My first Irish dance lesson!
"Are you drunk?!" was the first thing my husband Paul asked me when he picked me up from my first ever Irish dance lesson in Bray, a suburb of Dublin. I was on such a high from the hour-long dance class that for the rest of evening, I was as giddy as a five-year-old in a candy store. Louise O'Toole, my fabulous teacher and new friend who I met through the Bodhran Irish Group (from my trip to the Europeade Festival in Estonia this summer), was patient with me and kind enough to meet me on a weekend night to give me the basics on hard shoe and soft shoe dancing. I only had a pair of Tom's shoes on, which actually worked out quite well as practice for my first time in learning the dance steps, but it was a little difficult trying to make sure I hit the right beats and the correct part of my foot on the floor for the hard shoe steps. We spent about 30 minutes on each style, starting with the soft shoe, which reminded me of this inside-out version of ballet positions. Your feet have to be turned out, but your knees have to be together the entire time, so you're almost turning only half of your leg out at a time. It was a bit awkward for me to begin with, and by the end of the class, my inner thighs were on fire. Also, by the end of this little routine, my heart was pumping out of my chest and I was completely out of breath, it was ridiculous (in the best way possible!)
We then moved on to hard shoe, which was a lot of fun for me since I do enjoy tap dancing - again, the feet had to be turned out and legs tight together from the knee up, and in that position, mastering the rhythms and the technique was quite a challenge. If I wasn't thinking about my feet, I was thinking about my legs, and then I was back to thinking about my feet; turn them out, no wait, now wiggle them so they turn in and out while I'm striking the ground, now I'm hitting the floor with the side of my shoe, what's the next step again?! It was great, and I was really proud of myself for keeping track of all the information - it also didn't hurt that Louise was an exceptional teacher and really broke things down in a very simple way for me. You can hear how loud the hard shoes are (Louise is wearing them) and at one point, they make the music completely inaudible:
Covered in sweat and beyond elated, I left the studio with a huge smile on my face. The plan was to meet again the next day in Dublin for a dance session with the Bodhran dancers for an extension of the evenings lesson as well as a practice session for the well-versed dancers themselves. But until then, Louise and a few of her friends met up with us the Harbour Bar down the road for some drinks and good company. We were lucky enough that a spontaneous trad session was in fact happening (a sweet couple of talented kids who started playing around 5pm that afternoon and never stopped through the rest of the evening). The young man's parents also came (being his biggest fans!), and his mother picked me up and began dancing with me to the song Galway Girl:
Voted as the "best bar in the world" by Lonely Planet (which we found out later in the evening by another patron), this bar did live up to its name. Made up of smaller rooms, staff of down-to-earth yet hip local kids, and that day it being the set of an upcoming Irish film, we were really in for a treat. On top of that, the fiddle player even let Paul try out his unique playing style (off the neck and closer to the chest). We had a wonderful time, and the evening came to warm close after such an energetic day! Thank you Louise, and thank you Bray!