Take Me Home Eileen Next months Dance List Learn The Ceili

A special treat at a night in Plainview

The Mid Island Irish American Club held the second of its monthly ceili dances on Saturday, November 5th, 2005, at the newly renovated American Legion Hall in Plainview, Long Island, New York. The hall had been damaged in a fire, but is now completely restored. The beautiful oak flooring is in great condition, with just enough give to minimize stress on the dancers' legs. Dancing there is truly a pleasant experience. More than 100 people attended the event, but there was plenty of room for dancing.

I've wondered why dancing at the Mid Island Irish American Club's monthly ceili is so enjoyable. The lively, energetic Irish music is certainly one of the reasons, and I've also been told that the form of the music itself is significant. An A section, the first half of the tune, is played and repeated, then a B section, then back to the A section and so on. This repetition serves to familiarize the dancers with the music and provides them with cues when it's time to do something different. As each section is repeated, the talented musicians will add embellishments that seem to energize the dancers and their steps become more emphatic. When the final bars of a figure are played, the dancers anticipate the last beat and end the dance with a resounding stomp on the floor. Immediately a smile breaks out on everyone's face and the applause begins. A euphoric feeling of accomplishment fills the room and everyone becomes your friend. Even those who came simply to watch the dancers and enjoy the music will join in the applause. It is truly an enjoyable experience.

On this night the people who had come just to listen were in for a special treat. The band was Ceol na gCroi which means 'music from the heart' and they were outstanding. The band featured James Keane on the button accordion, Linda Hickman on the flute, Brendan Fahey on the ceili drums and Connor McGurt on the keyboard. James Keane is an acclaimed musician who has made a number of recordings and has performed at concerts in Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden in New York. His brother Sean plays with the Chieftains. Connor McGurt was the All-Ireland keyboard and piano accordion champion in 2001, 2002 and 2004. They were all outstanding performers.

The dance program was also exciting, starting with the Clare Lancers, an old-time waltz, the Ballyvourney Jig, Paris, Donegal, High-Cauled Cap and Connemara sets. By then the dancers were grateful for a much needed intermission. The second part of the program consisted of the Caledonian, Castle, Plain, Kilfenora and North Kerry sets, followed by a selection of reels. The night ended with the national anthems of Ireland and the United States. Teachers Matt Dolan and John Bergin and club president John Broderick deserve much of the credit for the wonderful friendly atmosphere that exists at Mid Island Irish American ceilis.

Jim Keane, Smithtown, New York
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