A Gathering Place for Adults Who Love Irish Dance

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing by Dr. John Cullinane

Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing
by Dr. John Cullinan

Dr. John Cullinane’s book Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing is the first in a library of eight books that provide invaluable information about Irish dance history.  Because the Gaelic people passed down their history orally, very little is recorded concerning the roots of Irish dance. Through research, interviews and valuable experience, Dr. Cullinane delivers a rich background of Irish dancing as we know it today. 

The first book is written as a reference guide and covers important aspects of the dance’s history. Dr. Cullinane describes the first Irish dance Ceili held in 1897, records the many remembrances of the infamous dance master, and explains the evolution of feisanna, dance costumes, hand position, as well as ceili and  traditional set dances. He then touches briefly on the expansion of Irish dance to England, Australia, New Zealand, North West England and the United States. 

Did you know that much of the dances were preserved during the troubled times of 1916-1921 because they were taught in prisons? In Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing, read about the first ever ceili held in 1897 where participants dined on tea and cakes during intermission. Find out how the infamous dancing master sometimes taught in a kitchen or farm outhouse. Learn about a man who was such a gifted dancer that it was said that “He could write with his feet” (p40).

Dr. Cullinane’s books are a valuable tool for those who want to understand the history of Irish dance and will help ensure that traditional Irish dance continues to thrive.

The New York Times recently published an excellent article with Dr. John Cullinane, regarding Irish dance costumes, and how they have changed over the years. Dr. Cullinane compares the elaborate costumes of today's Irish dancers to those of times gone by, in a positive, and insightful interview. You can read the article here.

Purchase Dr. Cullinane’s collection of books on Irish dance history at www.feiswear.com or www.ossianusa.com.

Parts of this article was published previously in Feis America Magazine. Read the full review on www.christydorrity.com.

Readers: Are you an adult Irish dancer, competitive or not, with a story to share? Would you like to inspire others to feel your passion for Irish dancing and culture? Do you have a question about Irish dancing? Please comment in the box below for replies and contact information!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Irish Dance Diet - Do you eat in the morning or at night?

Everyone is different, some people do really well on their diets in the morning, but inhale food when the sun goes down. Others wake up starving and need the bulk of their calories at breakfast in order to make it through the day. 

This week, I tried to limit my calorie intake early in the day because I am a night time nosher. It worked pretty good.  I made sure to eat protein for breakfast and lunch to tide me over and then I had a good sized dinner. I felt more satisfied and continued to lose weight.  

Here are some ideas for you to try to see what time of day you should save those calories for. 

1-If you are a night eater, try beginning your diet day at night.  So, start counting calories right before dinner, include any night time snacks, then continue your calorie count through breakfast and lunch.  If you are normally pretty satisfied with a small lunch, you may not be as disgruntled about having a small or high veggie content lunch. This way you won't feel like you are depriving yourself. 

2-If you need a healthy breakfast to get you through the day, try pairing a carbohydrate and a protein together, a bowl of fruit and an egg, for instance.  You will get more leverage out of the calories and stay full longer. 

3-Experiment with snacks at different times of the day.  I know some people who absolutely have to have a mid-morning snack, and some who cannot make it through the dinner rush if they don't have a little something before they begin preparations. 

Knowing how your body works will go a long way to helping you be successful in your weight loss journey. 

How do you keep tabs on your body's food rhythms?  Are you a night eater or a morning eater?

*Just a note, I am so missing my Irish dance class that is on vacation for the month of July.  Anyone else relate?

Week sixteen

Weight lost= -1.0
Total weight loss= 4.4 pounds
Slow and steady wins the race!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

New York's O'Rourke adult Irish dancers feel like family - PHOTOS

LuAnn O'Rourke and her adult Irish dancer Ladies 8-hand team
Photo: courtesy O'Rourke Irish Dancers

The O'Rourke Irish Dancers have a healthy adult Irish dancer program.  LuAnne O'Rourke, TCRG, ADCRG began the school in 1995 and it is located in White Plains, New York. 

Feis America:  How did your adult Irish dancer program begin?  

LuAnn:  After I opened my school in 1995, I was approached by an adult to give her private lessons.
She wanted to learn to Irish dance desperately, but no one in the area offered adult classes. I started teaching her after my kids' classes, and actually enjoyed teaching her. Adults have great attention spans, pick up quick, and make corrections easily. I found it refreshing after spending a few hours with young children. Word got out and it snowballed from there. 

Feis America:  What is the culture like for adult Irish dancers at your school?  

LuAnn:  We are like a family. Some of the adults in the school are parents of the kids dancing. Some of the adult dancers are siblings, and we even have an engaged couple. We have danced at many of their weddings and have seen their families grow. The adults are friendly with each other outside of class as well.  Lifelong friendships have been formed, and they support each other in dance and other aspects of their lives.  

LuAnn O'Rourke and her adult Irish dancer mixed 4-hand team
Photo: courtesy O'Rourke Irish Dancers

Feis America:  Where do the adult Irish dancers perform/compete?  

LuAnn:  They dance at St. Patrick's Day functions, parades, weddings, festivals, and our annual recital.    They are also very competitive! Our Ladies 8-Hand team has won the Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas 7 times and the North American Championship 3 times; their 4-hand has won the Oireachtas [Regional Championships] 5 times, our Mixed 8-Hand has won the Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas [Regional Championships] 3 times, and Nationals once; their 4-Hand has won Nationals 4 times. In addition, the Ladies' team are the first North American team to take home a First Place All-Ireland [Irish Dancing Championships] medal in the 4-Hand Ceili Club category. They are setting their sights on the Great Britain Championships some time in the future.   

