Céad Míle Fáilte: Irish Dance Team Joins Manhattan College

by Kelly Kennedy & Caroline McCarthy, Staff Writers

Céad míle fáilte, Manhattan College Irish Dance Team!

This year, Manhattan College’s newest organization celebrates the school’s prominent Gaelic culture with an expression of Irish pride. In the true spirit of heritage, the team’s advisor Aileen Farrelly, assistant dean of the O’Malley School of Business, is working alongside her daughters, senior Ellen and sophomore Clare, to continue a generational tradition of Irish dance here on campus.

Aileen Farrelly was a champion Irish Step dancer, competing and performing for 15 years in both Ireland and in North America. Yet while she was a student at Manhattan College, there was no Irish Step Dance team.

She never let the lack of a team stop her and she continued to practice by herself in both the Alumni Mini Gym and the Horan Hall Meditation Room. Farrelly then went on to compete at the Worlds Competition twice during her time at Manhattan College.

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“Many students have been coming to college and having to quit Irish dancing, and they really don’t like that,” Aileen said. “The idea [of creating a team] has been percolating and this year it seemed like the time was right because of the increased number of dancers on campus.”

Aileen is taking on the role of advisor for the team this year at the request of her daughters and a strong following of Manhattan College students. Freshmen talent Mairéad Fee, Reese Hollister, Caroline King and Megan Heavey sparked an undeniable need for this team on campus. Other notable members are Noel Spillane, who took fifth at Worlds and second at Nationals, and Kasey Van Doran; also a Worlds Qualifier.

“There is a very big Irish Dance community at Manhattan College. I knew I was done doing it competitively but was excited to join a club on campus,” said Hollister.

The excitement is definitely shared.

“My whole family is super Irish, so dancing has always been in my family. I grew to love it, and just had to do it here!” said Fee.

Clare Farrelly, the student organizer, was also a competitive dancer but suffered an abundance of ankle injuries, costing her seasons of competition. She had the opportunity to travel all over North America and Ireland since the age of three and was able to sustain the injury until being forced to retire at twelve years old.

“Irish dancing was my life when I was little and I had it taken away from me,” Clare said. “Being able to be back with the people I used to dance with is really cool and doing it in a fun way that isn’t as competitive is awesome.”

Clare also credits her sister, Ellen for the idea of creating the Manhattan College Irish Dance Team.

The team intends to use this year to grow and develop a presence on campus. As it is the first year, any student with some amount of Irish Dance training is welcome to participate. The team expects to be centered around student-choreographed numbers and potentially perform at basketball games, seasonal events and of course, Saint Patrick’s Day.

Together, the Farrelly family has brought a community of Irish step dancers together and allowed a place for their individual talents to shine beyond high school years. The team has an astounding number of World qualifiers and looks forward to the opportunities of the future.