I grew up in an Irish dancing family, which meant St. Padraig's day was huge in my house. My sisters and I were excused from school each year to tour New York's Capital Region with our dance school, The Wild Irish Acres School of Irish Dance, performing at assemblies, in pubs, in parks and of course at the local Ancient Order of Hibernians. We'd stop between gigs for ice cream from Stewarts (free cones if you wore green!) and corned beef & cabbage and stay out way too late for school aged kids, generally having an absolute blast. My favorite part of every performance was the ceili- a social dance where everyone's a participant.
It's been years since I've been able to celebrate with my first dance school, but the joy of ceili has stayed very present in my mind and in my creative practice. I'm currently directing The Ceili Ensemble with The Ume Group- we're working on contemporizing the form while revering the tradition and embracing it's interactive, participatory roots- and we had a rehearsal scheduled for the 17th! It, of course, made perfect sense to bring our work to the people of NYC spending the night out celebrating Irish culture!
A simple sign explained our antics and we paused frequently to welcome onlookers and newcomers. Some stood and watched. Some filmed. Some danced. What an honor.
It was, to be brief, a smashing success. Like magic, friends and strangers emerged from the crowd and jumped in to share the Bonfire Dance, the Bridge of Athlone and the Siege of Ennis. It was a privilege and an honor to witness the beauty of strangers coming together to enjoy music, movement and each other's presence.
Save the date- on Friday, April 10th at 8p, The Ceili Ensemble will host a ceili at 123 W 71st St. Free to all!
And a very special thanks to Jorge Luna for the photos and video.