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.