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Ceili team dances to victory

Aubrey Butts | Tuesday, February 28, 2012

For the second time in club history, the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s Irish Dance Team danced its way to victory at the All-Ireland Dance Championship in Dublin as the team captured the championship trophy Feb. 17.

The team previously first won the All-Ireland competition in 2010.

Sophomore Connor Reider, the team’s coach, said going beyond simple participation to win the competition was significant. 

“So many teams from across the world come to All-Irelands that it is basically the world championships,” he said. “It puts Notre Dame on the map.”

The Ceili team consists of eight girls from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s. The time devoted to practice and preparation for the competition, along with the small group size, fosters friendships and team unity, Saint Mary’s senior Mary Mitchell said.

“We all became so close with one another. Spending every single night practicing for two hours, having team brunches and living together for the week in Dublin, you get to know each other inside and out,” she said. “We’re a quirky bunch.”

Participating specifically in the Club Ceili division involved learning two traditional Ceili numbers from a designated set of choices. Reider said performing the same numbers as the other teams meant they had to perfect their routines.

“Every single person needs to be doing the exact same action at the same time,” he said. “You have to make sure your toes are pointed, your legs are the exact same length out and your lines are perfectly straight.”

This precision applied not only to the dance routines, but to costumes as well, Mitchell said.

“All the wigs were chosen according to what looked best for the entire team, and they were cut to exactly the same length,” Mitchell said. “The style and cut had to be identical. Judges will take points off your presentation if they don’t feel you look like a cohesive group.”

Arriving on Feb. 15, the team had a busy schedule of sight seeing, practice, watching other performances and dancing for the current group of Notre Dame students studying abroad in Dublin, Reider said.

When the team finally performed on Friday, senior Colleen Gerth said their second routine may have been the team’s best performance ever.

“We were all pretty anxious beforehand, but you have to be focused and think about what you are doing,” she said. “We were more excited the second time, and after we finished that last step, we could tell we had put our whole heart and soul into it.”

With five seniors on the team, the All-Ireland competition represented the last time many of the girls would have the opportunity to dance competitively. However, Gerth said the trophy ceremony brought immense satisfaction.

“The cup is engraved each year with the name of the team who wins,” she said. “I was on the team two years ago, and I had never seen the cup with our name on it. That was really exciting to see and to know that our name would be on there again.”