabeth Park (the tulips come out in April and check in early/mid June for the roses--but there's beautiful flowers all summer!) Also love the West Hartford Reservoir for a run!
Advice for Dancers: Nothing happens overnight. Progress happens so slowly you won’t even see it and then all of a sudden…you’ve got it! You can’t see yourself growing taller day to day, but you are—you’re becoming a better dancer every day you practice, too!
Local Business: I just bought several pairs of earrings from Hannahbees Jewelry when she was selling them at Birdhouse Coffee. Lightweight and beautiful, 10/10 would recommend for all earring-wearers (and she does custom orders!)
Charities to Donate to: Did you know Dolly Parton doesn’t just help fund vaccine research, but is responsible for children receiving millions upon millions of books over the last 20 years? I’m a huge literacy proponent and think Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a truly worthy cause! Check it out!
This post is part of a series. You can learn more about Devon here, in her Q&A, or read our last set of recommendations with Miss Courtney 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 Tailteann Games, Part 2
Last week, we discussed the ancient tradition of the Tailteann Games—a precursor to the Olympics the Greeks would begin and the world would recreate centuries later—a celebratory and entertainment-driven festival held to honor the harvest and the harvest goddess Tailtiu, to gather the Irish people together in one place for political reasons like announcing new laws, and to compete in feats of athleticism and craft. The tradition was said to have lasted for at least a thousand years (cut short by the Norman Invasion,) with a small resurgence in medieval times, but had been long dead when the Celtic Revival of the late 19th and early 20th century arrived. The Celtic Revival was a time of deep interest in ancient Ireland as a way to restore the identity of the Irish people, whose culture had long been repressed by British rule, and in 1924 this led to a brief, but notable, reforming of the Tailteann Games.
The Gaelic Athletic Association was formed in 1884 (and is still the largest athletic association in Ireland, concentrating on traditional Irish sports,) and after Ireland gained its independence in the early 1900s, the GAA began discussing the revival of the Tailteann Games. There was a hunger in the newly formed Irish Free State to reclaim their national identity, attract tourists after years of conflict, and honor their native culture as something distinguished to be celebrated. The Celtic Revival revived all thing ancient Ireland—language, dance, sport, and dress, among others—and the idea of reviving the Tailteann Games, particularly inspired by the revival of the Olympic Games in 1896, began to gain momentum as the revolutionaries that would eventually gain Ireland its freedom began to stir.
In 1922, with the Anglo-Irish Treaty signed and the Provisional Irish Government in place, discussions and planning could begin in earnest. With a £10,000 grant from the government, and a promise that Dublin’s Croke Park (site of the death of 13 athletes who were attacked on Bloody Sunday) could be used for free for the duration of the games, things were ready to begin…until the Civil War of 1922 changed their plans. Finally, in 1924, things had settled down enough for the 32 sub-committees it took to organize the massive event to get things underway. Even with all their preparation, war-torn 1920s Ireland was unsure they could accommodate the interest they anticipated, but decided to go ahead and the first Tailteann Games of the modern era were held between the 2nd and 17th of August, 1924.
On the docket was anything the GAA has decided was in line with the national Irish identity—from original events like boxing and swimming, new events like gymnastics and chess, and particularly Irish events like hurling and camogie. Conspicuously absent from this list were sports the GAA has taken it upon themselves to ban anything thought to be particularly “English,” despite their longstanding foothold in Ireland: soccer, rugby, cricket, and hockey. Like the original Tailteann Games, athletics weren’t the only competitions held. There was, of course, dance competitions, as well as contests in writing and oratory, music, and a wide variety of arts and crafts, all celebrating the Irish identity. Given it was the 1920s and automobiles were still a bit of a novelty, the most well-attended events was reportedly the motor racing competition held in Dublin’s famed Phoenix Park.
Despite attempts to make the competition open only to the Irish or people of Irish descent, the popularity of the Paris Olympics the same year led to the government inviting athletes from a variety of countries to compete to induce people to attend. It worked! More than 20,000 people attended the opening ceremonies in Croke Park where a procession invoking ancient Ireland, complete with a Queen Tailtiu (a statue of who adorned the medals and trophies handed out) and her retinue all in their period-correct outfits. After the Free State President, William T. Cosgrave, opened the ceremonies, organizer J.J. Walsh addressed the crowd saying that he thought the festival would have, “satisfied [foreign visitors] that the people of Ireland were capable of one common great effort to re–establish this old nation once again on its feet,” and that “this island of ours is not a colony but the home of a race of a historical lineage unsurpassed elsewhere.”
