MC’s Irish Dance Team Steps Up Its Game Post-COVID

by Zoe DeFazio & Mars Ross, Staff Writer & Contributor

Manhattan College’s Irish dance team is back in action after the past school year of COVID precautions. 

This year the team is better than ever with new members and multiple classes. Kasey Van Doran, senior and the president of the team, spoke about her excitement towards this new beginning for them. 

“I’m happy we are finally bringing it back. We started the team my sophomore year and then because of COVID, we couldn’t really get it off the ground,” Van Doran said. 

Van Doran continued to talk about how MC has a lot of students with dance backgrounds and how the Irish dance team is a great place for previous dancers to meet at MC.

Van Doran said, “We have a lot of dancers that actually go to this school, so it’s nice to get everyone connected again and to incorporate dance with the school. We have dancers who danced competitively and still do. Everyone is getting involved and it’s really nice to see everyone.”

The team was started a few years back and has yet to see some progress due to the abrupt halt of the academic year back in 2020. Now that classes have resumed in person and campus is active the Irish dance team hopes to start anew. 

“When we first started the Irish dance team it was only for those who were competitors,” Van Doran said. “This year we are doing two classes a week. So we have one day for the dancers who are accustomed to this, so they can learn harder choreography, and then we have one class for those who have never danced before. That’s been really fun.”

The faculty advisor of the club, Aileen Farrelly is also excited about the addition of more classes to welcome members of different skill levels and to teach students how to dance. 

As advisor, Farrelly assists student leaders like Van Doran to reserve practice rooms, schedule performances and work on class structure. This is not an easy job considering many of the dancers still compete in regional and national competitions.

Farrelly used to compete in these competitions herself so she knows what it’s like to be a busy student.

“I placed 2nd in the Regional Championships, 4th in the North American National Championships and qualified and competed in the Irish Dancing World Championships every year until I was 19 years old,” Farrelly said. “Since then, I became a certified Irish dance teacher and operated a small Irish dance school for a number of years in Yonkers, NY.”

Naturally, Farrelly became the advisor of the team due her extensive experience, but it was actually her daughters that brought the team into fruition. 

Ellen and Clare Farrelly realized there were many Irish dancers on campus and wanted to start a team to bring everyone together to practice and perform at events. Although nothing is set in stone, the team might be making an appearance once again. 

“No performances are booked to date, however, in the past, we have performed at basketball games and the St. Patrick’s Day events around campus. Right now, some of our student dancers are getting ready for the regional Irish Dance Championships [during] Thanksgiving weekend and we plan on booking performances over the Christmas break.”

Caroline King, another member of the Irish dance team, is a junior at Manhattan College double majoring in history and international studies. King stopped competing because of the pandemic, but the Irish dance team has given her an opportunity to showcase her skills once again. 

“I’m super excited to dance again because I stopped during COVID when competitions stopped happening,” King said. “It’s so fun performing, so doing pub nights where we dance or perform at school will be a lot of fun, especially if people are excited.” 

The team has members at different levels and welcomes new dancers to the team. King spoke about helping new members learn their routines and how the diversity of experience levels within the team makes it more fun. 

“The Irish dance team consists of dancers who previously competed or are still actively competing in Irish dance. But this year we also have some new members who wanted to learn how to dance for the first time, which is really cool,” King said.

Anyone who wants to learn Irish dance has a place on the team and a routine they can perform in. With choreography made by student members, the team adapts to the dancers and what they want to learn. 

“We are going to be doing some choreographed routines in hard shoes with the experienced dancers and some fun light show routines with the newer dancers,” King said.