By Laura Padgett
Here it is March again and folks are gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Perhaps you will celebrate by going to a parade, or to a party or pub. Wherever you choose to mark this holiday it is sure you will find lively crowds, engaging music and, of course, Irish Step Dancing. It is easy to admire the grace, skill and athleticism of the dancers. Most Irish Dance performances include a combination of traditional and Riverdance style choreography. Although a lot of what is seen in performance is complicated, highly precise and the result of hours of practice, there is another form of Irish Dance that can be done by anyone from age 2 to 92 and requires little to no dance experience. It is called Ceili (Gaelic for party) dance and is rooted deep in Irish history.
No one can say for sure when Irish dancing began. Most scholars on the subject believe it dates back to the religious practices of the Druids, long before Ireland was Ireland, as we know it now. The Druids often practiced circle and line dances in their ceremonies. Through centuries of persecution, occupation and exile, the Irish have kept their unique dance style alive and well. Perhaps that is because it was exercise that kept them fit, provided socialization with friends and family, and was just plain fun. It can be all that for us today.
Irish Ceili Dance offers fitness on two levels. First, a person can count on getting a good cardio workout doing the jigs and reels prevalent in Ceili dancing – and what an enjoyable way to get your 10,000 steps in each day! But Ceili dancing is a good brain workout too. Even though there are only a few basic steps to learn, one’s little grey cells are challenged to remember the patterns in the dances.
Ceili dancing has been done throughout history, all over the world, for socialization. It provides a unique opportunity for spending time with family and friends – old and new. When it comes to meeting new folks, it’s hard to beat some of the progressive dances where you end up with new partners throughout the piece.
For me personally, the best benefit of Ceili dance is fun. The music connects the dancers to the earth and each other in a way that defies description. The dances tell stories of a resilient people who refused to let their culture die. I have yet to attend a Ceili dance event where people didn’t walk out smiling – happy in the soul.
So don’t be surprised if you find your feet tapping and your heart with a voice of its own as you are carried into the magical world of Irish Dance this St. Paddy’s Day; it happens to a lot of us. You might consider taking an Irish Dance class for cardio fitness and improved all around health. Google Irish Dance Classes in your area and check with schools to see if they have a Ceili class. But be warned, the music and dance can be addictive.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Sláinte (Gaelic for “to your health”).
Laura Padgett earned her MA from Regis University in Storytelling Through Creative Movement. She competed in and performed Irish Step Dance for almost 15 years beginning at age 46. While at Regis, she taught and choreographed Irish Ceili dancing for five years. She taught Irish Dance at Westside Dance in Golden, CO and for Miss Gwen Bowen in Denver. Currently Laura is involved in the formation of a Ceili class at Destination Dance in Wheat Ridge. For more of Laura’s writing on dance and other subjects, visit her blog at http://livinwhatyouregiven60.wordpress.com or contact her at 303-238-6812 for information regarding her Irish Ceili Dance class.