Dance academy goes Irish at St. Columban’s

The Chadwick Bay Academy of Dance Irish dancers under the direction of Irish dance teacher Jessie McKenna presented a program of Irish Dancing for these residents at St. Columban’s on the Lake Retirement Home in Silver Creek.


OBSERVER Lifestyles Contributor

SHERIDAN — Residents at St. Columban’s on the Lake Retirement Home recently received a post-St. Paddy’s Day treat when the Irish Dance students from Chadwick Bay Academy of Dance, under the direction of their teacher, Jessie McKenna, presented a program of Irish dancing. The school has enlivened the residence with dancing each year for several years and this year’s program did a good job of presenting the different styles of Irish Dancing, as well as providing catchy melodies that encouraged clapping along.

Some of the dances were works in progress; the students are honing them for their recital to be held in June. No one minded that the students were, at times, less than perfect. The joy of dancing shone brightly throughout the program.

McKenna, who has been doing Irish dancing for about 17 years, recently performed at the Fredonia Opera House as part of the Clann Na Cara School of Irish Dance in Buffalo. She has been teaching at Chadwick Bay Academy of Dance for about three years.

“The students range in age from about five to 16. Some have been dancing for six or seven years,” she said.

The beginning dancers demonstrated some of the skills that go into Irish dancing across the floor. The girls stepped and hopped in different patterns to a reel. “These are the building blocks of Irish dances from our dancers just starting to learn,” the announcer explained.

A dance hundreds of years old that has changed very little is the Ceili dance. An eight-person dance, it forms different shapes and figures. The music used was the Three Tunes which helps the dancers remember what comes next.

“The Unicorn Song” sung by the Irish Rovers band was adapted for students with fun, albeit unorthodox, dance movements. The song, for those who haven’t heard it, explains that there are no unicorns today because they missed getting into Noah’s Ark.

The more advanced students demonstrated both hard shoe and soft shoe Irish dancing. Hard shoe dancers demonstrated their personalized treble reels which contain their favorite rhythms and tricks. Soft shoe dancers demonstrated a jig.

McKenna demonstrated a “slip jig,” a dance very similar to ballet using slower movement in a flowing style. This dance is only danced by girls and women since it is considered “feminine and pretty.”

Four of the students who are part of the Elevation Dance Team demonstrated the Irish dance they will be performing at Disney World right before Easter.

Residents enjoyed watching the students perform; the students got the chance to perform for a live audience in a different venue. Both groups benefited from the experience.