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Dance, Photos

“Mary and Bert” Win “Dancing Like a Star”

Mary Poppins and Bert the Chimney Sweep took top honors in the Delco Gaels’ “Dancing Like a Star” fundraiser last week.

In their real lives, the winners are really Letterkenny, County Donegal, native Brendan Bradley (as Bert), a Gaels’ coach and brother of last year’s winner Louie Bradley, Gaels’ chairman, and his dance partner, Miriam Gallagher, a pre-school teacher from Glenties, also in County Donegal. The two did a rollicking dance number to a song from the Disney movie, “Mary Poppins” that took them into the audience and, in the case of Gallagher, into the lap of someone in the audience.

More than 700 people crowded into the spacious Springfield Country Club Ballroom to watch four couples—many of whom didn’t know each other until January, when rehearsals began—perform three ballroom dances for a panel of judges and, like the TV show on which it’s based, for audience votes. Continue Reading

Dance, News, People, Photos

Getting Ready for Dancing Like a Star

A funny thing happened this year to Wayne’s Mary Lou Sterge. The guy who came to remodel her house asked her to dance.

But no, it’s not what you think. The guy was Louie Bradley, chairperson of the board of the Delco Gaels, youth Gaelic sports club in Delaware County. Last year, Bradley was the winner of the silver mirrored trophy, along with dance partner Michelle Quinn, for the Delco Gaels’ “Dancing Like a Star” fundraiser, in which eight couples compete in various dance styles that they’ve learned over several months of intense rehearsals.

“Louie recently remodeled my house. My house looks great, and now I’m dancing,” said Sterge, a fundraiser, after rehearsal last Sunday at the McDade-Cara Irish Dance School studio in Newtown Square. She and her partner, Tom Gregory, were sharing some pizza after an hour of dancing to Ike and Tina Turner’s Proud Mary, he in silver platform shoes he bought from the internet. Continue Reading

Dance, Music, News, Photos, Videos

Need a Little Christmas? Right This Very Minute?

We got your Christmas.

This past week saw more than a few Irish holiday-oriented events, and we have souvenirs from three.

On Sunday, the Divine Providence Village Rainbow Irish Step Dancers joined the Tara Gael Dancers at the Irish Center for a memorable Christmas show. The Rainbow dancers are a group of developmentally disabled women taught by local Irish step dancer Kathy Madigan. They live at the archdiocesan home in Delaware County.

They never fail to inspire, and their most recent holiday performance was no exception. Continue Reading

Dance, News, People

McDade-Cara School of Irish Dance Makes A Move

Grand opening!

Grand opening!

Marcie McComb of Broomall had her three young daughters in tow at the grand opening last Saturday of the brand new home of the McDade Cara School of Irish Dance in Edgmont. Her middle daughter, Riley, five, was signing up. “She and her sister Morgan (7) went to the dance camps in April and Riley wanted to do it. And she’s good too. Riley really gets it.”

In fact, Riley seemed ready to go right then, swinging her hips and arms as the first reel played in one of several vast studios that are replacing the school’s two previous locations. A few lessons and those arms will be as still as tree trunks. Continue Reading

Dance, Food & Drink, Music

Northeast Philly Irish Festival 2015

Organizer Bill Reid kept the rain out and the Irish in, all of them gathered under the big tent behind the Cannstatter Club in Northeast Philadelphia.

Deborah Streeter-Davitt of MacDougall's Irish Victory Cakes

Deborah Streeter-Davitt of MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes

Saturday was the first of two days celebrating all things Irish, with a raft of performers, including Deirdre Reilly,the Bogside Rogues, Belfast Connection, The Hooligans and the Fitzpatrick Dancers, plus lots of vendors hawking jewelry, T-shirts, whiskey cakes and scones.

There was a big dance floor in front of the stage, and although there weren’t a lot of dancers, those who stepped up did so with the enthusiasm dancers tend to have in buckets full.

We caught all of the action.

Dance, Music

We Were Wearing Our Movie Directors’ Hats, Too

Seamus Kennedy in a reflective moment.

Seamus Kennedy in a reflective moment.

These days, when we go to many Philly Irish events, we’re occasionally doing double duty. You’ll sometimes see one of us with both a still camera and a video camera draped about the next. We’re often confused about what to do with which.

We got over our confusion the day of the Philly Fleadh down at the Cherokee Festival Grounds last weekend, enough so that you can see some of the dancing, hear some of the music, and generally take in all of the fun.

Dance, Music

Picture This: The 2015 Philadelphia Fleadh

Maggie Carr Wreski and John Byrne share a laugh.

