By Meaghan McCarthy
When abroad, students have an opportunity to seek out new experiences they could never have at home, to focus less on getting a perfect score on their test and more on the culture of the city around them, to not devote all of their time to their basketball team and try some different activities. But it is undeniable that every once in a while students crave a taste of home, a bit of the familiar in a place where everything is new and exciting. I am so thankful to be able to combine the new and the familiar in the Cork swing dancing scene.
I have been swing dancing for about three years, though my general dance experience stretches for as long as I’ve been able to walk. At my home university in New Orleans, USA, I’m in the Ballroom Dancing Club, where we learn different types of partner dancing and go out once a month to practice with the old folks at the VFW hall. It didn’t take up a lot of my time when I was at home, but its something I came to miss more and more every day those first several weeks in Ireland.
I knew there was a small swing community from talking to people I knew in the States and looking online, but I still felt too new to the city to find these venues, and I wasn’t sure it was a good idea to walk home from these dance nights alone at night. But none of my Irish friends were swing dancers, and when I asked a good number of them didn’t know what swing dancing was. I was resigned to wait until I was home before I could dance again.
Until the Cork Jazz Festival, that is. That same weekend was the Cork Jazz Dance Exchange, where dozens of dancers from all over the world, some as far as Australia, came to Cork to swing dance. I decided I had to go, no matter what. I could not be more excited to dance all weekend long, even if I didn’t know anyone, where I was going, or how I would get home. I took a risk and I’m ridiculously glad I did. I met lots of amazing people. My dancing, rocky at first, improved ten-fold. And my hunger to dance, latent for so long, has grown into an almost constant uncontrollable need for jazz music and swing dancing.
Luckily, one of my new friends from the dance exchange has offered to give me a lift to the weekly dance outings at the PorterHouse. I’ve been going regularly now, and I even got some of my Irish friends to go with me. I suppose they didn’t have a choice; I never stop talking about dancing, or doing a mini Charleston as we walk down the street. I’m so glad to have found the Cork swing dance community because they prove that no matter where you go you can find people like you, and still try new things at the same time. By striking out on my own even when it was mildly terrifying, I found a home.
And for any interested readers, there is open dancing every Friday after 10 at the PorterHouse, and classes every Wednesday at 8:30 at the Cork Dance Studio and Thursday at 7:30 at O’Sullivan’s Quay. If you go you’ll recognize me- I’m the one who never stops dancing.