Stepping Things Up

Corcairdhearg, Harvard College’s newly created Irish dancing club, steps out in style with parties and performances for newbies and champions alike

Julia S Chen

Students pair off to partake in a traditional Ceili dance at the Currier March Party.

It was Saturday night in the Currier fishbowl when Aaron C. Fallon ’11 grabbed the mic and ordered everybody to the dance floor. And no, he was not calling for all the single ladies or for anyone to walk it out. Instead, Fallon was heralding a completely different dance form: Irish step dancing.

Last Saturday, Corcairdhearg—the Harvard College Irish Dancers—together with the Currier House Committee hosted the Currier March Party, featuring a traditional Irish Ceili before breaking into a St. Patrick’s Day-themed party with DJ Double Kay.

With intriguing offerings of green beer, pots of (chocolate) gold, live Irish music, and, of course, plenty of dancing, the event drew in both Irish step enthusiasts and curious partygoers. Taking the name Corcairdhearg from the Irish word for “crimson,” this dance crew is the first at Harvard dedicated to the Irish art, with a big vision already in sight.



DANCING WITH THE STARS

Currier HoCo Treasurer Daniel E. Farrell ’10 says that the idea for teaming up with Corcairdhearg was the “perfect blend” of traditional Irish culture and traditional Currier party culture for a spring bash, as Fallon is also a Social Chair in Currier HoCo. “It was like the stars aligned when we had this Irish man with a stellar dancing background,” says Farrell.

Stellar is right. Fallon, one of the founders of Corcairdhearg, has been Irish dancing since he was about five years old. The two other founders, Moira E. Forberg ’11 and Alana C. M. O’Brien ’11 have also both been dancing for almost 15 years. O’Brien and Fallon are both still very active in the arena of competitive Irish dancing, often traveling to compete in regional, national, and even world championships. Both competed in the World Championships of Irish Dance in Belfast, North Ireland last April after placing at the North American National Championships.

However, Ceilis, traditional social events filled with Irish music and dancing, are not just about letting dance champions take center stage. “The focus isn’t on what we could do,” says Fallon. “It’s about getting everyone up on their feet.” Ceilis are all about letting everyone, from amateur dancers to the downright rhythmically challenged, partake in the fun that is Irish dancing.



FROM THE TOP

Last year, however, organizing a Ceili might have proved impossible. Corcairdhearg is a new student organization, founded in the spring of 2008. The idea stemmed from Fallon and O’Brien’s own interests. Also, as competitive dancers, they were constantly on the prowl for practice space.

Meanwhile, Forberg, who also used to compete, longed to get back into Irish dancing. “When I came to Harvard, I realized I missed Irish dancing. I didn’t realize how much I love it until I stopped,” she says.

Fallon and O’Brien discovered that there was no community or space on campus for Irish dancing. So, together with Forberg, they founded Corcairdhearg, with a three-pronged mission to perform, to teach, and to compete, while helping others to do so.

Caitlin D. Driscoll ’11, a former competitive Irish dancer, says she became very serious about dancing again as soon as she found out about Corcairdhearg. “It has rekindled my love for Irish dancing. It’s not the same when I practice alone,” says Driscoll. Driscoll was so inspired that she is going to compete again in November.

Corcairdhearg has also been extremely successful in past performances, most recently as an opening act at Cultural Rhythms. The success of the Corcairdhearg’s performance at Cultural Rhythms also speaks for the instructional mission of the club. According to Fallon, only half of the performers were experienced while the others were beginners who wanted to become involved. “They looked so legit and it was really exciting because they hadn’t been doing it forever,” he says.

Corcaidhearg has regular workshops in dance studios that are open for beginners who have never heard of a reel—a fast tempo dance—and for the more experienced hoping to perfect that hop back. Forberg says teaching members of Corcairdhearg is a learning experience because they all have completely different backgrounds. Still, she says that the organization is dedicated to providing individualized attention.

So far, they have been pretty accomplished. “When the club started up I was so excited and I joined immediately,” says Eva Kirilova ’11, who says she had dabbled in Irish dancing in middle school. “We always have fun when we get together.”



KEEPING UP IN TIME

Still, Corcairdhearg is working out some of the kinks of being a new club.

“We’ve been trying everything out...and it’s hard to gauge student interest until you have an event. The Ceilis were big successes and we had never planned one ourselves so it was an interesting and scary process,” says Fallon.

Gauging student interest for workshops has also been a challenge. One of the goals next year is to have an established workshop schedule with different levels and progressive lessons. “By the end, they can show what they’ve learned,” says Forberg.

The biggest goal of Corcairdhearg is to hold its own dance show. After being called upon by so many other student groups to perform, Corcairdhearg would love to host an Irish dancing show and be the ones to bring in other student performers. And, of course, continuing monthly Ceilis is a big agenda.



FOR THE LOVE OF THE JIG?

At the March Party, strangers and friends alike joined hands, took each other by the waists, and spun each other ’round and ’round to the upbeat rhythms of a live musical ensemble. While some, like Corcairdhearg members, did shine in their element, other novice Irish dancers had just as good of a time laughing over missed beats and stumbled steps.

“At the root of it, it’s a traditional, cultural, fun, social, rhythmic, musical activity that I love,” says Fallon.

O’Brien resonates this sentiment. “Dancing is just a whole new world,” she says. Corcairdhearg strives to introduce this other world to Harvard.

With the luck of the Irish on their side, green really may be the new crimson.