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“Who Irish dances?”  Learning about joy, courage, & community through Irish dance

Updated: May 4, 2022

Irish dance strength and conditioning, Ellen G Waller, Ellen Gahl Waller

My Dad and my dance teacher used to work together at the hospital. One day, they were talking and she told him that she taught Irish dance. This was long before the Irish dance boom where people were exposed to Irish dance from commercial shows and where almost everyone who danced did so because of their Irish heritage. My non-Irish Dad jokingly responded, “who Irish dances?”

Fast forward almost 30 years and I’m home celebrating my dance teacher’s 40th year of teaching. 40 years! We laughed about the interaction with my Dad and it made me think about why we danced. We all enjoyed the art of Irish dance. But we all loved Irish dance, because of what our dance teacher taught us outside of our steps. Thank you, Mary...

Thank you for teaching us JOY

Irish dance strength and conditioning, Ellen G Waller, Ellen Gahl Waller

As dancers, you welcomed everyone into each class with so much happiness. You set the tone and always made it exciting to be there. And that hasn’t changed. I watched as you cheerfully greeted the hundreds of guests coming to the 40th celebration. Your joy is contagious. It filled our dancing and we all carry it in our lives to this day.

Irish dance strength and conditioning, Ellen G Waller, Ellen Gahl Waller

Thank you for teaching us COURAGE

We were laughing at the party about the many new experiences we were exposed to - collaborating with cloggers or modern dancers, traveling to exciting and strange shows, the first time we did X,Y or Z, working with choreographers and trainers. And the experiences we faced as competitive Irish dancers - setting goals, learning the value of hard work, and overcoming obstacles. Through these experiences, you showed us the power in embracing our vulnerabilities and facing each new or unexpected experience with courage. It was in these moments that we were truly able to grow as dancers and individuals.

Thank you for showing us the power of COMMUNITY

Irish dance strength and conditioning, Ellen G Waller, Ellen Gahl Waller

Irish dance was never just about the one dancer. It was about their family. And their family being a part of the dance family. It was about taking care of one another and a support system that could not be penetrated. We helped carry the weight of each other’s struggles and shared in the joy of everyone’s victories. We are unstoppable together. The strength of this community was evident at the 40th anniversary party and is still a powerful thread in each of our lives today.

I’ve never stopped dancing since my first class almost 30 years ago. I’ve filled many roles in the Irish dance world - competitor, performer, instructor, and now training coach. And throughout all that time, I’ve always carried a piece of my dance teacher’s spirit with me. It is at the essence of who I strive to be as a teacher and individual.

Thank you would be an understatement.

Congratulations on 40 years, Mary! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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