Ceili Club fuses dance with community

Irish dancing flourishes on campus through integration of history and art.


Marika Adamopoulos

Senior Spanish major and club president Julie Marmion of Biola Ceili Club. She discusses how Irish dancing flourishes on campus through integration of history and art. | Katie Evensen/THE CHIMES

Jehn Kubiak, Writer

Irish culture, dance and exercise are all elements of the engaging environment at the Biola Ceili Club started last year by recent Biola grads Steph Henning and Emily Sudman.

A Social Gathering

Senior Spanish major and club president Julie Marmion said Ceili dancing originated from Celtic Druids and developed from the dance styles that different cultures brought to Ireland. The Gaelic League started the first Ceili — a social gathering featuring folk dance and music. Ceili was the style most often danced at these gatherings and was named after the people group.

Marmion became involved in the club last year when it first started. She was excited to see Irish culture on campus and desired to keep the club going because last year’s club leaders graduated. Marmion grew up performing Irish step dancing for 10 years, but did not become involved in Ceili dancing until she joined the club last year. The aspect she enjoys most about Ceili dancing is its fun atmosphere.

“I’ve competed all my life but I really enjoyed the really relaxed, fun atmosphere that goes along with Ceili dancing, just enjoying each step along the way,” Marmion said.

A Costume Ceili

The club recently hosted a costume Ceili at the library courtyard on Oct. 29 where they wore costumes and played games, like bobbing for apples. Attendees also learned a couple fall dances, such as the Harvest Time Jig and Haymaker’s Jig. Marmion said the club plans to host an Irish celebration in the spring for St. Patrick’s day — celebrating other cultures in addition to Irish culture.

“Our goal is just that people would be encouraged to come and try it out,” Marmion said. “It’s really an activity where the more the merrier. The more people we have, the more possibilities we have with dances you can do and the more lively it becomes.”

Folk Dancing

Ceili dancing is similar to square dancing since it has a caller that calls and explains the steps. It is also similar to line dancing because dancers line up across from each other and create weaving patterns of movement as they go in and out between lines, starting at one end of the line and finishing at the other. Folk dancing is generally done to music featuring the sounds of the fiddle, concertina and penny whistle.

Freshman undeclared major Kathryn Homoki enjoys barn and folk dances and decided to join the club after seeing their booth at clubs fair this year. She said Ceili dancing is similar to the country style dance she is familiar with.

“The Irish style is really beautiful and I really like that more than some of the country style,” Homoki said. “And also the way that there are some steps that are a little different, but the main idea is the same.”

In Community

At meetings, members learn new Ceili dances and spend time in community with other students.

“We usually have monthly meetings where we spend the first hour learning basic steps, learning traditional dances, and we take half an hour of rest, eating treats and we finish the last half hour dancing,” Marmion said.

Dean of Library and Media services Gregg Geary is the club advisor and provides oversight, attends club meetings and meets with Marmion to discuss things like marketing and preparing for meetings.

Geary is ethnically Irish, has experience in folk dancing and clogging and was part of a Scottish dance club and Caledonian Society. Geary said the activity brings people from different backgrounds together to experience a different culture. In addition, he said Ceili dancing is something anyone can participate in.

“It’s fun and provides a nice social outlet for students, staff, faculty to come together and experience a cultural event,” Geary said.

New Cultural Activities

Marmion also enjoys how the club creates community and allows people to engage in new cultural activities.

“My favorite part is seeing people come together and just participate in a cultural activity that might be different than what they’re used to and getting to learn and grow together and have a good time,” Marmion said.

Geary said the activity is highly aerobic and a fun form of exercise.

“Your mind is active in engaging in the steps and at the same time, you’re moving all the time, and I believe anybody who just watches it and doesn’t participate in it doesn’t realize how quickly you burn up a lot of calories,” Geary said. “It’s great aerobic exercise because you’re always moving.”

Attend a Meeting

The club meets monthly on Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the library courtyard. Marmion said any students interested in joining can attend a meeting and she encourages students to join even if they do not have any experience with Irish dancing.

Homoki enjoys how Ceili dancing allows her to learn new dances and meet other people while staying in shape.

“I think it’s being able to learn a new skill,” Homoki said. “It’s something that you can use to get to know other people and get exercise.”

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