Kate Wendelberger shows off her Irish Dancing skills at UW-Eau Claire and gives a taste of Irish dancing history.
Eau Claire, WI (WEAU) - It's St. Patrick's Day and we're celebrating the beloved holiday by not only wearing green on Sunrise, but also sharing more information on a popular art form.
Some may recall enjoying the styles of Riverdance or Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance. On Sunrise, we're learning a bit about Irish dancing history while featuring the Eau Claire Irish dancing club, whose members are gettin' jiggy with it.
"I started Irish dancing when I was 4 and I danced for 10 years,” says UWEC Junior, Kate Wendelberger.
"I started in college because I saw the group and I had always been interested,” says Karilyn Sisko, Senior at UWEC.
"I started Irish dancing my freshman year in college,” explains Allison Puestow, Senior at UWEC.
What may have started just a few years ago for these dancers has been a tradition dating back to the 18th century.
"We do a lot of on campus shows with other groups here, and then teaching classes which is my favorite part with a lot of students as well with kids and parents in the community,” says Kate
Since 2010 college students at UW-Eau Claire have learned the art of soft shoe dancing and hard shoe.
Allison says, "The girls that started this club are all really knowledgeable, they danced when they were little kids and had all this experience and they were just wonderful teachers for me."
But where does the technique for come from?
"When England invaded they tried to wipe of their customs. Irish dancing was not allowed and they have those Dutch doors that open at the top and not at the bottom. So they wouldn't dance with their arms, they would keep them down so they looked like bobbing heads and all the dancing with their feet so the soldiers couldn't tell they were still dancing,” explains Kate.
Karilyn adds, "It takes a lot because your arms aren't moving, but if you're jumping that much you just have to have really strong legs and you have to be really precise."
Then there are the costumes and the hair.
"You have to get first in a certain amount of steps and then you can wear a solo dress,” says Karilyn.
"We wear these wigs, traditionally in Ireland when they would do Irish dance it would be on Sundays and Sundays were church days so they would all get nice dressed and fancy and the girls would curl their hair up in these insane curls and the tradition has kind of stuck,” says Allison.
I tried my hand even at the jig, but I think perhaps I'll keep my day job
"It's really fun, especially around St. Patrick's Day which is ironic because it's the craziest time and were so busy and we've been practicing every night for 2 or 3 weeks. It’s just the most fun and even when we're dancing were hanging out,” explains Kate.