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Plank

A whole room of students planking!

As week two rolled around the entire team had a tad more confidence and were ready for a new experience. And a new experience is exactly what they got. In this second week a whole new feeling was created. For one thing the students were younger on average by about 4 years in comparison to the first week, meaning there were simply buckets of energy to spare and a large range of games were introduced to keep everyone busy. Also this week we had students from even more corners of the globe, for example in the Shannon group we had a large group of students who had traveled all the way from China to be on the course. This meant that the week took on a whole new life of its own, with the mix of different countries and ages resulting in a brand new experience for all. The workout began as it did last week, and now that I knew what was coming for the students I couldn’t help but grin a little when I overheard some say that it should be easy. How wrong they were! To the thumping beat of David Guetta another 100ish students did a solid and extreme workout.

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The instructors taking a selfie.

A water break came and went and soon the dancing was underway. I feel the quote which the second week Class really took to heart was from instructor Callum Spencer -“It is easy to have faith in yourself when you’re on top. What you’ve got to have is faith in yourself when you’re down, tired and ready to give in. That’s the point at which you need to believe you’ll come back stronger then before.” In fact they may have liked the quote a bit too much as many of our Callum Spencer posters went missing (although some of us still believe he just took his own posters). The routines kept developing, with students even recording the dancing on their phones so they could practice it later in the day. Rather sadly, this was the week we had to say goodbye to James Greenan, even though he was soon to return. I asked three or four people if they’d like a goodbye picture with him and by the time I took the picture I had a group so massive you could barley even see James! It was both hilarious and heartwarming.

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A big group picture to say goodbye for the week to instructor James Greenan.

On the Wednesday we were treated to talks from Riverdance Set Designer Robert Ballagh and Costume Designer Joan Bergin. Robert Ballagh showed us some beautiful pictures of his and I was fascinated. Did you know all of the Riverdance backgrounds were hand painted!? Because I sure didn’t. His stage designs were striking and he explained how he plucked inspiration for his backgrounds from Irish history, intertwining Celtic Runes with his art. He also told some very funny stories. My personal favorite was about when Riverdance began. He explained how at the start of the show they couldn’t find a floor with enough grip, and so the dancers would slip and slide around. So to compensate for this they bought big bottles of Coke and used a mop to coat the stage before every performance. The Coke would dry and go tacky allowing for some grip. However before one show the dancers walked out on to stage and immediately began falling all over the place. It turned out that the person who had been in charge of buying coke for stage went for Diet Coke. The change of ingredients resulted in a slippery floor with zero stickiness. The idea of the cast of Riverdance slipping about the place will always stick with me, especially whenever I see the show. Joan Bergins’ talk was equally fascinating; she talked about how the demands of her costumes changed over time. She explained that the Riverdance dancers used to wear all black in order to draw attention to the moment of their legs and feet, but soon that evolved. She also revealed her favorite dress that she had made for Riverdance was the Spanish Flamenco dancers dress, which I have to agree is incredibly beautiful. Also, lucky us, she brought it one of her three Emmy Awards and all the students got to take turns striking a pose with their very own Emmy.

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Julian Erskine and Bobby Ballagh with the students after the talks.

As the week progressed the dancing became more and more complex as the students began to grasp the moves better. While during the day they danced, in the evenings the students got to see the incredible sites of Dublin. For example, on the Thursday the entire gang of Summer School students went on a journey to the gorgeous Trinity College Dublin to both get some grub and go on the Book of Kells tour. It was explained to us that the Book Of Kells is an important piece of the history of Ireland, and I have to agree it was pretty amazing to both see and hear about just what went into this book. Everyone reflexively took a step back from the glass container holding the book when we heard that some of the inks used were poisonous, with the vibrant reds being made of lead. I had a fun time discussing with some of the students how weird it was to think that nearly 150 cattle had been used to make the pages of the book, due to paper being unknown. The conversation took on new life until we were all simply teaching each other how to say the number 150 in our own native languages.

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On the ‘Book of Kells’ tour at Trinity.

Cup Game winners

The winners of the cup game, striking a victory pose.

As the Friday of the second week came close to an end enthusiasm was bubbling up in both the students and the teachers once more for the second show case. Rehearsals were relentless but always met with passion. As the Friday wound down the instructors introduced some fun games to reinforce the amazing friendship that had been built up so strongly in only one week. Using only the shoes on their feet and some plastic cups a series of games were created, who can match the shoes to the right person, and who has the fastest reflexes to grab the cup. I loved seeing the energy injected back into the students, and it allowed everyone to feel happy and ready for the showcase the next day. Because we had such an amazing blend of people, of all ages and nationalities, the Saturday showcase was made even better as everyone was able to contribute to the tradition of Riverdance in their own unique ways whilst also maintaining the strong levels of team work that were established in the first week. The thought of a third week after the first two weeks filled me with a sense of curiosity and excitement, what new things would we get up to next week? Who would I get to meet, the next Riverdance Lead Dancer perhaps? Would there be yet another completely new atmosphere in this third week? Whatever the case, I was ready and raring to go.

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Some future Countesses here, showing of the moves they’ve learnt.

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Dramatic dancing from these Summer School students.

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The lads practicing their routine.