Step and ceili dance classes keep Irish (and other) eyes smiling

Posted Feb. 19, 2013, at 1:48 p.m.

By Ardeana Hamlin

Of the Weekly Staff

BANGOR — The traditions of Ireland are never far from Pauleena MacDougall’s feet; for the past 15 years she has taught Irish step and ceili dancing.

“My family tradition is Cape Breton Island step dancing,” she said. “When I visited there, I saw the dancing. My family is quite musical — bagpipers and dancers — and that has always been a part of my life.”

But she learned the forms and figures of Irish dancing from a student from Ireland who attended the University of Maine some years ago. “It was so much fun, I took a few workshops in Irish dancing here in Maine and in Boston. I wanted to keep dancing,” MacDougall said.

And it put her in touch with her Celtic forebears.

MacDougall, director of the University of Maine Folklife Center, said her interest in the traditional dance of Ireland fits in nicely with her work at the center.

Ceili dance is done by couples in figures, similar to contra dances, and step dancing is done by couples or solo. Ceili steps and figures can be learned fairly quickly, and beginners get to dance and have fun right away, she said, because there are only two main steps to learn..

Of teaching Irish dance, MacDougall said, “I do it because I love to dance. It’s a beautiful form and fun to teach others.”

MacDougall’s next class will begin at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, at Valance Fitness Studio, 128 Main St., Bangor. She teaches mostly adults, and her class size averages approximately six students. The cost is $10. The beginner class to open to all. She also teaches an intermediate Irish dance class on Thursdays, also at the studio.

“We have danced at nursing homes and Paddy Murphy’s last year,” she said. “We’re not professional so we’re not going on the stage, but we enjoy sharing dance with people who like to see it.”

“I like all kinds of dance, but one of the appealing things about Irish dance is its grace. It’s clearly an artistic expression that comes out of the music, people finding a way to express music through their bodies. Not everyone drawn to that but if they are it fun and a nice way to be social,” she said.

For information about the beginner’s class, call MacDougall at 409-5137.

The Acadia Traditional School of Music and Arts will be held at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor this summer. Irish week is July 1-5, and MacDougall will teach dancing there. Cape Breton-Acadian- Quebecois Week is July 15-19. For information, go to www.acadiatradschool.com.

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