Penn State students explore Celtic dance
Although the next Lord of the Dance is unlikely to be found at Penn State Greater Allegheny, students got an opportunity to learn some authentic moves during Friday afternoon's Celtic dance workshop.
Certified ceili dance instructor Liz Shovlin Grinko led students and staff in the class in the Ostermayer Room of the McKeesport-based university branch.
“Students are always enthusiastic,” Grinko said. “There's more energy and they're always on fire about it ... Students are always really enthusiastic and open to trying new things,”
“I like to dance. I like the culture,” said freshman Kayla Kisan.
“I took part in the class because I am of Irish descent,” freshman John Halbleib said. “I thought it would be a cool thing. I wanted to see what the whole Irish culture was about. It was a fun class. I'm looking forward to doing it again next week. The interactive dances that we did were actually enjoyable.”
Kisan said she was surprised by all of the interactive dancing.
Ceili, pronounced kaylee, means gathering. Students joined hands and danced to “Haymakers Jig,” “Rakes of Mallow” and “Walls of Limerick,” among other ceili numbers.
“The best part of these dances is repetition,” Grinko said. “Each of them only has four to five basic parts, and they repeat them. It's just hard to remember everything. The simple dances, sometimes they have the same parts.”
The dances originated in Ireland and are meant to encourage togetherness.
Grinko explained that the men were always to the left of the ladies in the dances “because women are always right.”
“When you waltz with a gent, the position is the gent's on the left,” she continued.
Grinko's visit was organized by associate English professor Mildred Mickle as part of the campus-wide Teaching International effort. This year's theme is the Celtic nations and water.
Speakers present topics that relate to the Celtic nations, there are art workshops, and engineering professors work on projects involving water.
Mickle said a faculty secretary told her about Calliope House, a nonprofit educational and presenting organization, and she learned about the Celtic dance workshops.
“It's a good way to give students a well-rounded look at different cultures,” Mickle said. “They hear lectures. They do projects ... This gets them out and gets them active, gets them moving. Depending on the schedule, we try to fit in two or three dance workshops a semester.”
A workshop is planned for Friday from 3-4:30 p.m. at the student community center. It is open to all students, faculty and staff at the campus.
There were belly dancing workshops last year as part of the university's teaching international lessons about the Middle East.
Grinko, 54, said she starting dancing at age 8 and began professionally at age 20. She teaches Tuesday nights at Mullaney's Harp and Fiddle in the Strip District. Grinko's sanctioned by An Coimisiun le Rince Gaelacha, the Irish Dancing Commission.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or firstname.lastname@example.org.