The Duffy School of Irish Dance

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Musings of an Irish Dance Teacher

Diversity in Irish Dance

I received a phone call a few weeks ago from a woman who was inquiring about dance classes for her granddaughter.  I don't know where she found my phone number, but it was clear from the very beginning that she didn't know we only teach Irish dance.  When I explained that very important detail, she replied, "Well, we're African-American, so that's not for us."  I tried to explain that we have students of many different ethnicities, but there was no convincing her to give it a try.

This is an issue I've come up against many times in my years of running The Duffy School.  As soon as the word "Irish" leaves my lips, visions of white-skinned, red-haired, freckled little girls leap to mind.  We certainly do have more than our fair share of redheads, but we also have many students who are not Irish (and not girls, but that's a different topic entirely).  Those dancers were interested enough in the style of dance that the culture to which it is tied did not deter them from giving it a try.

I am very proud of my Irish roots, regardless of the fact that I am several generations removed from those in my family who first came to America.  But I will admit that sometimes, secretly, there is a small part of me that wishes I could remove the word "Irish" from what we do.  I don't wish this out of shame or a desire to deceive.  I wish this because I truly believe that Irish dance is an amazing sport, and I want to share the art and athleticism of what we do with everyone. 

When a dancer walks through our door, all we care about is that they are there to dance.  We believe in the power of dance to shape young people into caring, resilient, confident human beings.  The type of dance that we do just happens to be Irish dance, because that's what we grew up doing, and what we are good at, and what we love.  The music, undoubtedly Irish, has strong beats and lively rhythms that make people want to move and clap along.  The dancers are strong and powerful, sharp and neat, graceful and beautiful.

It is my hope that we can continue to make progress in sharing what we do, and help people to give Irish dance a second look.  Yes, we are Irish, but you don't have to be.  Yes, we are white, but you don't have to be.  We welcome you as you are, and hope to learn from each other in this crazy world we all live in.

x Miss Erin

Erin Martorano