Getting jiggy with it
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Mar 11, 2013, 12:23
photo by Caitlin Davis Dancers from Heart of Ireland School of Dance performed at the Chesterfield Library.
Sounds of the Irish, from the music to the tapping feet of dancers, was heard at the Chesterfield Central Library on Saturday. Heart of Ireland School of Dance performed traditional Irish dances for the community with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner.
Irish dancing originated in the 1700s, and when the British invaded, they tried to suppress Irish traditions, such as dancing, by taking doors off houses. This is how the style of the dances emerged with the hands to the sides. This was done by the Irish to conserve space. The style of dance made a comeback in the 1900s when the more modern styles of Irish dancing was developed.
Heart of Ireland performed many different styles of dance for the community on Saturday, including a feis style, which is a competitive Irish dance with no hands, a jig, and progressive dances, which are group dances done in even numbers that can involved an unlimited number of people.
“I’m of Irish heritage. The music has always spoken to me. It’s fun,” said Aleise Matheson, co-owner of Heart of Ireland School of Dance. Matheson led the group dance on Saturday which involved volunteers from the audience dancing alongside students from Heart of Ireland.
“We did several Ceili group dances,” said Matheson, who has been doing Irish dancing for six years. “The emphasis is about enjoying yourself with the music. They’re social dances. It’s about the figures the group is making as a whole. The focus is not on intricate footwork. It’s on intricate movements as a group.”
Heart of Ireland opened in July of 2012 after the Irish dance classes had outgrown another dance studio. Andrea McCarney, co-owner of Heart of Ireland, said there are currently 80 students enrolled at the school, with ages ranging from 3 to adult.
McCarney began dancing at age 3 with ballet and tap. She went on to college at Sweet Briar, where she majored in dance education. As part of her requirements, McCarney had to take a semester of different styles of dance. She chose Irish dancing and her love for the dance grew from there.
“I like to make noise,” McCarney said. “I used to get in trouble for tap dancing as a kid. I just like the way that it’s structured with all the different rhythms and the music.”
Community members took the floor and learned some Irish steps on Saturday. Instead of a recorded track, the band Scalaheen offered some traditional Irish music, with Margaret Graham on fiddle, Kathy Whittle on flute and whistle, Jeff Brown on tenor banjo and Mark Pehanich on guitar.
photo by Caitlin Davis The band Scalaheen performs with Heart of Ireland School of Dance on Saturday. From left are Jeff Brown, Kathy Whittle and Margaret Graham.
“It’s really fun to try and get people to come up, and you never know who’s going to volunteer to come up and try, but it’s a lot of fun,” McCarney said.
Dancers from the school not only helped spin around members of the community, they also took the floor to showcase their footwork. One dancer, Chole Mapes, who has been taking Irish dance for eight years, was showcasing her talents that helped get her a chance to go to Ireland.
Mapes qualified in December of 2012 to go to the All Irelands Dance Competition in June. She said while she does not know for sure if she will be going, Mapes remains hopeful she can travel to Ireland to dance.
photo by Caitlin Davis Emily Parker, from Heart of Ireland School of Dance, helps a community member learn the steps to a traditional Irish dance at the Chesterfield Library on Saturday.
“I like the music and the rhythms,” Mapes said of her desire to begin to take Irish dance classes.