This new version of the Tailteann Games was unfortunately short-lived, with only two more held: 1928 and 1932, both of which were considered unsuccessful. The 1936 games were planned, but in-fighting in both the government and multiple athletic associations coupled with the extravagant cost of the games (the previous two attempts had failed to recoup the spending they required) caused them to be shelved for good. Since then, multiple, smaller versions of the event have popped up that either concentrate on a specific event (like the cycling event known as the Rás that still occurs annually,) or a specific group of people (like the 1963 “Junior Tailteann Games.”) The term “Tailteann Games” is still used in common parlance in many parts of Ireland for annual inter-school championship sporting events. Fingers crossed we see a revival in our lifetimes!
This post is part of a series. Read our last history post, all about the ancient version of the games, 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.
Interested in trying out Irish dance, but aren’t entirely sure? We could talk all day long about the benefits Irish dance has, physically, mentally, and socially (and we have—check out these posts to learn more!) but why don’t we let some of our dancers tell you a little more about why they love Irish dance here at SRL! We hope you’ll join us!
Looking for: far-reaching life skills?
“Irish Dance trained me to have a very high stamina, physically and mentally. Courtney was the best at pushing her dancers towards their goals. I know how to work towards long term goal without being worn out, and to push through to the very end.”—Lindsey
Looking for: competitive spirit?
“My favorite thing about dance is the competition. I like that in Irish dance you can show off how much you've learned and progressed.”—Magnus
Looking for: enjoyment and self-expression?
“When there are no words to explain how you feel, you express yourself through dance. I remember there would be nights when…I was tired, but when I walked through those studio doors I knew it was my time to work. And when I walked out of those doors at the end of the night, I felt like a better person.”—Lindsey
Looking for: an online option?
“My favorite thing about online class is I can dance at home safely and there’s more one on one with the teacher. Plus, my mom is there to help if I'm struggling.”—Avonlea
Looking for: inspiration?
“I look up to Courtney because she has given me a second home and something that I truly love.”—Ellie
Looking for: friends?
“Dance has given me the ability to have friends all around the world that share the same love and passion for Irish dance that I do.”—Christian
Looking for: somewhere to learn and grow?
“Irish dance was a life changing experience that provided me with so many opportunities to learn and grow. It was a daily challenge, which inspires my work ethic today. I always aim high and dream big. Through Irish Dance, I learned by working hard and practicing my craft, I could achieve anything.”—Tara
Looking for: something to be passionate about?
Just take Tilly’s word for it: “I like Irish dance and you will too!”
If your dancer is looking for it, SRL has it! While classes run on a school year schedule from September to June, we have a special offer to let new dancers get a taste before they sign up in the fall! SRL’s Intro to Irish Dance Summer Camp sign-ups are now open for new dancers 2-12, with two sessions available at work-friendly drop off times for parents. Learn more about the program here, or feel free to reach out to our Office Manager, Devon, at 860-385-1107 or shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s happy to help!
This post is part of a series. Take a look at our last 411 post—tons of testimonials from parents!— 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.
The Tailteann Games, Part 1
The Ancient Games
A thousand years before the Greek Olympic Games were founded, Ireland was believed to be inhabited by a magical race of god-like heroes called the Tuatha Dé Danaan (learn more here!) To gain their foothold on Irish soil, the Tuatha had to first defeat the current residents--the Fir Bolg—and what better way to establish a new rule than handing over your child to be fostered? When the Fir Bolg were rousted, members of the Tuatha (Cian and Ethniu) turned their only son over to be raised by the mighty Fir Bolg queen, Tailtiu, as a gesture of good faith. That boy grew into one of the most famed members of the Tuatha, the god-hero-poet-craftsman (learn more about some of his many his exploits here and here) Lugh.
You might be thinking that this sounds more like mythology than history, but, like many cultures, Irish traditions tend to muddle the differences. While not much is known about Tailtiu, we do know a few things: she was beloved of Lugh, is said to have died in service to the Irish people after clearing the whole of Ireland for agricultural purposes, and the area of Teltown in Co. Meath is named after her, as it’s said to be the site of her final resting place. In honor of Tailtiu’s memory and the good she had done for both the country and her family, her foster-son Lugh threw a grand, celebratory funeral games in Tailtiu’s honor, possibly as early as 1829 B.C. But not only that—Lugh declared that these games would reoccur at least every three years (the trinity being an important symbol in Irish mythology) forever.
