“We mix traditional with modern.” That was how one member described the UR Celtic Irish Dance team’s mission. I sat down with Rachel Eskridge ‘15, Carly Rutherford ‘17, and Chrissie Rutherford ‘16, three leaders of Celtic, to discuss the recent happenings on the collegiate Irish Dance circuit and here at the U of R.
The group was founded by a championship dancer, and according to the Rutherford sisters, it has only evolved since then. One fact they stressed was how new the Irish Dancing collegiate circuit is. It was only founded two years ago and includes many schools which are very “culturally Irish,” such as Villanova, Dayton, Catholic U, and Boston University. Even with many talented dancers to compete with at these larger schools, the members of UR Celtic have been able to hold their own in the past two years. The latest competition, the Intercollegiate Irish Dance Festival, held November 1st at Villanova University, saw UR Celtic take home bronze, moving into the money from their fourth place showing two years ago. Also noteworthy was Beverly Hamilton ’18, who took home silver in the solo dance category.
The Rutherford sisters come from a long line of Irish dancers. Their grandfather came to America from Ireland and “revolutionized” the production of Irish Dancing shoes. He went on to found Rutherford Products, the gold standard of traditional Irish Dance apparel. The Rutherfords also come from a legacy of champion dancers. Another important influence on the Rutherford sisters was their father, who played the accordion at Irish Dance festivals. “We have a three-time national champion in the family. Two of our cousins were on a dance show documentary on TLC called The Big Jig,” said Chrissie. “They’re unreal. One of them is training for The Lord of the Dance, one of the professional Irish dance productions. We’re on a bit lower level, but we still love them!” she said. The sisters themselves, while not quite as famous, are still notable in their own right, earning much recognition at the regional and national levels.
UR Celtic is certainly fortunate to have the Rutherfords, who not only dance, but also serve the group as Co-Presidents and Business managers. In addition to being business manager, Carly serves as choreographer-in-chief. Chrissie said that the group’s best dance so far was a song that her sister choreographed. When asked what inspires her, Carly jokingly replied, “Getting to mess with Chrissie!” Having been around Irish Dancing so long, much of the choreography comes organically to the Rutherfords.
Celtic is divided into two smaller groups: one of beginner and intermediate-level dancers and another of more advanced members who perform and compete. Both groups practice twice a week. The girls stressed that UR Celtic is a group that is open to all, regardless of skill level. The beginner group just splits the cost of a certified dance instructor, which, according to Rachel, is a steal.
This has proven to be a year of victories for Celtic through their multiple chances to step into the spotlight. Last semester, on top of their success at Villanova, they also won first place at Delta Upsilon’s annual Dance for Charity, where they’ve been hoping to place for a long time. Stepping forward, Celtic hopes to hone their lines and formations for their St. Patrick’s Day show on Saturday, March 21st.