LuAnn O'Rourke and her adult Irish dancer National Champion ceili team
Photo: courtesy O'Rourke Irish Dancers
Read more:


Feis America:  What advice can you give to others who want to form a strong adult
Irish dancer program?  

LuAnn:  Treat adult dancers with respect, and as an integral part of your school and business. Adults have children that can become a part of your school, if they are not already. They are great volunteers for your feis, and can also become life-long friends. Make time for them, even if it's after all of your kid's classes. Give them opportunities to be an important part of your school by getting them involved in performances, competition, and your feis if you run one.

Feis America:  How do you envision the future for adult Irish dancers?  

LuAnn:  I hope that some day in the near future the CLRG will consider adding an adult ceili
competition to the World Championships. Adult dancers are here, and thriving, and want to be a part of the greater Irish dance community. The more opportunities we give them, the more they will get involved.  

O'Rourke adult Irish dancers
Photo: courtesy O'Rourke Irish Dancers


Readers: Are you an adult Irish dancer, competitive or not, with a story to share? Would you like to inspire others to feel your passion for Irish dancing and culture? Do you have a question about Irish dancing? Please comment in the box below for replies and contact information!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Spotlight on adult Irish dancer Sara Gutis from Connecticut

Sara Gutis and her dad, Mark Gutis
Photo: courtesy Sara Gutis

Feis America: Welcome Sara, we are so glad to hear about your Irish dancing story. Where are you from?

Sara:  I live in Brookfield, Connecticut. My current TCRG (teacher) is Sue Brotherton of the Millennium School of Irish Dance.

Feis America:  How did you get started in Irish Dancing?

Sarah:  The short version of how I started Irish Dancing is that I was a huge fan of Lord of the Dance.  I was sitting in Ireland, watching Michael Flatley and his troupe dance, and knew it was just something I HAD to do. I came home, and started calling around until I found a school that took adult dancers, and started the next week. 

Sara Gutis (in pink mask) poses for a recital photo.
Photo: courtesy Sara Gutis

Feis America: What motivates you to keep dancing as an adult?

Sara:  Irish Dancing is such a huge part of my life. It's part of my identity. I used to be motivated by the next competition and the trophies I would win. Slowly, I moved away from competition though. Now, I'm motivated by my new teacher.  She believes in my abilities, and is teaching me skills that a previous teacher told me not to bother with because I am an adult.

Sara and father, Mark, in action.
Photo: courtesy Sara Gutis
Feis America: I noticed that you and your dad are pictured dancing together.  Does he dance?  Did he begin dancing because of you?

Sara: Dad started dancing because of me. I taught him as an assistant for years! He danced for ten years before I left my last studio. Between that and arthritis in his foot, he has mostly stopped. But, he will occasionally do a choreography with me or some ceili. 

Feis America:  If you could change one thing about Irish dance, what would it be?

Sara:  One thing I would change about Irish Dancing is the odd way that adults are treated in their goals and pursuits.  In the east and especially the northeast, adults are not really cultivated by the teachers.  I know that adults might not be the next world qualifier, but we have a lot to offer.
Feis America:  What does your competition or solo dress look like?

Sara:  My solo dress is black silk with rainbow colored knot work, edged in silver and gold thread. It is the more old fashioned style. I am in the market for a newer styled dress. I really need to learn to sew! When I perform in a choreography, I typically wear an Irish themed dress that is more a la Riverdance in style.


Readers: Are you an adult Irish dancer, competitive or not, with a story to share? Would you like to inspire others to feel your passion for Irish dancing and culture? Do you have a question about Irish dancing? Please comment in the box below for replies and contact information!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Irish Dance Diet - Sneaking in more activity

I'm struggling a bit this week because it seems like I'm doing everything right (two 500 calorie workouts a day, salads for lunch, limiting sweets) and yet the scale is not showing it.  And as we all know, if I'm doing what I've always done, I'll get what I've always got.  That means I need to step it up.

Ways to sneak more activity into your week:

1-Park at the far end of the parking lot and spend a few minutes walking to the store.

2-Take your dog for a walk or go out with the kids and throw a frisbee around.

3-Do some cleaning.  Did you know that housework can burn a lot of calories?

4-Purchase a simple pedometer to keep track of how much or how little you have been out and about.  If you are low on steps, take a walk at the end of the day.

5-Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

6-While watching TV, do stretches or work out on an exercise machine.

7-Dance-it feels like play but it's actually a work out. :)

Week Fourteen

Weight lost= -.2
Total weight loss= 3.8 pounds

Monday, July 2, 2012

Irish Dance Diet - Go Go Go, get that dress!

Photo: KDF dresses

I saw the dress above on KDF's facebook page and I love it.  I showed it to my husband and after his eyes bugged out at the cost, he told me that if I reach my goals, he will buy my one. How is that for motivation?

I'm happy to say that I'm finally seeing some real progress here.  It is a bit embarrassing when I look at my stats and think that I've only lost 4 pounds in thirteen weeks, but I'm only human. I guess I could be four pounds heavier after thirteen weeks, so kuddos to me. :)

So what did I do differently this week? Aside from trying hard to reign in my eating (despite a wedding and a family reunion) I have increased my physical activity. No matter what new diet comes out and claims that you can diet without counting calories, it always comes back to calories in/calories out.  So I've been doing a workout on the elliptical machine in the mornings and then a dance workout at night.  It seems to be working as long as I can control what goes in my mouth.

Calories out - calories in= weight loss.  It's that simple.

Week Thirteen

Weight lost=1 pounds
Total weight loss= 4 pounds