There’s been many names for the games throughout history—Tailtin Fair, Áenach Tailteann, Aonach Tailteann, Assembly of Talti, Fair of Taltiu, or Festival of Taltii—but people generally refer to this thousand-year tradition as the Tailteann Games. Held the last fortnight in July (with Lughnasa, August 1st, as the last day of celebrations,) the Tailteann Games were as multifaceted as any event could be. First off: the honoring of the dead. While Tailtiu was the first honoree, each time the games were held (which we don’t have a solid record of, but was thought to have been as often as every year for certain stretches,) the first three days were devoted to paying tribute to the honored dead, mourning and celebrating the deceased. A large funeral pyre would be lit, and mourners practiced the wailing known as caoi (we’d call it keening,) the guba, mourning chants, and cepógs, sung funeral lamentations and eulogies.
After the fires of the funeral pyre had died down, the fourth day was devoted to the law. As the Tailteann Games were a gathering together of all the varying people of Ireland with their many disputes, a formal truce was called. Then, the High King of Ireland would go about disseminating the new laws to his people. One of the stranger laws (to modern minds) in ancient Ireland was that of the tradition of what we now call Teltown Marriages. A mass marriage ceremony was performed near the end of every Tailteann Games, but the rules surrounding these marriages was a little different than a standard marriage license today. These pairings were often arranged marriages, and the couples were given more leeway than most in history: they need only stay married a year and a day, after which the couple could divorce by simply walking away from each other with no harm to either’s reputation. This law was reportedly in place until the 13th century!
And then: time to play! The rest of the two weeks of the festival were devoted to competition. While athletic competitions—including running, boxing, the long jump, the high jump, spear-throwing (aka the javelin,) archery, sword fighting, horse races, swimming…the list goes on and on—made up the bulk of the games, there were contests for those with other skills. Since Lugh is not only a warrior-god, but a craftsman-god whose realm of influence extended to the arts, the contests included music and poetry, competitions of strategy and story-telling, and many, many artisan-driven ones like goldsmithing and blacksmithing, with jewelers, weavers, and armorers competing as well. And yes, SRL dancers--there were dance competitions! While the Tailteann Games were not necessarily the first dance competitions in Ireland, they were some of the most illustrious and helped spread new and traditional dance throughout the country. Essentially, the Tailteann Games were like one huge feis!
The tradition of the Tailteann Games lasted until 1169 when the Norman Invasion and following British rule decimated the ancient Irish way of life for centuries. The last of the original games was held under Rory O’Connor, the last High King of Ireland, though there was a small resurgence during medieval times (and, of course, it’s believed that the original Tailteann Games influenced the creation of both the ancient and modern versions of the Olympics!) You might have noticed the use of the word “original” there. Don’t worry, the Tailteann Games didn’t fully die out! But you’ll have to return to the blog next week to learn about how the games have been revived in modern times.
This post is part of a series. Read our last history post, all about the holiday Lughnasa, 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.
Is your child interested in dance, but you’re not sure where to start? Why not Irish dance? We won’t try to convince you (check out these multiple posts in case you want some more convincing—we do have a strong case,) but thought we’d let our amazing community of parents tell you why SRL is the right choice, instead!
Looking for: exercise with purpose?
“Physically it’s helped with coordination and strength. But it’s also helped with focus and determination. And it’s given them a fun way to get their wiggles out and make new friends.”—Evelyn
Looking for: cultural enrichment?
“I’m Irish, I’m involved in the Irish community, and I thought this might be another way to engage my daughters in an activity that would be great for them and also tied to their ancestry.”—Siobhan
Looking for: a confidence boost?
“Dance has built [my dancer’s] confidence and has opened her up to experiencing new things.”—Christina
Looking for: dance that teaches life skills?
“I think Irish dance has taught [my dancer] perseverance, grace under pressure, humility and the understanding that its ok to not be ok! Do your best work and enjoy the journey.”—Christine
“I love the way the classes are structured to challenge the students just so much that also pushes them forward in their learning.”—Andrea
Looking for: a way to encourage goal-setting?
“[My dancer] is competitive and she wants to do well, but she’s a little girl who can be easily more interested in other things. Dancing with SRL and Miss Courtney has given her ways to practice at setting goals and working toward them. This was never more true than her second year when she was struggling with reading in first grade and simultaneously did poorly at a feis. Right after that, she set two goals—which she even wrote down—to get better at reading and to get better at Irish dance. By the end of that year, she had improved dramatically at both.”—Siobhan
Looking for: a unique, year- round activity?
