Irish Céilí Grows Enthusiasm from Gaelic Roots

Irish Céilí

Adorning the century-old walls of Gasson 100 are myriad markers of cultural significance: twinkling stained glass windows, somber crucifixes, and a subdued green and gold stripes painted around the room’s perimeter in a shape resembling the Celtic knot. Also called “The Irish Room,” the cavernous space has played host to countless artistic and academic gatherings over the years, the kind that sustain the creativity of a university. And despite the history crowding the walls, the open hardwood floors below still prove perfect for dancing.

This is exactly the purpose they served when Boston College’s Gaelic Roots Series hosted its second event of the semester. Sponsored by the Center for Irish Programs, the Gaelic Roots Series is an effort to bring concerts, lectures, and performances to campus that are based on Gaelic music and the dance traditions that have sprung out of it. Tuesday’s event was a Traditional Irish Céilí (pronounced kay-lee) Dance, in which all students and members of the surrounding community were invited to learn some introductory social dances at the instruction of Kieran Jordan, a Boston-based performer, teacher, and choreographer of Irish dance.

At her eponymous dance studio in Hyde Park, as well as in her classroom here at BC, Jordan is used to instructing dancers who range from brand new beginners to professionals. She makes an effort to allow accessibility, with programs encompassing non-competitive Irish dance for adults, with dance classes, a performance company, and creative, welcoming community events for all. That combination of welcoming and expertise was in full effect on Tuesday night, with Jordan at the center of a circle of attentive learners, their various footwear ranging from conventional Irish dance shoes to running sneakers.

As a beautiful, string-heavy supply of live music from Gaelic Roots director Sheila Falls Keohane and students from the Irish Studies department played in the background, Jordan began the evening with a dance called the two-hand reel. She began by breaking down the footwork into digestible steps at a count of one, two, three, eventually combining these steps into the reel. When it came time to make an inner circle and an outer circle to practice with a partner, the graceful dancers of the BC team with their naturally pointing toes and unwavering posture dispersed through the crowd to dance with their less experienced counterparts.

“The main thing about social dancing is that you’re dancing with someone … turn to the person next to you and give them your right hand!” Jordan said as everyone in the room searched for a partner.

Every so often the punchy, upbeat lilt of the music would pause for more directions, and Jordan’s periodical interjection of “Ladies move on,” to signify a rotation in the outer circle to new partners, was each time met with bouts of cheerful laughter as people readjusted to each other’s fumbling steps.

A BC grad herself, Jordan was co-president of the Irish Society during her time here and performed as a dancer at many campus events.

“I have very fond memories of those times,” she said. “The Irish Studies program was a big reason that I myself chose to attend BC as an undergraduate.”

She acknowledges the role that events like the Gaelic Roots Series play in providing a rich forum for expression.

There is a long tradition of music and dance on campus,” she said, “and I’m very happy to be connected to that now, as part-time faculty.”