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Notre Dame Irish dance team to compete in All-Ireland Irish Dancing Championships

| Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Having Irish danced since she was a toddler, Notre Dame junior Addie Donaher said the adrenaline rush she gets walking out on stage is a sensation that has yet to waver in her career as a performer.

“Being on stage is the reason that we all do it,” Donaher said. “You have those two minutes to get up on stage and show them, ‘I’ve been working for a whole year for these two minutes.’”

As part of the Irish Echoes, Donaher — along with 7 other Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students — will be competing this weekend in the All-Ireland Irish Dancing Championships.

Photo courtesy of Hanna Dutler

Members of the Irish Echoes, Notre Dame’s Irish dance group, compete in the All-Ireland Irish Dancing Championships every year.

Fresh off their annual showcase last January, the Irish Echoes are a Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s Irish dance team consisting of roughly 70 members — the largest collegiate team in the nation, Donaher said.

Members of the Ceili team — a subset of the Irish Echoes — were selected for the competition via tryout. The Ceili team is lead by juniors coach Hannah Dutler and assistant coach Emily Cline. Dutler and Cline are joined by seniors Caitlin O’Rourke, Rebecca Sidler, Kali Graziano and Lauren Tucker, juniors Donaher and Julia Forte and sophomores Kate Brown and Rachel Hughes.

“I think everyone on the Ceili team has been dancing since they were three or four years old and has gone over to Ireland at least once or twice to compete,” Dutler said.

The team flew out of Chicago on Tuesday night, landing in Dublin early Wednesday morning. After spending a day in the Irish capital, where they will get a chance to visit Notre Dame students currently studying abroad in Dublin, the women will be hopping on a bus to the competition’s host city, Killarney, a southwest Ireland town with around 14,000 residents.

“Girls from all over the world come to compete, and then the competition that we’re in is a club Ceili competition,” Donaher said. “ … It’s like Irish clubs, [and] there’s a bunch of schools from the U.S.”

With funding assistance from the Nanovic Institute and the Keough-Naughton Institute, the team has been able to travel to Ireland seven of the past 10 years for this competition and have found themselves atop the podium every time.

“We have won the last seven years that we have competed, so hopefully we make it eight,” Dutler said.

Dutler also noted that although the teams are strictly business backstage while preparing for their performances, the event gives many of the women the unique opportunity to reconnect with Irish dancers they trained with at past studios who may also be in Killarney for the week’s festivities.

Whatever the outcome of Saturday’s competition, however, both Donaher and Dutler said they are thankful to the Irish Echoes for giving them a chance to form the friendships they have in their three years with the team, and for allowing them to continue their passion for Irish dance into their collegiate lives.

“We’re all really close, and we all had that love for Irish dance that made us want to go to a school that had a team and keep doing it,” Donaher said. “We both danced competitively our whole lives, so it was such a big part of our life. And then coming to college you kind of expect that to stop. But here, it doesn’t really have to.”

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