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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Saoirse Irish Dance team returns to Mid-American Collegiate competition

Saoirse competed this past weekend at Purdue University.
Photo by via Saoirse Irish Dance Team
The 8-hand reel placed second at this past weekends competition.

For the second year in a row, Marquette’s Irish dance team, Saoirse, competed this past weekend at the Mid-American Collegiate competition at Purdue University.

In 2017, the Saoirse Irish Dance team was formed by former Marquette Irish dancers. Callie Johnson, a choreographer of Saoirse and junior in the College of Health Sciences, said this year they decided to have a lot of dancers compete.

“We did a fun group Taylor Swift number, and along with that had one 8-hand reel and three 4-hand reels. In addition to those, we also had a number of individual Treble Reels competing,” Johnson said. “All of these dances will be performed at our showcase on April 28.”

At this competition, Saoirse’s groups placed first in 4-hand, second in 8-hand and Johnson, soloist, placed first in the sophomore treble reel, along with Brigid Gannon, sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, and Hannah McMahon, first-year in the College of Health Sciences, placed third in their respective grades treble reel and Clare Fitzgerald, senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, placed third in the senior treble reel.

According to the Irish Dance Teachers Association, an 8-hand reel is when eight members of the team participate in a group dance. Within that dance, four pairs are arranged in a square formation and each member has a specific role in leading the dance. The 4-hand reel is the same concept of the 8-Hand, except only four members are dancing. 

Treble reels are often performed with hard shoes, so that audiences can hear the dancers and to fast music. The Irish Dancers Teachers Association also added that treble reels are very popular performances often seen at St. Patrick’s Day parades. 

In order to attend the competition, Johnson said they created a GoFundMe page for travel funds. 

“Since we only have 14 members it is a lot out of pocket,” Johnson said. “We are in contact with the American Company of Irish Dance to hopefully finalize regular funding, but what we raise goes to travel costs, hotels, the competition cost itself as well as food and costumes.” 

To finalize costumes prior to the competition, Johnson said they typically have traditional Irish dance costumes, with a black leotard and tights. They like to vary the skirt color to add uniqueness, especially for the Taylor Swift number, she said.

Rose Meschi, events planner and sophomore in the College of Education, said the team has a variety of different skill levels each year. 

“There isn’t much of an audition process, since we wanted to also take beginner level dancers,” Meschi said. “It is really cool and fun to be able to create dances and work with the different skill levels to be able to make the unique choreography.”

In order to come up with the choreography for each of the dances, Johnson said she makes sure to take into account the different skill levels each group has. From there she said she likes to start with the music and build. 

“A lot of my inspiration is from Instagram,” Johnson said. “It is definitely a lot of late-night inspiration, followed by the group’s input as well.” 

Throughout the year, Saoirse practices each Sunday; however, Meschi also explained that since there are a lot of different dances, each group often meets three times a week to finalize each of their performances. 

Meschi hopes with enough practice they will be able to make it to Nationals in the coming years. 

“I’ve been competing in Irish dance my whole life,” Meschi said. “Since I live pretty far away from home, I wanted a way to continue and meet new people with similar interests. It also gave me an opportunity to do performances, which is my favorite part of Irish dancing.”

Similar to Meschi, Johnson said because of Saoirse, it was one of the reasons she chose to come to Marquette. 

“I knew one of the founding members, so I always knew it existed in high school. I knew there would be a community of people with similar likes and interests who would motivate me,” Johnson said. 

Ellen Nemivant, secretary and treasurer of Saoirse and senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said Irish dancing is truly something unique.

“Everyone in Irish dance is interconnected, and no one else truly understands it,” Nemivant said. “I wasn’t ready to be done when I graduated high school, so I knew I wanted to continue. It is really interesting to be able to dance and see all the similarities within every dancer from what they learned growing up.” 

This story was written by Sophie Goldstein. She can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Sophie Goldstein
Sophie Goldstein, Executive Arts & Entertainment Editor
Sophie Goldstein is a sophomore from Glenview, Illinois studying journalism and is the Executive Arts and Entertainment Editor of the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Prior to this position, she served as the Arts and Entertainment Editor for the Indiana Daily Student at Indiana University. Outside of the Wire, she enjoys spending time with friends, watching reality television and playing with her dog. She is excited to begin her journey at the Wire, while exploring the stories everyone has to share at Marquette.

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