This is a repost of a newsletter “dispatch” I wrote about my trip to Ireland. Please enjoy–I did!
The Glenside Ceili Band was already making music when I stepped into St. Patrick’s Hall: Keyboard, drums and accordion. The crowd — almost exclusively a generation or two beyond me and all the better dancers for it — was so enthusiastic that on the last beats of each step (stomp, stomp, STOMP!) one could literally see the floor flexing, bending and bouncing beneath them. Dance floor? More like dancing floor.
Ten euro got me in the door, a seat in a plastic chair shoved against the wall (the only place one might escape getting danced upon) and a promise that someone would ask me up to dance. They did one better, with the band announcing a round of applause for the visitor all the way from Alaska. No need to worry about sticking out in the crowd now! The next thing I knew I was being whirled around the house, “dancing at home,” and learning how to do a square. I’m sure I didn’t get every rhythm right, but whatever I was dancing to felt pretty darn good with the music.
Three hours went by quick as a whirl, and my only regret is that I had to turn down the tea they offered me afterward; with the black night already in full bloom and matching black ice on the roads, temperatures just at freezing, I was concerned about getting to that night’s lodging in good time. It’s amazing how many things are closed from Christmas to New Year’s, and the nearest bed I could be sure of getting turned out to be nearly 30 km away. I left with a list of next year’s Delvin ceilis tucked into my hand, though, and promises made to ring up if I can ever make it back. I certainly hope to… can those people ever dance!
I was also informed that there’s a younger crowd of set dancers in Co. Clare and Co. Dublin. I’m definitely going to Clare before I leave, and Dublin on the way out — so it’ll be interesting to see how the dance scenes in the different places compare. The dancers in Alaska are a very eclectic group, ranging widely in age and culture but all piling together for the craic. The only difference I could see here, really, was the accents. And the break for tea in the middle.
So. It’s a big scary, cold, black-ice world out there, but for tonight at least, I am once again warm and safe. That alone is a lot to be thankful for, but throw in an evening of good fun, great music and dancing…
Yeah, I’m in love.
Photo: Some very color-coordinated folks doing the Haymaker’s Jig (from Wikimedia Commons)