“If your child loves to dance, they should try Irish dance. It’s different than any other style of dance…[My dancer] has been doing other types of dance for years, but Irish dance is beautiful and unique.”—Christina
Looking for: an outlet for male dancers?
“On an uncommon comparison, I often think it has similar qualities to karate with the discipline, athleticism, and focus. But, Irish dance has joy and musicality that takes it to another level; this is why I think it’s also very good for boys even though it may not be the first thing one thinks.”—Siobhan
Looking for: community and support?
“I’m amazed at the choreography [my dancer] memorizes. I was so proud that she quickly gained the confidence to participate in a public performance and also do her first feis. I enjoyed watching her teach a dance to some younger Girl Scouts at one of our meetings last year, and I love that she has volunteered to help out at SRL classes with younger children—it’s all been a great growing experience for her in many ways.”—Becca
“I wanted [my dancer] to get involved in something, but she did not want to try the traditional tap, jazz, ballet route. I got her to try a class at SRL the summer she was 4 years old and she fell in love with the dancing, the older kids, and of course Miss Courtney.”—Andrea
Looking for: options?
“Irish dance is great because it is completely up to you and your dancer as to how involved you want to be. Competition and performances are optional or you can choose to compete every weekend if you want. It’s a unique skill to have and fun to get to show it off!”—Jill L.
If you’re looking for it for your dancer, SRL has it! While classes run on a school year schedule from September to June, we have a special offer to let new dancers get a taste before they sign up in the fall! SRL’s Intro to Irish Dance Summer Camp sign-ups are now open for new dancers 2-12, with two sessions available at work-friendly drop off times for parents. Learn more about the program here, or feel free to reach out to our Office Manager, Devon, at 860-385-1107 or shoot her an email at email@example.com. She’s happy to help!
This post is part of a series. Take a look at our last 411 post—tons of testimonials from dancers!— 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.
You can call it Lughnasa, or Lughnasadh, or even Lúnasa (also Gaeilge for August, all pronounced (roughly) loo-nas-sa,) but the truth of it will have everyone excited for Halloween already hooked: it’s a harvest festival! Lughnasa, named after the god-hero of early Irish mythology, Lugh, is one of the four fire festivals of ancient Ireland (along with Imbolc, Beltane, and Samhain) and falls between the summer solstice and autumn equinox. This pagan holiday marked the beginning of the harvest season, and thus a time of plenty before winter, for the largely agrarian ancient Irelanders. Though this holiday was technically yesterday this year (the dates can shift, but it’s usually the closest Sunday to August 1st) we’re here to tell you about the ways people once celebrated!
Legend states that Lugh (check out another story on the blog about him here) founded the holiday on the occasion of his foster-mother’s death. Tailtiu (whose name shows up with many pronunciations, we’ll let you take your best shot) was an earth goddess said to have died after clearing the land of Ireland for agricultural purposes, and is associated with dying vegetation’s ability to create new life and then sustain it. Lugh’s idea of a proper funeral is a little different from ours today—he decided to honor his foster mother with, well, an Irish version of the Olympics? We’ll explore the now-called Tailteann Games in another post, but, fun fact: the custom of funerary games was actually a relatively common amongst ancient civilizations!
While feats of athleticism are at the root of the holiday, a festival and many celebratory traditions that don’t necessarily make you break sweat grew up around the games. To start: what would a harvest festival be without some celebration of said harvest? Records speak of a ceremonial cutting of the first corn and first fruits of the harvest season as one of the most pervasive customs across the country. While the first of the harvest was offered to the communal bonfire (remember—fire festival!) as a sacrifice to the gods, husks of corn, wheat, or barley were used to create corn dollies—though these weren’t really just dolls! The corn maidens were carefully crafted with least blemished sheaves so they would last the winter, supposedly protecting the household. Some stories even report that once the long winter has passed, the corn dolly would be returned to her place in the earth to bless the new agricultural year. As for fruit: bilberries (we’d call them blueberries) are such a popular Lughnasa treat that the holiday is sometimes referred to as “Bilberry Sunday!” It was believed that the more blueberries there were, the better the following harvest.
