„Yes. I am from the Czech republic. Yes, I arrived alone. Nobody is with me. Yes, I´m here just for this single weekend. No, I´ve never been to Ireland before. Yes, I´m enjoying it. Very much. Thanks.“
Well, I said these sentences about a million times. First day I was a bit worried how would people react and how would they accept the fact I´m still just a beginner. Sure, many people had told me NOT to worry before I flew, that everything would be fine and I would LOVE Longford, but how it actually looked there behind the sea was a milion times better I could ever imagine.
Technically speaking, I went all the way from “Friday afternoon – crying – I don´t know anybody here – I´m so far away from home/mum/dad“ to “Sunday afternoon – crying – why on earth do I have to come back?“.
Talking about the Friday afternoon, it was like sitting in a roller coaster. At about 2PM, I was on the top of the world. I managed not to get lost at the Prague airport, at the Dublin airport, to catch the right bus to Longford and to find my hotel room with a cute bed and a princess-like toilet-table. But as the afternoon went on, I felt more and more lonely, especially when other set dancers started arriving after the sunset. The hotel corridors were full of cheerful laugh, hugs, kisses and welcomes. I realized I was really alone there and I should do my best to change it.
So I went downstairs at a quarter to ten and then to a ballroom. And I immediatelly felt like Alice in Wonderland. The dance floor was about three times more spacious than I had ever seen so far. The lights were soft and glittering (or at least they are now in my memory) and you could feel the atmosphere. That was the right place where I wanted to be at that moment!
Once one very friendly lady realized what I mentioned in the first sentences, she found her friends to tell them about this brave lady who came all the way from the Czech republic, they found their friends…and this information spread unbelievably quickly. Suddenly I wasn´t alone.
During the ceili, where the Striolán Ceili Band followed by Micheál Sexton were playing, we danced about 7 sets. For me it was the first ceili without a caller (I know, who on earth would like to have a caller in Ireland), but I was proud of myself, because I had kept my word which I had given to myself after Violau in June and had memorized another two sets step by step, figure by figure, before I flew. I added the knowledge of Connemara and Clare Lancers to my private collection. Well, it´s still nothing, but as these three sets were danced at every single ceili there, it really helped me not to be nervous.
Talking about sets, I´d like to say a huge thank you to all my dancers (and even the ladies from other couples in the sets I danced in) who patiently kept pushing me to the right direction everytime I wasn´t sure.
To sum up, when I went to bed after the first ceili (it was about half past two), I finally felt that feeling which I was looking for since June (and which is almost well-known to me now) – that mixture of terrible exhaustion, your feet aching, but at the same moment, you would like to jump out of the bed and swing and house again till you die, with an absent-minded smile…
Saturday: the day of a morning workshop. I suppose I talked enough about how I like Gerard´s way of teaching in my previous articles, so I will skip that part today, even though I have to mention – it is still great! Apart from this, three young girls from Longford showed up and it was really nice to chat and dance with them. We spent about an hour and half with a set I forgot the name of (but was quite nice) and then we did a few basic sean nós steps. I felt like back in Prague at our summer school, it was nicely familiar.
In the afternoon, another ceili and country dancing took place in a ballroom. Johnny Reidy and Eddie Lee were playing. I was really pleased he remembered me from Violau when we met outside the ballroom after the ceili.
The evening ceili was probably my greatest set dance experience ever – the dance floor was completely full, there was no space even for simply standing still. We were just in the middle of Clare Lancers, already after midnight, when I realized that this was SIMPLY UNBELIEVABLE. I was dancing in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by hundreds of people I had never met before, and I almost couldn´t hear the music for the battering of the others. The rhythm was so catchy, I loved listening to it! What´s more – I was in Ireland, surrounded by Irish dancers, me, just a little girl from Prague. And I couldn´t be more happy.
In fact, it was a bit weird. You know, for young people in Prague it´s normal to go to a pub or a music club on Saturday night, to get drunk and then fall asleep somewhere on a couch. But the more different my Saturday was, the more I loved it.
By the way, during the Saturday night ceili, when Swallow´s Tail Ceili Band followed by Micheál Sexton were playing, I was also asked by Gabrielle Cassidy to help her with a surprise for one of the girls dancing in her club. I was supposed to give her a birthday cake in front of everyone, to a girl I had never seen before, when everyone was waiting for a next set. Hundreds of people! I was so shy, and afraid I would either drop or simply destroy the cake, how left-handed I am. But in the end, everything went well and I am still moved by how Gabrielle and the others behaved to me.
Sunday: the day of the table dancing competition. I was really looking forward to watching it. But in the end, it turned out a bit differently – it was 11:45AM, Sunday, November 17th, and I was standing on the table, waiting for Stephen and Tommy Doherty to start playing. Me, a girl who had started with sean nós dancing a few months ago, and “started“ means I took 6 workshops with Gerard at our Prague summer school. But he just insisted on me going, so I tried it. And I must admit it was a great experience. Thanks everyone who clapped. It was amazing.
As the day went on, the thought “it´s almost over“ was bigger and bigger in my head. But I really didn´t mean to give up my great mood unless it would be really neccessary. I have to say my new friends helped that a lot (hi Stephen - see, you got a mention). The afternoon ceili with the Johnny Reidy Ceili Band and the last one with Salamanca Ceili Band were again – amazing. Ok, I know you´re probably starting being sick of this word, but I just can´t help it!
We danced all the sets we had done before during the festival, such as Clare Lancers, Caledonian, Corofin Plain, Connemara, Plain set, Ballyvourney Jig or Cashel, and even though the dance floor was smaller at night because there were less people, it was by no means less great. I danced with brilliant dancers, which was again a great experience, and suddenly the last set was called – and danced – and time for last goodbyes came.
I am really glad I went back to Prague on Monday, because it gave me some extra time to deal with the feeling that the weekend I had been looking forward to for months was already over. However, I was still almost crying when boarding on the Airbus and then watching Dublin getting smaller and smaller from the air.