Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ceilí-ing Dublin

After the Ceilí So I didn't end up going to hear Handel's Messiah last night as I had originally planned, but it was a good tradeoff. Sorcha, who I'd met at the swing dance, told me about the Rathmines Festival and invited me to the ceilí that was happening last night at St. Mary's College. So I went to that and had a very nice time dancing and talking with her and other new dancing friends, and listening to good music. Really, I think this whole going to dances thing is just the best way to enjoy being in a foreign city.

The band included a fiddle, button accordion, flute, concertina, and guitar. The concertina player sang a couple of songs as well, in between dances and just accompanied by the guitar. The first one she sang was actually Erin's Shore, in Irish, and it was really hard not to waltz to it. But the songs were more for listening and resting there, and no one was dancing. Lovely to listen to, though. And the band sounded great on the dance tunes, as well. I would have liked to have just sat and listened and picked up some new tunes, but I was rather distracted trying to figure out the dances.

As for the dances themselves, well, it was a bit silly. Hardly anybody knew what they were doing (and the teacher was just barely hanging in there himself sometimes), and the dances were "taught" by doing a quick demo set of dubious accuracy and then throwing everyone into it at once whether they had been paying attention or not. Luckily, chaos can be fun if everyone is enthusiastic about it. Also, most of the evening consisted of doing the same three dances over and over and over again, so we got a bit better as we went along. The dances were a two-hand reel (whose name I've forgotten), The Walls of Limerick (structured like a contra -- couples of couples and progressing down the line), and The Siege of Ennis (a 4-opposite-4 dance, like a double contra).

Now the really funny thing was that I was paying very close attention and trying to learn the patterns as quickly and accurately as I could. Not only because I was new to ceilí dancing, but because it didn't look like I could depend on watching other people as I went along. The result was that by the end of the evening, I was helping do the demo sets, and I also got put in the front of the line for the two-hand reel because none of the actual Irish people trusted themselves to remember how it went. (I fooled them though and screwed it up by mistakenly starting with the wrong part.) I don't have the footwork or style or anything right at all, but I can remember patterns. Anyway, that was pretty amusing.

Besides our main three, we had a couple other one-off dances. The only one I can remember specifically was Shoe the Donkey (or possibly "Shoo," but I'm guessing "Shoe" because of the stomping involved). It was almost like a schottischy sort of waltz. In promenade position you do a hop-stomp-stomp, with the hop on the 3 as a pickup, four times, turning around to face backwards on the fourth time. Repeat all that four times, then just waltz around until the beginning of the tune comes around again.

Non-dance-wise, I learned all sorts of interesting things from Fiona and Niamh about Irish sports, the national anthem, and numbers (which have different words depending on what you're counting). Fascinating stuff, of which I have probably already forgotten a lot. Delightful evening overall.

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