Monday, December 3, 2012

A response to Mike Farragher's ill conceived and written article in the Irish Voice...

In response to Mike Farragher’s ill conceived and written article about Irish Dance in the Irish Voice…

Well now Mr. Farreher, I now know why organizers weren't keen on giving you access... I had so much more hope for you and your ability to go beyond the haze of tanner and hairspray fumes and see the underlying core of why we engage in this crazy dance world. I guess I just expected more, especially from the consummate expert on the Irish cultural experience.  But this just paints the same old picture of stressed out crazy moms and dads and high maintenance dancers… nothing new. It could be Abby Lee or my favorite, the Dance Moms of Miami.

The dances that were performed during the ceili competition you watched are dances our ancestors have danced for centuries.  You should mention some of the names of them to your Mom and Dad (they weren't all a variation of  “A Trip to the Cottage”).  I'm sure they would bring a smile to their faces as they remembered some Saturday evening dancing in their kitchens back home.  I know that I see my Dad smile when he sees Kathryn dance them.  And, it makes me smile when I listen to them discuss parts of the dance much the way the Monday morning quarterbacks discuss plays of a big Sunday night football game. 

Speaking of which... I often find it odd that we think  spray tanning (which I'm fairly confident you would have jumped at the chance to don a Speedo and tan your sexy gams to show off under your kilt) is odd but slapping pads and full gear on a seven year old and putting him on a football field in the middle of the hottest day of August seems "normal".  Or that an organization that is geared toward children uses cookies to promote and fund the organization even though childhood obesity is at an all time high.  Trust me I've eaten my share of Thin Mints.  But forgive me if I don't understand why we think the primping and priming are strange in Irish dance, yet seem to over look them when our 9 year olds gyrate to some inappropriate pop song in some scantily clad outfit in “mainstream dance”.  

Now I'd be lying if I told you I loved those aspects of Irish dance. I have often told you, and have said it even in my blog, that I’d much prefer to watch Kathryn dance in shorts and a t-shirt, in a sweltering studio, being yelled at by tough Irish dance teachers than I do in full regalia. But, when they walk out on that stage and smile in those dresses, often with intricate Celtic knotwork (similar to dresses we wore eons ago), I can’t help but feel my heart swell.  And, when they complete a difficult figure perfectly, my heart bursts because I know that their hearts are bursting with pride at reaching a goal set long ago by a dance teacher that trusted their ability.

You didn’t take the time to meet the dancers like my daughter who often give up countless childhood activities like birthday parties and outings with friends to practice dance.  The same child that has come home from dance exhausted with blistered feet, but takes the time to watch videos of her dances to help improve her technique.  Talk about determination and dedication!!! A life skill dance has taught her.

What I thought you'd see in the practice room, and later at the lounge, are the strong confident Irish women (much like our mothers) that are instilling the same confidence that brought our parents to this new country and gave them the strength to make it.  Or that you’d see the commitment of the dads that are willing to put up with carrying a pink, glittered dress through the lobby of a hotel for their daughter who is about to dance solo or who simply sits patiently for hours saving seats while their wives stand by nervous and stressed watching a last practice before the big moment. I hoped that you would share or listen to conversations later that evening as each woman talked about their summers in the Catskills or the Rockaways. How we all had the same fear of disappointing our sainted mothers; a fear we still have even though some of the moms are long gone. We all have the same stories to tell and we all fully believe that a cup of tea can cure almost anything. These are friendships forged by years of the Irish Culture that we grew up in and now have the pleasure of sharing with our own children.

So laugh and scowl if you must at our tanned legs, glittered dresses and made up faces but know that you have missed the boat on describing the Irish dance experience to the public.  And, remember as the t-shirt in the vendor stands at the Oireachtas says, “dancers kick their butts in class so they can kick yours on stage”.  

1 comment:

  1. I had the pleasure of watching Peggie Madden dance with my cousins many moons ago in Jersey City. We were more innocent back then, it was a more innocent time, and the Irish step dance culture seemed uncluttered by glitter, spray tans, pageantry and a "minivan mom mafia" raised on housewife reality show drama. Though that is sad, one tradition lives on: Peggie's lovely daughter placed high in the 8-hand competition, just like her talented mom back in the day! Thankfully, some things never change...