Growing up half Irish and half French, my parents tried to balance the scales in terms of cultural exposure from the equally vibrant cultures they both carried with them into our house. Both sides were drinkers, party people, story tellers, and general loud mouths, so all that was naturally covered. But certain things had to be insisted upon so we knew where we came from.
For my father, it was most important that we spoke French. And as I am now getting my Master’s in French Studies I think it’s safe to say I did him proud in keeping a connection to my heritage and learning and speaking the language.
For my Mom, all she is asked was that we learned how to Irish dance. My sister and I did it for a couple years here, then a couple years there. We went, we quit, we went back, we quit again. Typical behavior of teenagers wanting to commit to something and then realizing that it’s hard work and you’d rather be lazy.
But Irish dancing and Irish music, like speaking French, feels like home to me, and I hate myself a little bit every day for not committing to it when I had nothing but time when I was younger.
And then I saw the preview for a documentary called JIG and all of sudden I was reminded why I always quit – the intense and ridiculously serious competitions. Seriously, if you take the intensity of ballet dancers and mix them with the ridiculousness of American beauty pageants, you get Irish dancing competitions.
The results? Crazy stage moms and very intense little children. It’s a charming kind of crazy, but it’s still crazy.
Thankfully, my mother was very much not a stage mother, and in the era before the wigs (I kid you not, watch the trailer below) when we had to actually curl our hair I remember my Mom in her thick Belfast accent hemming and hawing about how ridiculous it was that she had to curl our hair and how the hell do these things work, it’s not enough that we had to buy the silly costume and the expensive shoes, Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph!
Needless to say, it was a horrible scene in our house the night before the competitions. Lots of curler carnage and sleep deprivation.
And we hated it with her. All the pressure, the competition, it just wasn’t in our blood. Even at the age of 10 I thought it was a silly thing to stress about. But watching this documentary I know I have to go back, officially, and with real commitment, because as crazy as that competition world is, I miss the dancing.
So once I have done my part for my French side and officially have my Masters, the focus is shifting. Classes will no longer involve cultural theory and French intellectuals. Instead they will be about drum beats, jigs, treble reels, broken in shoes, and sore muscles.
But no wigs. Or hooker makeup. Or thousand dollar sparkled costumes.
I gotta draw the line somewhere.
Until then, I have this documentary to keep me entertained. Watch the trailer if you want to see all the charming crazy people Irish dancing produces. At least they all know how to throw a good party.