Irish Dance club Blackbirds performs at Common Grounds

Elena Morey

A&E Editor

Ever wondered what it would sound like if someone taught six Clydesdale horses how to beautifully tap dance to Christmas music?  Well, on Nov. 30., the Irish Step Club Blackbirds performed at Common Grounds.  They had their festive Christmas socks on and most had the Blackbirds shirt.  The music and the cheerful steps all welcomed the season.

Irish Dance comes from a common fable, depicting a story similar to Footloose.  A king bans dancing but the villagers wish to continue.  They develop a style of dancing that evolves the lower half of the body so in case the soldiers looked over the wall, it would not appear as though they are dancing.  Thus, Irish Dance was born.

The College’s Irish Dance club got their name from “the traditional dance called ‘Blackbird,’ which is the coolest traditional dance,” said Haylee Maude’19, Blackbirds’s president, who has been heavily involved since 2015.  “You could go anywhere in the world and if they knew Blackbird, it would be the exact same steps.  It is passed down from generations and cultures, which I think is really inspiring,” said Maude.  She began Irish dancing at the age of nine, inspired by a Riverdance performance her parents took her to.  At the age of 15 she had major spinal surgery and had to quit, but when she came to Wooster, she became a part of the club and found her passion rekindled. “This club means a lot to me,” she said.  “I did not expect Irish Dance to be such an important part of my life since coming to college.  There is a deep sense of community among the club and this year is the largest the club has ever been.  There are more beginners than the years I’ve been a part of the club.  It’s really cool to see so many people interested.  We do not have any funding this year, however, which has made some activities and competitions difficult.”

The performance on Friday showcased some different styles of the art also known as hard shoe and soft shoe, called gillies.  The hard shoe is very loud and the gillies are surprisingly silent.  One can certainly hear the hard shoe from outside Common Grounds.  “I prefer dancing in hard shoe because I like the sound it makes and is a lot more dramatic and traditional.  Hard shoe is what Irish Dance is known for and poses a greater challenge.  If you make a mistake, everyone can hear it.  Soft shoe is lighter and light-footed.  The dance moves are a little more flowy and staged movement,” Maude said.  

Throughout the performance, there was a great amount of energy and the dancers were working up a sweat.  The effort, joy and passion amongst all of them regardless of their abilities was fantastic and indeed inspiring to watch. “When I dance, I feel super relaxed.  It is definitely a great way to relieve stress.  It is so freeing and a massive release of positive energy,” Maude said, despite admitting it takes a lot of stamina and general fitness to perform more complex dances back to back.  Yet, the entire club does it beautifully and makes it look way easier than it is.

The rhythmic clicking of their shoes on the floor was in time to the modern Christmas music and the line movement was intriguing to watch.  One struggled deciding where to look, at the fantastically complex footwork or at their movement in the space as a whole.  

If you want to learn more, feel free to contact Maude at HMaude19@wooster.edu.  The next Blackbird performance is this Friday, at the WAC Winter Bash from 10:20-10:30 p.m. in the Alley.

(Photo by Jake Lautman)

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