Oh the Days of the Kerry Dances Dance, Dance, Wherever You May Be
Last Saturday I went to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Alexandria It is so hometown endearing As long as you bring some green, you are in. The parade features Bolivian dancers, Irish dance troops, the NYPD fife and drum corps, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and a collection of dogs, decked out in Irish gear, among other marchers. A random politician or two usually find their way into the parade as well, it is a great phot op.
My favorite part every year is when Irish dancers from my children’s old dance school all gather on the steps of the historical society for a picture after the parade. As I look at them I see my daughter all decked out in her white and green embroidered dress. I remember her helping with the youngest class. Her passion was more taking care of the little ones than it was dancing. There was room for everyone in Laureen’s dance world You see the older girls in their velvets ready to enter Irish dance competitions at the highest level and toddlers who are part of Tir na nOg. These are the wee little ones who compete as toddlers. This is the name given to a supernatural realm of eternal youth in Irish folklore. The boys have white shirts tucked into their black trousers and they are all sporting green bowties. The girls are in Irish dance dresses, weaing ghillies and Irish dance shoes with tape on the bottom to protect the soles of the shoe as they march and dance down King Street. These children are connected by a spirit of camaraderie and a rhythmic pulse of jigs and reels that roll down the cobblestone sidewalks of Alexandria and bathe the attentive crowd in a lilt of Irish laughter and a sense of wonder as the culture passes from one generation to the next, before their very eyes
When my own children were part of this parade, we were an organic part of this explosion of Irish heritage. I even took dance lessons myself with my daughter. We danced along this route together many years ago We even danced on stage at the National Mall and made the even longer trek down Constitution Ave. to be part of the all things Irish sweeping gestures that accompanied the month of March. March, march through the nation’s capital or through Alexandria, which feels like Scotland or Ireland itself. March until you can no longer feel your feet and your legs are weak from dancing. March like this is your last dance. March like this is your fist dance and you have just discovered your Irish self within.
There she was marching and dancing for she is the Lord of the Dance, says me…..Laureen has taught at least three and maybe even four generations of dancers. Best in Parade, Winner of International Feis competitions. The best part is what she has given her dancers, not just her champions, but the young girls or boys who is in it or the fun of it, absorbing their culture without even knowing it’s happening. These children are not going to help her win trophies. They are going to win hearts with the love, discipline and sense of accomplishment and self confidence Laureen helps them find as they stand like Iirsh dancers, carry themselves with pride, and whatever happens in life, they have learned to just keep dancing. Thank you Laureen, the Queen of Irish dance and culture, the daughter of Peggy O’Neil, Ireland’s most famous step dancer. Peggy O’Neil won a trophy for being the best step dancer in all of Scotland. At the time she won the trophy, she was already pregnant with Laureen. Laureen was born to dance. This is why her license plate ever since I met her has been O2dance Laureen was inducted into the Irish Cultural Hall of Fame, and Best of all, as luck of the Irish would have it, she is my friend.
Like me, she now has a grandchild. She holds her grandbaby up and marches proudly with him in the parade. I am planning a baby party for mine, on St. Patrick’s Day. This is a day we will celebrate every year and who knows, maybe someday he will even dance in a parade. My grandbaby may not yet have his school costume, but God has already endowed him with his Irish red hair.