Ceilis At The New York Irish Center

If you ask most people, they’d say dancing on the weekends seems like a thing of the past. Today, most people go barhopping or to the movie theater on a Friday or Saturday night. This could be by choice or it could be because no one can find somewhere to have a nice evening of dancing.

This is no longer the case. The New York Irish Center, located at 10-40 Jackson Avenue holds what is called a Ceílí (pronounced “Kay-Lee”) every month. Excluding the summer months, pedestrians walking along Jackson Avenue can peek into the Irish Center and catch a display of people coming together in the name of music. The Ceílís are held the fourth Saturday of every month from September through June.

The word “Ceílí” literally means “companion” in Gaeilge, that is, in Gaelic. While attending a Ceílí, you will always have a partner, whether you came with one or otherwise. Back when Ceílís were more common, they were used to find a mate as, in most of the dances, partners change quite often. At the end of the Ceílí, the dancers would choose with which dancing partner they would stay in touch.

If you don’t know how to jig, square dance or waltz, the dances most commonly found while dancing to Irish folk music, a class is held an hour beforehand. Not to mention, everyone at the Ceílís live up to the Irish expectation of friendliness and welcome newcomers with open arms while dancing with a casual attitude, not quite caring if they are in the right step.

New people are always welcome, no matter if you are an utter beginner, not knowing how to pronounce Ceílí (not anymore!), or an expert who has won competitions. You also do not have to be Irish or of Irish descent to be in attendance. With a lively spirit and a willingness to move, all are welcome.

—Emily Sweeney

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2018-10-01 digital edition