In the US, we include phrases like, “Dancing Through Life,” as fanciful metaphors within our bestselling Broadway plays featuring green women with conformity issues. In Ireland, dancing through life refers quite literally to the activities one participates in from venues as varied as a coffee shop on Shop Street to the College Bar or to the clubs next to my favorite coffee shop, Java’s, and from events ranging from birthday parties to Ceili (Kay-Lee) Irish dance sessions to traditional music nights. For some reason, smiling across a crowded room becomes a lot easier when the person is currently breaking out a Lord of the Dance move or doing “The Shopping Cart” (If you’ve never done this dance move please stop reading right now and try it out.)
In the last week, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to experience each one of these venues, surrounded by a comforting buffer zone of my group of friends, which makes the experience of flailing about in public much more manageable to the point where sometimes, it actually seems like a good idea. My first dance experience in Ireland was an informal session. After scouting high and low, my friends and I have finally located a cafe down the street from the local biker bar that we have decided to claim as “our place.” It’s reassuring to have a coffee shop that recognizes your face when you walk in. It’s a lot like the bar from Cheers. One day we even aspire to becoming so regular that when we walk in they ask, “the usual?” The upstairs of this quirky cafe is resplendent in reds of differing shades, lopsided couches positioned on the scuffed wooden floor and a baby grand piano nestled in the corner. It was there, at three in the morning, that I had my first dance in Ireland, whirling myself about like a solitary waltzer while my friend played a song by the Frames (the Irish band that did the music for Once.)
After a solid month of avoiding the dance clubs, last Saturday we set aside our pride and our flats, and, armed with with three inch heels and packets of travel tissues (all of us were amidst the most fun part of a cold), set out for Cuba (this is undoubtedly my cheapest travelling experience). In the streets, hired guys and girls mark passersby with UV stamps which allow you free access on weekdays and half price on weekends. Because I'm smart and eloquent I shouted, "Hey, I'd totally do that for money," when we spotted them on the street. The second floor of the club is all black lights and alternative music. I made sure to get a special glow in the dark eyebrow ring for the occasion. There was a lot of jumping up and down, and for one of my friends, even some being carried through the air. I still maintain that that should be implemented as the new mode of transportation.
The final night of dancing was a step into the traditional. In Ceili/Social dances, people dance in groups of 2-8 people. There’s something compelling about a national identity that prevails here in Ireland that baseball and hamburgers just don’t quite make up for back in the States. Ceili Dance. <--That's a video of the bar. It’s like stepping into a giant family reunion, only with less drama and more drinking. It's hard not to feel like an outsider at times when a group of people all start doing the same dance moves (I always scoffed when this happened in the movies). However, there's something to be said about an outsider perspective, the foreigners' version of anti-drunk goggles perhaps. Already the foreign has started to become familiar, and it's a little go going from color to black and white. I want to believe that appreciation isn't negatively correlated with comfort level...but it would explain all though divorces wouldn't it?
Often I feel as if I need something to commemorate this experience. There's the constant pressure that accompanies events like New Year's Eve and Spring Break to make study abroad feel like the time of your life. It's like continually having the need to make every moment one where (if you had your own theme music...and I SO wish i did) the song from Rocky would be playing or Good Riddance would start at the end of each night.
I've been stuck inside due to my awesome immune system for the past few days. I'm suffering a little bit of cabin fever. Hopefully though, when I'm well enough to leave my house, I'll start making those scrapbook style memories.
If that doesn't work I could always just get a tattoo.