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Intercollegiate Irish Dance Festival at Villanova

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Courtesy of Villanova Irish Dance
Villanova’s Irish Dance Team won the Villanova Intercollegiate Irish Dance Festival.

While there aren’t many places where you can see 20 college-aged women dressed as Pitbull perform an Irish dance routine, that was the scene when Villanova Irish Dance took home the gold in the Villanova Intercollegiate Irish Dance Festival on Dec. 2.

The 10th annual Villanova Intercollegiate Irish Dance Festival was held in the Connelly Center’s Villanova Room this weekend. 16 teams from schools such as Temple University, Northeastern University, University of Vermont, Fordham University and others were present at the competition, as well as real Irish Dance judges.

“My favorite part is seeing so many people from different schools get together for their love of Irish Dance,” team member Juliana Peters said. “It’s amazing how everyone supports each other. Even though it’s a competition, we all just want to have fun at the end of the day and do something we all love.”

Following Villanova Irish Dance was Temple University in second place, Fordham University in third place, Sacred Heart University in fourth place and Iona University in fifth place. These places are for what the competition designates “fun numbers.”

“A fun number is untraditional and only exists in collegiate Irish dance,” student team member Ailish Wilson said. “Teams pick a theme, such as a pop star or a musical, and choreograph an Irish dance to it. The fun numbers are always a vibrant display of each team’s creativity and personality. This year, we saw routines to Taylor Swift, Grease and Beetlejuice, to name a few.”

Villanova Irish Dance, captained by Ellen Hagerty and Erin Lyons, won the fun number with its routine centered around Pitbull, where its featured songs such as “Hotel Room Service,” “Time of Our Lives” and “Timber.”

Wilson found the energy in the room to be contagious when Villanova Irish Dance won, stating that “it was so special to win on the 10 year anniversary of our festival.” The Villanova Intercollegiate Dance Festival was the event that helped Irish dance find a place on college campuses.

“10 years ago, Villanova Irish Dance was the catalyst for starting intercollegiate Irish dance competitions,” team member Isabelle Kellezi said. “Irish dancers around the country spent years growing up going to competitions, and before college teams were established, there used to be a sharp end point upon high school graduation. Today, collegiate Irish dancing combines the best parts of dance for students to continue their love for the sport for fun while attending school.”

During the competition, the teams also compete in other categories including four-hands, eight-hands and treble reels. Four-hands and eight-hands routines are more traditional team dances with four and eight members, respectively, while treble reels are solo routines.

The Irish dance team at Villanova is especially unique, as it is 100% student-run– the team does not have any choreographers or coaches, making the victory even more rewarding.

While a large part of the team win was due to the dancers on the stage, Villanova’s Irish Dance team also has all hands on deck behind the scenes. Wilson knew that with her busy schedule, she wouldn’t be able to compete, but she did all she could to help her teammates.

“I decided to focus on festival logistics instead of competing,” Wilson said. “I organized the volunteers and helped with random jobs during the day, like selling tickets, helping dancers and printing programs.”

The festival was a great way to celebrate not only Villanova Irish Dance, but the love of Irish Dance throughout collegiate communities and families.

“Teams nationwide look forward to this event because we get to reunite with old dance friends that attend different colleges, and parents get to relive their ‘dance mom’ or ‘dance dad’ days,” Kellezi said.

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Chloe Miller, Co-Culture Editor
One of two Co-Culture Editors for The Villanovan in 2023, Chloe Miller is a senior studying Communication specializing in Public Relations and Advertising. Chloe has held the position of Co-Culture Editor since Fall 2021, and has written articles on the Philadelphia Justice Project and the ultimate SEPTA Train Guide during her time as Co-Culture Editor. A spirited addition to the editorial staff, Chloe prides herself on her ability to identify what language someone took in high school. Her work has also appeared in Lancaster Online.
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