Irish dancers form troupe at University


Kathleen Holly, sophomore in LAS, laces her shoes during “IDentity” practice in the workout room in the basement of Garner Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007. ME Online

By Elizabeth Weber

When it comes to Irish dancing, for many, thoughts of fast-paced jigs, accordion and fiddle-based melodies, curly-haired redheads, Riverdance and Michael Flatley come to mind.

However, the newly formed Irish dance troupe, IDentity, wants to erase these stereotypes of Irish dancing and bring it into the spotlight at the University.

“We want to preserve the art form, but at the same time, make it more appealing to people,” said IDentity member Becky Miller, sophomore in LAS. “A lot of traditional Irish dancing is not too appealing right now.”

Composed of mainly freshmen and sophomores, the group formed back in November to continue a passion that all of them have shared since childhood, with each member having competed on regional, national and even world levels.

“We devoted so much time and so much effort to it in high school and even longer than that,” Miller said. “Coming here and not having anything that was even compared to the level we were at just a few months earlier was kind of hard.”

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    Even though Irish dance might be lacking in popularity on campus, the members of IDentity aren’t too worried. With the infusion of traditional dance and more modern Irish music that includes electric guitars and percussion, the group feels its new take on Irish dance, along with talent and years of combined experience, will be able to draw new crowds.

    “I feel really confident about our group because it’s really coming together” said Máir¡n Gilmartin, freshman in LAS. “We’re going to impress whoever sees our shows.”

    The group members also said they hope to be taken seriously as dancers and prove that Irish dancing is not just a jig, but an actual art.

    “People assume that it’s a narrow, simple form of dancing,” Miller said. “I think once people see us dance, they will realize it is very eclectic, like any other form of dance.”

    Although they have not given a formal performance yet, IDentity has been practicing, creating choreography and new dance routines, and promoting themselves through Facebook and a separate Web site that contains photos, member biographies and schedules for upcoming performances.

    Currently, the group is hoping to perform at the Courtyard Caf‚ for the Students Performing Arts of IUB Saturday, Feb. 24, but the scheduling is still tentative. Other upcoming performances include Dance Against Aids on March 31 and the McKinley Health Fair on April 24.

    In the meantime, the group is content with practicing in the basement of the Six Pack residence halls, where they are already drawing small groups of spectators.

    “It’s kind of embarrassing because you’re not ready to be watched,” said Kathleen Holly, sophomore in LAS. “But at the same time, it’s kind of cool to know that people are actually going to be interested when the actual show comes around.”

    Currently IDentity has 10 members, but the group is always looking for new members and hopes to expand their group next fall. They are holding tryouts over the summer and looking for both male and female dancers with experience participating at a championship level.

    “If you are an Irish dancer coming to U of I, there is definitely a place for you,” Miller said.