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SLU’s Irish dancers are raising the bar

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elevationElevation, SLU’s very own Irish dance team, showed off their hard work and passion in their third annual showcase last Saturday evening in Xavier Theater.
I cannot explain what happens in my heart when I hear the sound of an Irish reel or the powerful rhythm of Irish hard shoes tapping on the ground. I become irrationally emotional. I admit that I grew up with family gatherings turning into Irish music jam sessions. Irish music was frequently echoing through my house and I myself Irish danced between the first and sixth grades. So I’m not really sure this can come across as an altogether unbiased review.
But Elevation really puts on a show. At once an art form and a sport, Irish dancing can embrace both tradition and adaptation. Elevation exhibited their strength at owning these dualities in their showcase.
Elevation combines traditional Irish music and dancing with contemporary aesthetics in a way certain to entertain everyone in the audience.
“I think it was a really cool blend of old-timey Irish music and contemporary music,” said Andrew Bennet, a student in the audience. “I gained a new appreciation for it because I consciously decided to just look at their feet during the show.”
Those feet jigged and reel-ed away to anything from “Breakin’ a Sweat” by Skrillex and The Doors to traditional ceili tunes.
This year, they expanded on their range of performance with a piece called “Acappella!,” which they performed without music accompanying them. They also performed a dance entitled “Beats,” which models itself after a trend begun by TapTronic, a group that calls itself a “progressive fusion of Irish dance and electronic music.”
With these new types of dances under their belt, Elevation’s showcase was a powerhouse. They danced with grace and passion, sweeping across the stage with their high kicks and delicate footwork.
What’s clear is that for these SLU students, dancing is more than just a casual hobby. Most of them have been dancing for more than a decade already, and their passion transcends the steps they are doing. For many of these dancers, the steps are a way to connect both to each other and to their Irish heritage.
Colleen Mullane, current co-president of Elevation, explained that her love of Irish dancing comes from the relationships she’s formed.“I originally started dancing because it was something that everyone in my family did,” she said. “I have continued to dance into college because I love the friendships that I have been able to make through it. For me, dance is all about the relationships that I have been fortunate enough to create and maintain, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”
Of course, for many dancers, it all goes back to a strong identification with their Irish heritage.
“Both of my mother’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland as teenagers,” said Elevation member Emily Drenovsky. “The Irish legacy they began in America inspires me and makes me so proud to be able to carry on their culture and traditions.” Mullane added, “Family is the most important part of Irish heritage, and I think we have been able to carry the family aspect from each of our own experiences and create a new family here at SLU.”
That passion for Irish heritage and each other comes through clearly in their performances. Their ending dance, “Craic” (a difficult-to-transate word from Gaelic with roughly means “fun”), gave each dancer the opportunity to dance a short solo while the emcee provided some humorous commentary on their personality and relationship with the group. The playfulness between the dancers exhibited their strength not only as individual dancers but also as a cohesive group.
The group has achieved so much in their fives years. Their numbers have grown and they’ve raised their profile on campus. This weekend, they’ll be attending their first intercollegiate competition hosted by the University of Dayton, competing against the host university, the University of Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s College, Ohio State University and Villanova University.
“This third [showcase] was probably our best so far,” said Elevation member Laura O’Lannerghty. “We are improving with age, that’s for sure.”

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