Blueberry pie shared the table with all sorts of treats, though in a special place of honor was usually a sacrificed bull (first meat given to the gods, of course) that would feed the whole community. The feasting was often paired with a ritual dance-play that tells the story of Lugh, who as a sun-god helps determine the quality of each year’s harvest, honoring his work for the betterment of mankind, fitting for a poet-warrior. Like other fire festivals, the pagan Irish viewed this time of year as a struggle between gods: Lugh, who wants to distribute the harvest to his people, and Crom Dubh (meaning “dark, crooked one,” the holiday is even sometimes called “Crom Dugh Sunday”) an ancient god figure who wants to hoard the goods for himself. Sometimes the harvest is represented by a female figure named Eithne (Lugh’s mother)—most likely the origin of the corn maidens! Don’t worry—Lugh always wins. These large gatherings also helped spread the prevalence of the tradition of matchmaking on Lughnasa, (remember our Fun Fact about Teltown Marriages? that’s where the first Lughnasa celebration was held, in Co. Meath) but, that was common for any Irish festival as it brought together farming communities whose large tracts of land often kept them secluded from the larger community.
But the traditions don’t end there: as the years went on and Christianity spread across the pagan communities, it became common for the Irish to celebrate with small pilgrimages. Till this day, people take to the hills and mountains for hikes in honor of the season, as well as gravitating toward holy wells to pray. In particular, penitents flock to Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo, said to be the site of Saint Patrick’s 40 day fasting on the same mountain in 441 A.D.—a mass is even held there each year, with thousands of pilgrims in attendance. Holy wells dot the Irish countryside and are still a popular destination on any of the fire festival turned Christian tradition days. The wells are often decorated in garlands of late-summer greenery and pieces of the harvest (another use for corn husks!) These traditions have given Lughnasa yet more names: “Garland Sunday” or “Reek Sunday” (reek, by the way, means “high hill” in Ireland.)
However you feel like celebrating summer winding down—blueberry tarts, creepy dolls, a big meal, setting up your friend with that nice, single coworker of yours, hiking, prayer--Lughnasa Shona!
This post is part of a series. Read our last Irish history post, all about the spring fire festival of Beltane, 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.
Interested in trying out Irish dance, but aren’t entirely sure? We could talk all day long about the benefits Irish dance has, physically, mentally, and socially (and we have—check out these posts to learn more!) but why don’t we let some of our dancers tell you a little more about why they love Irish dance here at SRL! We hope you’ll join us!
Looking for: exercise?
“I love all kinds of dance but Irish dance is a fun fast kind of dancing!”—Rooney
Looking for: long-lasting life skills?
“As an adult, my time at SRL taught me the value of time management, passion and persistence. Until college, I was a multi-sport athlete, competitive dancer and a participant in various other extracurricular activities. I learned quickly how to manage my school load with these other commitments to keep everything in balance. I hold myself to a high standard to do everything the best I can, so being able to manage that while maintaining a passion for the sport taught me so much. Today, I approach everything I do with passion and persistence while remembering I have to manage my time well to accomplish all of my goals.”—Tara
Looking for: enjoyment and self-expression?
“I believe there are many reasons behind why people dance, including because friends or family members did it in the past or currently do it now. But I think that some people dance for the same reason I did: for a way to escape reality from time to time. I remember going to the studio, totally forgetting about the outside world, and just living in the moment that was happening throughout dance class.”—Christian
Looking for: cultural enrichment?
“I think people dance because it is freeing. In Irish Dance, it is you and the floor working in harmony to produce something beautiful and culturally significant. It is a personal challenge…where the only opponent is yourself. It is also an opportunity to celebrate a culture very few understand. To represent and celebrate my Irish heritage through dance has connected me more with my family’s ancestry.”—Tara
Looking for: a supportive environment?
“SRL is an amazing community where all the dancers and teachers are very motivating, inspiring, and caring.”—Bailey
Looking for: friends?
“SRL has provided me with so many opportunities and memories that will last a lifetime.”—Lindsey
Looking for: peer mentors?
“I always loved my time as an assistant teacher for Courtney and still keep in contact with some of my students today. When they finally got their jumps or skips, it was such a proud moment for me. I miss working with them!”—Tara
Looking for: something to be passionate about?
Just take Colby’s word for it when asked what he loves most about Irish dance: “Everything.”
