Dance! - Why on earth did you choose Irish Dance!?
Well, what makes you choose such a complex type of dance like Irish dance...
Why do people choose to learn salsa-dance (for example)? There is always a reason why someone goes for a specific type of dance.
It's often one of the first questions I get, followed by the one if my ancesters are Irish. Many times I have already heard from people that I have a rather Irish appearance.
Why, from all of the possible dances out there, the Irish? I don't really know myself either. Irish roots are unknown so far: both my parents are as Dutch as can be. Ofcourse, there are a few factors that played a role in getting to the point that I wanted to start dancing...
One of them is Riverdance. In April 1994, the world was conquered with the Riverdance-act as the interval-performance at the Eurovision Song Contest. At the time, I had just turned 6 and I was not aware of everything that was going on around that time. The only thing I remember was that 'Irish dance' as a concept just aired a lot on television in the nineties and I just took it for granted.
And ofcourse, that left quite the impression, such a long line of people that - completely synchronized - moved their legs and feet and produced a thundering sound along with it, on the beat of exciting music.
The shoes add-up to the decision to try Irish dance: I just prefer the 'fat' sound of a pair of Irish heavy shoes to that of the rather 'empty' clicking sound tap-dance shoes produce.
Traditional Irish music in my soul
Another factor that played a key-role in the choice for Irish Dance is the music itself. Traditional Irish music has been deeply engraved in my memory: I grew up with it. My dad was - and still is - a great enthusiast of Irish music and songs. From childhood-memories, the jolly and energetic tunes have stayed with me the most from all the music he played.
He also was a fond viewer of registrations of performances done by The Dubliners and equivalent artists. An Irish dancer probably accompanied them once in a while. Jean Butler for example, the later principal-dancer in Riverdance, did perform a lot of times with The Chieftains before making her international debut.
'I want that too!'
The tendency, to learn what I saw on TV, did present itself on a young age. If those people on TV learned it somewhere, I could probably do the same, allthough I didn't pursue any dream at the time. Practically, that was also a problem at that time. In the nineties, there were very few places where you could learn it and internet was still in it's early years. Only by mouth, you could get in touch with someone who taught Irish dance.
Around 2009, thoughts resurfaced as Riverdance announced their Farewell Tour, after 15 years of almost non-stop performing around the world. After viewing different material on Youtube, the wish to do anything got stronger and stronger, no matter what that would be. 'Just something on heavy shoes' would be enough for me.
I did not fool myself: I was completely aware of the fact that the Riverdance-work was top-level dancing that takes years of practice and for many probably will be nothing more than a dream. I wouldn't be the new Michael Flatley (but I did not have that ambition anyway).
Celtic Rhythms, Celtic fever
Trouble with my health forced me to give up on the dream of dancing for a while, until May 2011. In the local theatre of Purmerend, I payed a visit to Celtic Rhythms, a small performance that displays Irish history with dance and songs.
The smaller performance but especially the lack of over-rehearsed routines, made this much more accesible than the average Riverdance show.
Again, the wish to learn what I was seeing, came up in my mind. And, also again, I fully realized that this dancing was still top-notch stuff: dancing like those dancers did on the stage would not be something you'd achieve in a few days. Learning it would take time, and especially a whole lot of willpower, if someone in his twenties like me could even start at all.
Plans were banned to the fridge again, also because I expected that a school would be on the other side of the Netherlands. Plans resurfaced not earlier than September 2011, when the fever peaked like never before.
I was watching some Riverdance-material on Youtube once again.
Because you can find video's about almost any subject you can think of and there are instructional videos for the greatest noobs on almost every subject one wants to explore, I decided to type 'How to learn Irish dance' into the search bar. I was quite confident that this would generate some usable results, if not even videos, done by professionals.
As soon as I hit 'enter', I decided to look for a school: I wasn't going to learn this over the internet.
To far away... Or?
I typed in something like 'Irish dance in Holland' in a search engine. That did not give the results I was looking for. Especially events and performances around the country and not the schools behind it where the results I got.
I refined the search to 'Irish danceclass in Holland' or something similar. That was a direct hit but also the first showstopper. The Hague, Eindhoven, Tilburg and destinations like that were the results that weren't always up to date. All of them were to far away to travel to from Purmerend, be it by car or public transport.
I saw my dream evaporate on the distance-factor. With hope that a school in Vlaardingen might have some extra information about locations not mentioned on their website or knew schools around Amsterdam, I sent an e-mail to them. They told me there was no other option than The Hague. There was no way around it...
I let everything rest for a week and than did another search on schools. It showed that I missed a result the last time. Between the results, I suddenly saw 'Haarlem' pop up. Now that would be grand, if it was at reasonable distance from public-transport facilities to start with.
The lessons in Haarlem were still in a phase of start-up, but after some e-mails back and forth, I was welcome for a try-out class at the Kilkenny School of Irish Dance in The Hague. That's what got the weels turning...
A virtual nudge from Jean Butler
Jean Butler did provide an extra nudge in the right direction: after finding a school, the Youtube search-result that appealed to me the most - a part of Jean Butlers' Irish Dance Masterclass - was viewed with great interest.
Within 24 hours of the first e-mail, I got an answer from the Kilkenny School of Irish Dance. One-and-a-half week later I was welcome for a try-out class. The run-up to it and the try-out class itself were put to words in a kind-of diary, which you can find below.