It was like they appeared out of nowhere. Suddenly, the dancing space at the United Irish Counties Feis was filled. Kids wearing rather non-traditional yellow t-shirts, running shoes and jeans danced, hands on their hips, and the audience began to clap along.
The impromptu dance group were The Keltic Dreams, children from Public School 59 in the Bronx, N.Y. The kids had little connection with Irish culture; most of their backgrounds are Hispanic, African-American and Indian. But their moves blended salsa and hip-hip with Irish dancing. Though untraditional, their dancing was fun and lovely to watch.
“I’ve wanted to show the kids a feis for years,” explained their teacher Caroline Duggan, with a beaming smile. Duggan is originally from Dublin. “I wanted to show them the traditional dancing and the traditional steps.”
The people at the UIC Feis were pretty happy too. “We were delighted that they attended,” said Maurice Landers, co-chair of the Feis. “That we got to show off the feis to the kids.”
Duggan was thrilled with their reception at Yonkers, saying that the organizers had been wonderfully open and friendly. “We didn’t have our shoes with us, but they invited us to dance,” she said. “It was incredible today. I had tears in my eyes when they danced.”
The Keltic Dreams children made friends with the Irish dancers, who were intrigued by their performance. “We mix hip-hop with Irish dancing,” said 9-year-old Eliahs. “We put our hands on our hips when we dance,” added a 12-year-old Karilis. “We see them do steps that we do differently.”
Members of The Keltic Dreams take pride in their own fusion of cultures and are quick to explain their dancing’s appeal. “My mom is proud of me,” said Lillian, 10, “because I learned something new and I mix my culture in with it – I’m Portuguese and Cuban.”
So what’s next for The Keltic Dreams after their success at Yonkers?
“Our goal right now is to perform for the President,” Valerie, 12, said confidently, “he has read the letters that we sent in. And he has heard about us.”