The Greater Washington Ceili Club
(last updated Sep 24, 2006)
Articles mentioning GWCC activities :
Ceili Dancing by
Matthew Graham Sunday, January 15, 2006;
Step Lively Now by Mary Quattlebaum Friday, March 4, 2005; Page WE39
|Friday, March 4, 2005; Page WE39|
By Mary Quattlebaum
FLOATS, BANDS and green-garbed marchers galore will grace St. Patrick's Day parades Saturday in Alexandria and next weekend in Gaithersburg, Manassas and Washington. But when the Celtic music swells, the liveliest feet, by far, will belong to young Irish dancers.
The parades are one of the best places to glimpse the talented students of local Irish dance schools, many directed by former dance champions. Long before the '90s "Riverdance" craze hit America, youngsters here were learning the reels, jigs and ribbon dances of the Emerald Isle.
And learning a bit about Irish culture in the process. "The choreography for certain set and ceili dances [group dances similar to American square dances] has remained the same for centuries," says Lauren McGrath Daniel, director of the Virginia branch of the McGrath Academy of Irish Dance, founded by her mother in 1976. "Kids can learn what their great-grandparents did for enjoyment." The dance costumes, too, hearken back to hand-embroidered models worn by girls in the old country, Daniel says, though today's male dancers have largely swapped their kilts for trousers.
Does Irish dance require Irish ancestry? "All ethnicities, ages and body types are welcome," she says. The only prerequisites are lots of energy -- this dance form is quite vigorous -- and a willingness to have fun, she says.
A love of Irish dance can last a lifetime, adds Daniel, who started learning when she was 2 (she's now 30). Many area ceili (a Gaelic word pronounced "kay-lee") clubs meet regularly for workshops and dances that attract serious beginners and experienced dancers of all ages.
Of course, St. Patrick's Day calls for a jig. Dancers from the Culkin and O'Neill-James schools appear at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage on March 15, and the Old Post Office Pavilion on March 16, respectively, for free public performances. You can also catch performances throughout the year, especially at feis (pronounced "fesh," the Gaelic word for "festival" generally refers to Irish dance competitions these days).
But since the sprightly Celtic music begs for participants rather than spectators, several ceili clubs are hosting workshops and dances this month. This could be a great chance for you and your kids to don some green and try Irish dancing yourselves.
ALEXANDRIA -- 703-237-2199. www.ballyshaners.org. (Metro: King Street). On Saturday at 12:30, the 24th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade begins at West and King streets and continues along King to Fairfax Street. Grand marshal is Martin O'Malley, mayor of Baltimore. At 10 a.m., there is a classic car show at North Pitt Street between King and Cameron streets. At 10:30 a.m., there is a fun dog show in Market Square. If parade is postponed because of inclement weather, it will be March 12. Sponsored by the Ballyshaners (Gaelic for "Old Towners"), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting and preserving Irish heritage.
GAITHERSBURG -- 301-208-8833. www.hssg.org. On March 12 at 10, the fifth annual St. Patrick's Day Parade marches down Grand Corner Avenue at the Washingtonian Center (Interstate 370 and Washingtonian Boulevard). Irish pipe bands, dancers, horses and greyhounds join grand marshal Gus McLeod. Parade is organized by Harp and Shamrock Society of Gaithersburg, which hosts several Celtic-themed fundraisers throughout the year.
MANASSAS -- 703-368-1754. www.stpatparade.org/stpatsparade.html. On March 12 at 11, the sixth annual St. Patrick's Day Parade starts at Euclid and Quarry streets and marches down Center Street in Old Town Manassas. Grand marshal Mayor Marvin Gillum joins bands, Irish dancers and other performers.
THE DISTRICT -- 202-637-2474. www.dcstpatsparade.com. (Metro: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle or Archives). On March 13 at noon, the 34th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade steps off at Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue NW and continues along Constitution to 17th Street NW. More than 100 units including bands, floats and antique cars join grand marshal Gen. P. X. Kelley, former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. Grandstand seats can be purchased in advance for $5 by calling 301-384-6533 (seating limited), but most spectators just line the parade route.
Irish dancing is energetic. Participants should wear comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes with laces. The fun is in the dancing so those present, including kids, should learn the steps and join in.
BLACKTHORN CEILI DANCERS INC. -- 301-990-0184. www.blackthorn.org. Started by Harry and Margaret Schrecengost in 1968, this local group sponsors Irish dances and workshops for serious beginners and advanced students. On March 12 from 5 to 6, a dance workshop co-sponsored with the Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers will be followed from 6 to 10:30 by a ceili with live music at the McCathran Hall, 300 Grove Ave., Washington Grove, Md. $8 adults, free for 15 and younger, $28 families.
COMHALTAS CEOLTOIRI EIREANN -- 301-622-6582. www.ccenova.org. The local branch of this international Dublin-based group offers workshops and sponsors dances throughout the year at Green Acre Center, 4401 Sideburn Rd., Fairfax City. Ten-week Saturday classes are 9:45 to 11 a.m. for beginners, 11 to 12:15 for experienced dancers, and the cost is $35 for nonmembers, $25 for CCE members. Dances are the second Saturday of every month from September to May and run from 8 p.m. to midnight. $10 adults, $5 ages 6 to 15, free for under 6, $20 family. The next dance is March 12. Annual membership is $25.