Most people in America spend Thanksgiving weekend cooking a turkey, shopping for Christmas presents & watching football games. I spend every Thanksgiving weekend in Center City Philadelphia at the Downtown Marriott helping my daughter’s get ready to dance at the Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas. So you’ve never heard of an Oireachtas? Well if you were to Google “Oireachtas” the first two items to come up in your search would probably be from Wikipedia. Today my first definition to come up was this:
The Oireachtas /ˈɛrəktəs/, sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the legislature of Ireland… The term oireachtas derives from the Old Irish word airech, meaning “nobleman”. Its first recorded use as the name of a legislative body was within the Irish Free State.
My second definition that came up today is the Oireachtas I’m talking about:
In modern Irish dance, the term Oireachtas (plural:Oireachtasaí) refers to an annual championship competition. The word “oireachtas” literally means “gathering” in English… Oireachtas are qualifying events for the World Irish Dance Championship competition (Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne).
Over the past few years Irish dance has gotten some notable publicity & press. The documentary “Jig” by Sue Bourne was released in 2011 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1748062/), & The New York Times has put the spotlight on Irish dance more then once in the last 2 years. Last February Siobhan Burke wrote The Jig Is Up, if You’re Irish or Not (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/arts/dance/following-riverdance-competitions-and-shows-abound.html), but in 2012 photographs taken by Kenneth O’Halloran for Sunday Magazine section of The New York Times The Jig is On (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/06/17/magazine/irish-dancing.html) created dialog in the community that continues today.
Just recently I told a story from several years back about how another mother I knew was feeling defensive around friends & family, because they always seemed to have a comment about the “look” of Irish dancers. In that moment it hit me & I asked “so if they were ballet dancers with their hair constantly being pulled into buns so tight they had balding patterns, wore layers of stage make-up, had feet that were being destroyed by pointe shoes & they were wearing gigantic stiff tutus that would be ok? Really what’s the difference?” We both just looked at each other for a few seconds. Honestly it was one of those moments when the light bulb went on for both of us.
Many people in the Irish dance community in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States know me. Some people only know me as that woman who usually has a big camera with her. I have spent many years trying to catch the spirit of Irish dance in America today. Here are a few of my pictures from Thanksgiving weekend.
Love spending time with my Mom. At almost 86 she may be a bit rickety, but she is still full of life. On a good day she is usually up to an adventure. I even took her off road in the Pine Barrens once! So today, on 9-11, she & I went to the shore for lunch & then up to the tip of Sandy Hook which is as close as one can get to Ground Zero at the NJ shore. A beautiful way to celebrate life in honor of those who lost theirs 13 years ago.
Tonight I decided that even though Apple has never put much thought into the development of their iPhone cameras I still appreciate that the camera is there. I have been trying to keep at least one of my Canon digital cameras with me whenever I leave the house. I mean unless there is some extreme reason that I shouldn’t bring a camera I really have no excuse. I even have a “beach” camera thanks to the lasting impression a professional camera repair guy made when he spoke about the damage beach sand can inflict on your gear all those years ago in Walt Silver’s color slide class at SVA.
I try not to be a tourist, or rely on the law of large numbers, by photographing everything & anything. I know that at some point I will see something I need to capture, so I keep my camera with me. Well I try to remember to keep it with me.
All day today I had my camera. We never made it to the beach, because it rained pretty hard most of the day. I took a few shots of the kids at the house. I even took it with me when I went shopping. I didn’t take it with me when I ran out to Rite Aid with the girls tonight though. The strange things is when I pulled over to get this shot I thought I had it with me! While I still wish my Canon was with me I am grateful I had my iPhone, because honestly 34 (yikes!) years ago I would have missed the shot completely.
Sometimes you find inspiration in the strangest of places & from people who aren’t on your radar. I took this shot last night with my iPhone. As a photographer I despise the iPhone camera. Every once & awhile though I get a shot I actually like with the damn thing.
Last night I found myself in the Hudson Valley. I took my daughters & some of their friends to a Friday night Irish dance class in Sleepy Hollow NY where they work with Maureen Collins Novaco owner of the Lynn Academy of Irish Dance. Before you start judging & thinking I’m nuts (I currently live just outside of Princeton in New Jersey) I mixed the visit with some business, because a championship level Irish dance class can run for hours & often well into the night. Unless one enjoys sitting for hours on end playing solitaire on an iPad a diversion really is necessary.
Eventually I made my way back to Beekman Avenue in Sleepy Hollow. I was early of course, so I snapped some street pictures with my Canon & headed into the studio. Must have been me lucky day, because they were just finishing up. Once outside I realized I had parked in front of the SHPD & a police car had parked behind me while I was inside. Sadly my daughter’s don’t share my sense of humor, so they wouldn’t pose next to the car.
I took this photograph with my Canon F1 at our old beach house on the Jersey shore. My then four year old daughter had just showered after a day of playing on the bay beach. After playing peek-a-boo for some time under my Grandmother’s chenille bedspread she soon tired, & I snapped this shot in the natural light that was filtering into my bungalow’s bedroom. Today she is 14 & a beautiful teenage girl. I will always remember this wee girl though…..
Beautiful baby Griffin spending a summer afternoon with his Great Grandma. Hard to take a bad picture when the subjects are so loving!
So I’m hoping to see some of my favorite Irish friends this weekend if (ughhhh) it doesn’t snow. I haven’t seen too many people since the holidays for lots of reasons. Living in the Northeast one of those reasons would be snow… the new four letter word.
Thinking of bringing my camera. Yes I know I should always have it with me, and I usually do. Sometimes having my camera around friends makes them uneasy I think. Like I’m going to start snapping like the paparazzi lol.
Are there people I could just take shots of all day without pause? Absolutely. My daughter’s have been my muse since birth, and for the most part they entertain my obsession with them. I love to photograph dancers as my friends & many Irish dancers know. Many of the dancers now know me by sight. There is something about a person who is blessed with the ability to dance. The love of the dance comes through the lens in a magnificent fashion even when they aren’t performing.
I took the photograph above a year & a half ago. I’ve known Kerri for many years, & I just love this girl! The shot looks posed, but it isn’t. She was sitting next to me on the ground. When I looked down I saw her. As I grabbed my camera & looked down she looked up. With any picture that you love you know in that fraction of a second that it takes to catch the image you have what you wanted to capture. I hope to see Kerri this weekend even if I don’t take her picture (but I know I probably will).
I’ve been digging through my images trying to get my Lens submission in order, & I came across this photo from November. I have to confess that I have an obsession with night photography. I especially love skylines, although most of the images I see on-screen, in print & in person are redundant. You know the same old cityscape that everyone takes. Every once in a while I have that image in front of me, & it’s like magic. I’m obsessed. I need to shoot as many shots as I can get…. The beauty of digital photography…. I don’t need to worry about the cost of film, the processing, the expensive mistakes.
This particular evening in Center City Philadelphia I was with my daughter’s at a regional Irish dance competition known as the Oireachtas (or the O’s for those not versed in Irish culture) which is a 3 day event & a qualifier for both Nationals & Worlds. We had gone to bed early, since both of my girl’s were dancing the next day. My 13-year-old had a hard time falling to sleep, so she started texting or doing whatever a 13-year-old does on an iPhone. I immediately grabbed my Canon & started shooting.