Maggie Carr Wreski and John Byrne share a laugh.

For one day, the Cherokee Festival Grounds was a microcosm of just about everything that is Irish in the Delaware Valley.

On Saturday, this broad tree-lined lawn played host to a fèis—an Irish dance competition sponsored by the Celtic Flame School of Dance—along with open-air concerts by Burning Bridget Cleary, Jamison Celtic Rock, Seamus Kennedy, Ray Coleman, the Mahones, the Bogside Rogues, and pretty much of the royalty of Irish music from Philly and beyond, traditional and otherwise. People lined up for chips on a stick—what genius invented them?—hot dogs, burgers, bite-sized Guinness cupcakes with swirls of Bailey’s frosting–and again we ask, what genius invented them?–and cold brews to wash it all down with. There were vendors all over the place. If you wanted to buy a Goth-y corset, the Philly Fleadh was just the place to get one.

Thank America Paddy’s Productions for pulling it all off smoothly. We ran into one of the aforementioned Paddys, Jamison front man Frank Daly, who seemed a whole lot more relaxed about things this year than last. And that, even after a last-minute switch from the original festival location, Pennypack Park. Everything worked out for the best—maybe better than the best.

We have a pile of pictures from the day.

Here ya go:



Dance, Music, News

Philly’s First-Ever Sober St. Patrick’s Day

Family-friendly fun

Family-friendly fun

It seemed like four-time All-Ireland fiddle champion Dylan Foley and his bandmates hadn’t gotten through more than a few lines of a jig set when people had taken to the dance floor. When the tunes were over, he looked out to the audience in the auditorium at WHYY, gathered for the first-ever Sober St. Patrick’s Day party, and marveled—albeit in a cheeky way.

“We’ve been trying to get people to dance to our music for years. Who knew all we had to do was take away the alcohol.”

Foley’s quip drew laughs, but in a way he was right. A St. Patrick’s Day bash without booze is inexplicably freeing. Well over a hundred people crowded into the auditorium on Sunday following the Philadelphia parade—so many of them, in fact, that organizers had to scramble to find more chairs. Everybody seemed relaxed, and maybe it was because they could just be themselves. They didn’t need booze to have fun. In fact, it was precisely because no alcohol was served that many party-goers in recovery really could relax at a St. Patrick’s Day party for the first time in years. That’s if they’d ever gone at all.

The place was filled with families, too, and that’s not something you’re likely to see during a St. Patrick’s Day pub-crawl, either. Hot dogs moved, well, like hotcakes, and everybody noshed on cookies, chips, soda bread, cheese, and other party foods. Some of the best musicians you could find anywhere played for hours. Dancers, still fresh from the parade—they’re kids, so they don’t tire the way we do—pranced about the floor as party-goers clapped. The only thing that was missing was the one thing that precisely nobody missed at all.

“The appeal is great music, great dancing, and a place to go where you don’t have to worry about drinking,” said Katherine Ball-Weir, who, with partner Frank Daly, pulled off the spectacularly successful event.

Hosting a first-ever event of any kind can be a little nerve-wracking. You can never predict how it’s going to over. “Nobody knew what to expect,” said Ball-Weir.

At first ticket sales were a bit slow. That changed. “Every time somebody bought a ticket, I got a notice on my phone,” said Daly. His phone didn’t buzz much at first. But “in the last four to five days, ticket sales picked up,” says Daly, “which is typical.”

And some people decided to go really late in the game.

“Somebody bought seven tickets at 4:42,” Ball-Weir laughed. “The party started at 4.”

Now that they’ve proved the concept, Daly said, “I think it’ll grow every year, absolutely.”

No one could have been more thrilled than William Spencer Reilly, founder and producer of Sober St. Patrick’s Day, a concept now taking hold in many cities, including New York, Dublin, Belfast, Richmond, Va., Casper, Wyoming, and Avon Lake, Ohio.

“Both of these guys did a terrific job. I’m just thrilled,” said Reilly. “More than any other city, we wanted it here because of its history. You couldn’t have asked for a better team to do this. I have no doubt it’s going to grow in Philly.”

The party is also likely to do things for the local branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, which sponsored the event, Reilly said. (CCE is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of traditional Irish music. Many people who previously haven’t been exposed to the tradition could become dedicated followers as a result.

Musicians like the party, too, but for another reason.

“Brian Conway (one of the top fiddlers in the world) put it best,” Reilly said. “He described it as ‘an oasis because people actually listen to me.’”

We have pictures from the party. Check them out.