St. Patrick’s Day brings nostalgia to Irish traditions

Students+from+Marquette%27s+Saoirse+Irish+Dance+team+practice+for+their+showcase%2C+currently+scheduled+for+March+29+at+the+Varsity+Theatre.

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Students from Marquette's Saoirse Irish Dance team practice for their showcase, currently scheduled for March 29 at the Varsity Theatre.

For many, St. Patrick’s Day represents an all-day party with immense amounts of green. For some, it represents so much more, like connecting back to roots or anticipating a dance showcase. Marquette’s Saoirse Irish Dance Team is currently preparing for its showcase, scheduled for March 29 at 3 p.m. in the Varsity Theatre.

However, due to COVID-19, Marquette’s classes have been moved online and all campus events prior to April 10 have been canceled. The dance team is now trying to see if it can postpone the showcase to a different date.

A few girls on the team explained how Irish dancing has been something they’ve done since they were little, tracing back to their Irish roots.

“It all comes from my dad’s side. … Both my grandparents emigrated from Ireland,” Shannon Byrne, a junior in the College of Health Sciences and club president, said.

Byrne said Irish music has always been a big part of her life, especially since her grandfather was a professional Irish musician. Her dad and sister play the Irish flute, and she plays the fiddle. She started Irish dancing when she was five years old.

Byrne decided to keep up with it at Marquette and said she looks forward to the team’s showcases.

“We started doing the showcase three years ago, which was my freshman year, and we try to do it around St. Patrick’s Day,” Byrne said. “It’s really just a chance to show off what we’ve been working on all year.”

Annabel Engelhardt, a senior in the College of Health Sciences and co-founder of the club, expressed a similar sentiment. She said she started Irish dancing at four years old. Engelhardt has Irish blood on her mom’s side, though she is a couple generations removed.

For Engelhardt, this year’s showcase would be a reflection of how it all started.

“We started with three (dancers) at the homecoming talent show,” Engelhardt said. “We were so underdeveloped.”

Since it’s started, the team has had at least 10 dancers within the group and have been able to put on their own showcases.

This year’s show being Engelhardt’s last, she said she is looking forward to dancing with everyone on stage.

Rachel Beilfuss, a senior in the College of Health Sciences, along with Engelhardt and Byrne, started Irish dancing when she was little. Beilfuss grew up knowing her aunt’s Irish dance background as well as seeing the Irish dancers at Irish Fest in Milwaukee, which is a festival that occurs in the late summertime.

When she was five years old, Beilfuss’s mom enrolled her in dance school, and she stuck with it. Her great-grandmother came to the U.S. from Ireland. Beilfuss said she fondly remembers family St. Patrick’s Day traditions.

“My mom would make Reuben sandwiches and corned beef,” Beilfuss said.

The dancer also said she would never go to school on St. Patrick’s Day because of Irish dance performances. This was the same for Engelhardt and Byrne.

“My parents would make us go to mass at the cathedral downtown and a big Irish celebration and there was a parade,” Byrne said. “Different bars and nursing homes would hire us to go and perform.”

For Byrne, Irish dancing is an important way to stay in touch with her roots.

“It’s a great way to stay involved with the heritage … you get to witness it and be a part of it,” Byrne said.

This story was written by Ariana Madson. She can be reached at ariana.madson@marquette.edu.