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.
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.