While traveling in Ireland, junior Maria Wasilewski experienced a quintessential Irish moment: being in the Guinness Storehouse, on St. Patrick’s Day, with a “random Irish dancing flash mob.” The dancers taught onlookers simple steps, reminding Wasilewski — who had Irish danced for a few years as a child — of the dance’s enjoyability.
Little did she know, that moment would help inspire one of the University of Dallas’ newest and fastest-growing clubs.
The UD Irish Dance group, affectionately called UDID, began this fall after its officers, Wasilewski and some of her spring Rome classmates, decided to develop their hobby into a real club. Other officers — juniors John Lopke, Kathleen Miller and Marian Henares — had danced in and won the Rome talent show.
“Why is this not a thing in Texas,” Henares said afterward.
In answering this question, the group recruited Mark Rodriguez, who has participated in Irish dance since age seven and was known to do so even in Madonna Hall. Following their spring semester in Rome, the friends turned joking about the club into a serious endeavor — a constitution drafted over Facebook and summer Skype meetings led to the enthusiastic group’s beginning.
Now an actual club, a group of about 20 students from all classes meets every Monday in the Jerome Basement to practice, splitting into three skill levels:
“People who haven’t done it all, people who’ve dabbled, those who’ve done it as a lifestyle,” the officers said.
The span of members’ skills hasn’t prevented the club from dancing as a group. They are to perform at an upcoming Irish Heritage event in Jerome on Nov. 15 and will perform with Swing Club on Nov. 20. They will also accompany to the band West Emerald at Battle of the Bands.
As these many events prove, UD is a place well-conditioned for such a club. Irish dance caters to the many Irish Catholics, an insatiable love of Europe and the imbalanced girl-to-guy ratio.
“[You] don’t need a partner, you can just get up and dance whenever you want to,” Wasilewski said. “At all the events, like Groundhog and Oktoberfest, Battle of the Bands, everyone swing dances … That’s really cool, but it gets old after you’ve been here for four years and that’s all you know how to do.”
Though the club harbors no ill feelings toward Swing Club, they did fight back pressure to function as a mere subcategory of the popular dance group.
“I want it to be as big as swing, to be honest,” Henares said. “I love swing, but I feel like there’s always space for more dances, different styles of dancing at this school.”
If attendance is any indication, other students agree. The club has found a much greater response than anticipated, especially as they continually find more dancers — some who’ve even competed on the world level, like freshman Bridget Kennedy.
“[We] only expect growth at this point,” Lopke said.
Not only does the club add another style of dance to UD’s repertoire, the club also brings Ireland to campus.
“Everyone who goes to Rome, everyone wants to go to Ireland, so this is, at least for me, a way to bring back those travelling memories,” Wasilewski said. “To recreate it for somebody else and with other people.”
Dance can make this gift of culture partially through its transcendence of normal categorizations.
“Dance, especially Irish dance, it’s attached to a culture, it’s a sport, it’s a form of expression, it’s an art, it’s physically demanding, it’s mentally demanding,” Henares said. “Only good things can come out from it. You become a better person.”
Perhaps because of these qualities, Irish dance has a way of sticking with you, as it did them.
“You can’t ever forget how to skip two three,” Henares said.
Conditioning her statement, Lopke joked back: “Unless you break your legs.”