Rutgers Irish Dance Team wins 1st place at festival
The Irish Dance Club recently placed first in the Fourth Annual Intercollegiate Irish Dance Festival and won several awards at the Catholic University of America's Cherry Blossom Irish Dance Competition.
The group works to spread knowledge about Irish culture by offering students the opportunity to compete in Irish dance competitions and participate in local shows, said Shea Shovlin, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and president of the club.
One goal of the organization is to add diversity to the Rutgers student body, Shovlin said.
“Everybody knows about the club soccer team, everybody knows about club basketball team, but not many people know about our sport, so I feel like we’re adding to the diversity of Rutgers University,” Shovlin said.
They placed first in the "four-hand" competition in the Intercollegiate Irish Dance Festival at Villanova University this past October.
The club has already started preparing for the Dayton University Intercollegiate Irish Dance Competition in Ohio this upcoming spring semester, Shovlin said.
“We went into the first competition at Villanova not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into," Shovlin said. "I think everyone was shocked when we placed top three in almost every category."
Doing well motivated the group to practice harder which lead to their success at Catholic University.
Miranda McKiernan, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore and the group's secretary, said she never danced before she joined the club.
Coming from an Irish family, McKiernan said she was strongly interested in Irish dancing throughout her life. Although she knew of her interest, she did not know how to perform.
McKiernan most enjoys the social aspect of the club, she said.
“My favorite part is the mini get-togethers that we have. For example, last Wednesday we had Friendsgiving," she said.
The club feels like a family, said Caitlin Brennan, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and the public relations chair of the Rutgers Irish Dance Club.
“I’m a senior this year, so I just wanted to make sure there was a group for Irish dancers. Some schools that have a lot of dancers do not have a club, so it’s more difficult to network for them,” Brennan said.
Brennan said Wednesday night practices are her favorite part of the club because she gets to "goof around" with her favorite people.
But Shovlin said the competition is what entices her.
“I really like the competitions because I (have) competed my whole life," Shovlin said. "I stopped for a while before coming (to Rutgers), but I realized how much fun I had been missing out on when I got back on stage with a group of girls that I love."
The executive board is more organized this year compared to last, Shovlin said. The club plans to increase their volunteering in the near future and plan more social events.
Last semester, the club performed at Dance Marathon, where they taught "The Siege of Ennis," which is a traditional Irish dance that is usually performed at weddings, Shovlin said.
The club plans on hosting Rutgers first-ever culture night in 2017.
McKiernan encourages more students to participate in the The Irish Dance Club to learn a new skill.
“It’s really fun and you meet great people,” McKiernan said.
Thomas Lohan is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.