The University of Dallas Irish Dance (UDID) club organized a Saint Patrick’s Day cèilidh (pronounced “kay-lee”) in upstairs Haggar this past Saturday evening to provide a communal celebration of Irish culture for students.
“Our goal for the event was simple: bring the community together in celebration of Irish culture,” club president junior Maria Wasilewski wrote in an email. “It’s a sad truth that UD does not have an official St. Patrick’s Day tradition. UDID intends to change that. With such a large percentage of Irish-Americans on campus, something needed to bring people together in celebration of their fantastic heritage.”
Junior club officer John Lopke added that the club had envisioned hosting a cèilidh since last summer, when plans for the club were starting to come together.
“When we were first envisioning UDID last summer, we knew we wanted to do events to bring the whole campus together, and a cèilidh, the traditional Gaelic social gathering, seemed like the obvious choice,” Lopke said.
He added that the lack of an official St. Patrick’s Day celebration was perhaps a good thing.
“Lucky for us because we were able to host our event without worrying about stepping (or dancing) on the toes of any established traditions,” Lopke said.
Wasilewski admitted she was a little nervous while waiting for attendees to arrive, but once people began trickling in around 5 p.m., it did not take long for the room to fill up.
The attendance at the cèilidh was beyond the club’s expectations. Music and free food attracted hungry students looking for Saturday evening fun after Mass, as did a chance to win Cap Bar cards in the costume contest and free Irish bottle opener rings.
UDID’s talented dancers had a chance to perform and taught a simple dance to the attendees, who were eager to learn.
“I got on the mic to ask people to find a partner, expecting only 10 or 15 to volunteer, but almost the entire room stood up to learn,” Wasilewski said.
The student band West Emerald provided live music.
“I knew they would do a good job, but they really outdid themselves this time,” Wasilewski said. “The guys were extremely reliable and put together a sick playlist for the second half of the cèilidh.”
The UD Dungeons and Dragons club also deserves credit for the event’s success. They organized the costume contest and served Irish food during the festivities.
UDID officially began last October, but the idea for it originated while founding members Waseleski, Lopke, juniors Marian Henares and Kathleen Miller were in Rome together in spring 2015.
The club has thrived since the beginning, something Wasilewski attributes to the appeal of Irish dance, in both watching and performing, and to the fact that it is easy to learn even without prior experience.
She added that the significant Irish-American population on campus probably helped, along with UD’s widespread interest in Irish culture.
“Whether it’s the music [or] the beautiful landscapes, there’s something for everyone,” Wasilewski said.
It seems that the biggest factor in the club’s success is simply that it is fun, with many club members claiming they were hooked from their first meeting.
“I believe that UDID’s success comes from the commitment of our members, luck of the Irish and the grace of God,” Wasilewski said.
Lopke added that the cèilidh was successful enough that the club’s vision of creating a new UD tradition seems likely to come to fruition.
“It was lot of fun seeing the community come together to help us celebrate, whether it was the D&D club helping us serve food while the dancers performed or those with two left feet who joined us for the group dance,” Lopke said. “Based on the amount of people who came and the sentiment of those I’ve talked to, I’d say the school definitely enjoyed the cèilidh, and I hope that it becomes UD’s St. Patrick’s Day tradition. It was certainly encouragement enough for us to want to do it again next year.”