November 1, 2016
By Mary Alice Maloney
You know that scene from the movie Titanic where Jack takes Rose down into steerage of the ship for a night of dancing to Irish music, and they jig and they step and they spin around until they can’t see straight? That happened to me in real life the other day! Of course, I wasn’t on a ship; I was at the campus pub listening to a musician called Sharon Shannon play some fantastic Irish folk and traditional music.
Before the concert started, there was a sizeable crowd gathered and seated around the stage area of the pub, and my friends and I were excited to hear an Irish musician preform. Sharon Shannon is a pretty well-known artist here, as she wrote the music for ‘Galway Girl’, a very popular song that I hear almost every time I go out here in Ireland.
As my friends and I were hanging out, sipping our pints, Sharon Shannon finally came on stage and the crowd erupted into raucous applause. She immediately started in on her first tune, a fast-paced song that got people up and dancing right away. I was blown away, as all the people dancing seemed to know a set of choreographed steps to this tune, and even as the night progressed and a number of tunes were played, all the Irish students knew exactly what dances to be doing. People were spinning each other around, holding hands, and moving their feet relentlessly. It was amazing to see Irish people in their element, having the time of their lives, making a complicated form of dance seem so effortless.
My friends and I don’t know a single step of Irish dancing, but we knew we had to get out there and try. We mostly just jumped up and down and broke out a few steps from the Cotton-Eyed Joe, that being the only step-like dance we knew, hoping we’d fit in to the crowd. Irish people would come up and dance with us, not judging us for out lack of skill, but complimenting us for trying and joining in on the fun. The music was fast and getting faster by the second, but we danced until the very last note that Sharon Shannon played for us.
I had the absolute time of my life that night, and I’ve never felt more Irish. Being so submerged in the Irish culture like that was one of the things I was most excited for when I decided to study abroad, and this experience was more than I could’ve dreamed of. I grew up listening to Irish music, and although I never learned to Irish dance, I feel like I learned more with here with Sharon Shannon than I ever could have taking lessons at home. In that moment, I felt like Rose from Titanic; not knowing exactly what I was doing, but realizing that I’ll keep this moment with me as a wonderful memory forever.