If your dancer is looking for it, SRL has it! While classes run on a school year schedule from September to June, we have a special offer to let new dancers get a taste before they sign up in the fall! SRL’s Intro to Irish Dance Summer Camp sign-ups are now open for new dancers 2-12, with two sessions available at work-friendly drop off times for parents. Learn more about the program here, or feel free to reach out to our Office Manager, Devon, at 860-385-1107 or shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s happy to help!
This post is part of a series. Take a look at our last 411 post—tons of testimonials from parents!— 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
Dance in Irish Mythology, Part 3
The Crane Dance
Like any founding mythology of a nation, the Irish mythos is littered with heroes and their glorious deeds—but not many of those stories involve dance. One major exception is the god-hero Lugh (we’ll be discussing the festival in his honor next week!) But before we get into the dancing, we have to tell you a little more about his place as one of the most important heroes in the Irish mythos.
First off—it’s unclear if Lugh was a god or an actual, historical figure. On his god side, Lugh was known as one of the strongest members of the powerful Tuatha Dé Danann: the god of sun and light, an all-seeing and all-knowing deity also associated with poetry, arts, and crafts. While the Romans referred to him as the “Gaulish Mercury”—he’s more like Apollo combined with Hermes, with a dash of Hercules thrown in. His many talents are attributed to being the only surviving member of a set of triplets—he’s often depicted with three faces to represent how he has the power of three (an important number in most mythologies and religions.) On the historical side, Lugh is associated with being not just a mighty warrior, but a skilled one, as well as a symbol of rightful kingship—meaning peace, prosperity, law and order, and oaths and truth. It’s a lot of for one man (or god) to carry!
There are many stories we could tell about Lugh (and probably will in future posts!), but the one that concerns us today is a rite Lugh was recorded performing before he led his men into a fight with the Fomorians (a monstrous, supernatural race from the sea.) While he heats the warriors’ blood with a rhythmic, rousing speech, he…dances. Specifically, he hops to the beat of his chant in a circle on one foot, with one eye closed—and bizarre as this seems out of context, there is an explanation! This is one of the only mentions in Irish mythology of a specific dance being performed by a god, and fitting with his status as a divinity, research shows that he was performing an ancient, Druidic magic called corrghuineacht aka “the crane dance.”
The position Lugh assumes is known as glám dícenn (“satire which destroys,” fitting for this poet-warrior,) and does more than mimic a crane standing in water. Lifting one foot from the ground is meant to place the dancer between worlds, while only one eye is open to block this world and see into the Otherworld. Traveling in a sunwise circle for prayer, blessing, and curses (Lugh, in this instance, is blessing the fighters,) was a common practice in Druidic worship, with infinity figures (circles and knots, foremost,) being the most iconic of Celtic symbols to this day. But the crane was also an important symbol in Celtic mythology: its ability to move between water, land, and air made it a symbol of shapeshifting and magic, as well as the moon to Lugh’s sun—a mirror of his prophetic powers and sacred to the triple goddesses of Irish mythology.
What does this all mean? On one level, it’s a really a beautiful way to view dance and emphasizes the deep, cultural roots of Irish dance in particular: dance in Ireland is something powerful, perhaps even magical, transformative, and of the natural world, tied to the land, the water, and the air of the isle. Lugh performing this dance is of particular significance as his rule as King marked 40 years of peace and prosperity on Irish land where the harvests were abundant and the cows productive—it associates dance with protection of the land and people, something steadfast, comforting, and elucidating in the face of the many invaders over Ireland’s long and often bloody history. Beauty in the midst of chaos—how else could you describe those flying feet paired with perfect posture?
Fun fact: there haven’t been cranes in Ireland for at least three centuries…but a nesting pair was spotted just this year! Up until medieval times, cranes were reportedly the third most common domestic pet in Ireland (after dogs and cats,) usually tamed and kept in the home, near the dinner table. (There are even claims that they were able to be trained to bow their heads in prayer!) Archaeologists also report that crane bones are the fourth most common bird bone found in Ireland, and scholars note that the birds are the second most common in place names throughout the British Isles. Industrialization led to the shrinking of their habitat and many thought the birds had moved on for good, but Irish company Bord na Móna has pivoted their purpose as peat harvesters and committed themselves to restoring the wetlands they had previously devastated. The company was proud to report the pair this past May—and while none of their eggs hatched this year, there’s high hopes for the next!
But there’s more about Lugh (and less about birds) to come…check out our post next week all about the holiday named after this multifaceted god!
This post is part of a series. Take a look at our last Irish Mythology post, all about the “King of the Faeries,” 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.
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