July 18, 2002
Sad ballads, lively hornpipes and the rhythmic stomp of Irish step dancing were some of the sounds heard at Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann’s Irish Music Festival held in the City of Fairfax’s Van Dyck Park on June 29. CCE’s local O’Neill-Malcom branch sponsored the event, in which 10 bands and students and teachers from seven Irish dance schools performed a variety of Irish music, step dancing , and set and ceili dancing. Step dances are by tradition solo, competitive dances; set and ceili, or figure dances, are social dances. “This is the first time we’ve held it here,” said Hugh Conway, one of the organizers.
Brent Jordan, armed with a fiddle and a camera for the festival, explained, “Ceili means party,” and added, “My wife used to dance, but she has muscular dystrophy—she’s retired now.” Jordan’s daughter Sarah is a student at the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance
Caterina Earle, teacher at the Culkin School, interspersed dance performances with history and trivia, including how step dancers’ “hard” shoes are now tipped with fiberglass, not leather and nails. “They still get the sound,” she said, “but the fiberglass tends to chip.”
Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, which translates from the Gaelic as Irish Musicians’ Association, is headquartered in Dublin with 400 branches around the world, said Bob Hickey, the festival’s main organizer. Hickey said CCE also offers Irish dance lessons, concerts, dances and other events in Van Dyck Park’s John Wood Center