Sláinte Dances to an Altered Tune This Semester


Fordham’s Irish step dancing club has adapted to accommodate for social distancing this semester. (Courtesy of Patrick Breen)

Sláinte, Fordham’s Irish dance team, is making TikToks this semester.

 Their account features videos of members dancing to pop songs like One Direction’s “Nobody Compares” — each click of their classic hard shoes hitting the floor beneath them to the  beat of the music.

 Mackenize Cranna, GSB ’22, Sláinte’s social media director, made the TikTok account in June to help the club stay connected during quarantine. Now, the popular social media app helps Sláinte promote upcoming performances and highlight its hard work.

 “Typically we advertise all of our events on campus for example, basketball games and the Keatings Steps,” Cranna said. “But, events are very limited right now. So instead of advertising at those, we’re finding different ways, like TikTok.”

 The short, shareable clips are a welcome addition to the club’s activities this semester, and Cranna plans on continuing to make them even after social distancing regulations fade.

 This semester, Sláinte is welcoming dancers with no Irish dance experience for the first time. The club was founded in 2011 to allow competitive college-aged dancers an opportunity to continue in the sport. Now, Sláinte embraces dancers of all skill levels and offers weekend classes to dancers with any level of experience. Nine years after its founding, Sláinte has 25 members.

 While Sláinte’s growth on TikTok is an exciting development, President Reilly Keane, GSB ’21, is less enthusiastic about other changes Sláinte has had to make this semester. Like all Fordham organizations, Slainte must ensure that all social distancing requirements are met, including wearing masks for the duration of practice.

As Sláinte members weave in and out of intricate formations, Keane ensures that all dancers are in the right position at the proper point in the music. She must shout her instructions through her mask over the fast-paced treble reel music and a cacophony of hard shoe clicks.

“Trying to call out steps and dance with a mask on is definitely tricky,” Keane said breathlessly.

“Or maybe I’m just out of shape,” she added with a chuckle, selling herself short.

Cranna reiterated Keane’s frustrations.

“Wearing masks while you’re dancing is such a workout,” she said. “It makes it really difficult to breathe.”

Club leaders have also split their twice-weekly practices in two, allowing dancers to maintain distance while rehearsing. Instead of the entire 25-member team attending one meeting time, half will practice for the first hour and half for the second hour.

Duringa 15-minute overlap, both groups workout together, ditching their traditional Irish jig and reel music for Top 40 features. Sporting slicked back pony tails, leggings and, of course, masks, the team jumps and squats to songs like “Somebody to Love” by Justin Bieber.

In addition to changing how they practice, Sláinte has also modified traditional elements of their dances, according to Patrick Breen, FCRH ’22, the club’s choreography director.

Ceili, a type of traditional Irish step dance, generally requires participants to hold hands. However, Sláinte has begun practicing and performing these dances without touching. Overall, though, Breen says it has been easy to modify the dances to accommodate for social distancing.

“It’s a good sport to do socially distant because everyone has their hands to their sides most of the time,” he said. “That’s what people recognize Irish dance as.”

Sláinte has taken steps to ensure that upcoming events are safe for dancers and spectators alike, Breen explained.

They plan on livestreaming their upcoming performance at parents’ weekend on Nov. 6 to families at home, reducing the amount of people coming onto campus for the event. They will perform in Fordham Prep with a reduced number of spectators. During the warmer months, Sláinte danced outside to reduce the chances of transmission

Sláinte is dedicated to “sharing Irish culture through dance.” Despite the pandemic, these celebrations continue.