Ireland Tour Travelogue
Ireland Tour Travelogue

Ireland Tour Travelogue

Aiden Amster, sister of one of our long-time dancers, Curran, traveled with us to Ireland this summer and wrote a travelogue for us. Enjoy!

Presidio Dance Theatre’s Ireland Tour began with our arrival in Killarney, and a delicious traditional Irish meal at the Royal Killarney Hotel where we celebrated longtime PDT dancer, Andrew, or Gingey's, 30th birthday.

On our first full day in Killarney, the dancers began with an Irish breakfast followed by rehearsal at the Great Southern Hotel across the street. During the day, some of the PDT families toured the beautiful Killarney National Park, Ireland’s first national park, a vast protected land opening up to the lakes of Killarney and the purple mountains. Adjacent to the 25,000 acre park is the charming town of Killarney, which the dancers took advantage of, exploring its many shops despite the rain. That night the group had dinner at various spots in town and met later at the Killarney Racecourse to watch the Celtic Steps performance. This performance surpassed everyone’s expectations because it did not just highlight traditional Irish dance, but showcased some amazing Irish musicians and many aspects of Irish culture. We heard traditional Irish folk songs in both Gaelic and English, contemporary Irish music including the work of some Irish cannon poets turned into song such as the Luke Kelly adaptation of Patrick Kavanagh’s “Raglan Road.” Of course, the most exciting part for our group was seeing the Irish step dancers, including several world champions. We saw examples of standard competition Irish Stepdance, and other traditional styles that the dancers beautifully demonstrated such as the use of soft toe and hard toe shoes. After the performance, PDT dancers were invited to a meet and greet with the Celtic Steps professional dancers, and with the encouragement of members of the cast, PDT dancers, sneakers and all, performed their Ukrainian teapot dance onstage to much applause. 

After one last rehearsal in Killarney, the PDT crew headed off to Cork! In what is becoming known as the ‘Victorian Quarter’ of Cork, just a ten-minute walk from the beautiful Firkin Crane theater, the location of the Metropole Hotel provided ample opportunity for exploration. The evening of our arrival in Cork, we headed to a beautiful historic building that formerly housed the Cork Bank, but is now a space for civic receptions, with the Lord Mayor. This is where the PDT dancers met dancers from Keniry Cahill Academy and the Cork Youth Ballet and their families. At first, the three different groups of dancers in the room observed each other quietly. This lasted about one minute before all of the dancers were chatting, enjoying some food and drink, and learning about each other’s cultures and lives for the next two hours, honing invaluable skills in forging relationships and diplomacy. PDT dancers demonstrated their ownership of their role as not just a dance company, but representatives of their country. It was a wonderful thing to witness and made for a positive and dynamic atmosphere for the next several days.

On Tuesday, led by the Irish dance group Keniry Cahill and alongside the Cork Youth Ballet, the dancers headed to the Firkin Crane for a wonderful two-hour master class with Mike Cahill the director of Keniry Cahill. The dancers later traveled outside Cork to visit Blarney Castle, a historic landmark constructed in the tenth century, and returned to the Metropole for an evening pointe rehearsal! It was a day full of Irish culture, from learning traditional dance to kissing the Blarney Stone. 

Wednesday was a full day of dance rehearsals at the Firkin Crane, and the PDT group’s commitment and positivity impressed everyone. From the civic reception, to the many hours they spent in the theater, all of the dancers went from three distinct companies to a coherent group of people, all dedicated to the same form of art, putting together one cohesive performance. 

Thursday, performance day, left time for a break from rehearsal and more exploration of Ireland. PDT headed to the historic coastal town Cobh. A product of the 1848 revolution in Ireland, Cobh was known as Queenstown from 1849 until 1920. Cobh is in the Cork Harbour and is the second largest natural port in the world, second only to Sydney, Australia. Often overlooked, the Titanic was built in Belfast, Northern Ireland and went from Southampton, England, to Cobh. Although the Titanic was only in the harbour for 90 minutes, it left a rich history in the town, and the whole PDT group most certainly benefited from the clear dedication to preserving that history present in the town. We had the privilege to visit the White Star Line ticket office, which is now an engaging museum, and learn about the stories of the last group of people to board the Titanic en route to New York. After our visit to the museum we explored the town and made our way back to Cork to allow time to rest for the performance. 

The performance spoke for itself, but perhaps the most outstanding thing about it was that each individual performance was supported by all three of the dance companies, and the dancers were not dancing for themselves, but for each other. Our farewell dinner at the Metropole, attended by members of the other dance companies, members of the Firkin Crane Theater, and the Lord Mayor himself, was the perfect way to end our tour. From our opening night dinner, to the end of the week, we were lucky enough to have made connections with those who showed us so much hospitality, and were so happy to be able to share a final meal in Cork with them, which left us saying “until next time” instead of “goodbye.”