Connie Rahbany: Hello and welcome to Exposure. I’m your host, Connie Rahbany. I’m very excited to introduce MSU’s very own Irish Dance Club. Thank you for joining me today.
Bridget Ertl: Hi, thanks for having us.
Connie Rahbany: Can I have you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about yourself?
Bridget Ertl: Yep. So my name is Bridget Ertl. I serve as the president of the MSU Irish Dance Club. I’m currently a junior in the James Madison college studying political theory and constitutional democracy.
Erin Menich: Hi, my name is Erin Menich and I am the treasurer of the MSU Irish Dance Club. And I am currently a senior and I am double majoring in criminal justice and Spanish.
Connie Rahbany: Perfect. Nice to meet you guys. So what is the Irish Dance Club all about?
Bridget Ertl: Well, the Irish Dance Club, it’s kind of funny. We’re the only Irish club on campus and we just happen to feature dancing. So every week we have a club meeting, a practice where we come together and work on routines that are traditional Irish routines such as the forehand Kaylee, which is a group of four people. The choreography for this is universal choreography. And then we also work on choreography specific for performances. So for example, this year we performed at a women’s basketball game and so that choreography was unique to us.
Connie Rahbany: Perfect. Has that ever been done before this year or is this new?
Erin Menich: So we had previously performed at a Detroit Pistons game to open up the game, but it was our first year performing at an MSU women’s basketball game. Our normal performances involve the university activities for the events. Or we’ve hosted it our very first showcase last year, and we have normally participated in a intercollegiate Irish dance competition at the University of Dayton every spring.
Connie Rahbany: So earlier you talked about doing weekly practices. What does a typical practice look like?
Bridget Ertl: Yeah, so a typical practice for us looks like starting off with a quick warm up, which, it’s typically just a lot of cardio, and then we work on some more technical skills. Mostly this year we’ve been working out and pointing our feet Boris Johnson. Specific jumps, I don’t know like springs and wrap arounds if anyone knows what they are and then we jump right into the choreography. Typically we start off with the choreography for specific university activity board events, and then we move into the universal choreography for the Dayton competition, and then we just kind of end it.
Connie Rahbany: Well, that’s awesome. Tell me, what got you guys involved with the Irish Dance Club?
Erin Menich: I got involved in the Irish Dance Club my freshman year because I have actually been Irish dancing since I was five years old. Um, I’m from the Chicago area, and so I really wanted to continue in college because I loved it and I especially loved performing around St. Patrick’s Day, so I was really excited to find out that there was a club on campus.
Bridget Ertl: I joined my freshman year. I was really excited to know that Michigan State had an Irish dance club because I too am an Irish dancer with the Quinn school located in Kalamazoo and Lansing. So I actually still dance with them on the weekends and then during the week I can dance with MSU, which is really awesome.
Connie Rahbany: So you said you both had previous experience with Irish dance. What does this club mean to you?
Erin Menich: This club is really important to me. I know I have formed a lot of friends from this club, and I think what’s really nice about the Irish dance club is we also welcome people of all experience levels so you don’t have to have any dance experience or Irish dance experience to join our clubs. So it’s allowed me to make a lot of amazing friends throughout the last four years.
Bridget Ertl: Yeah, Erin said it pretty well. This club is full of some really nice people and so I’ve made a lot of really good friends that I didn’t think I would make going in. I just wanted to keep dancing throughout college, so I’m really thankful that everyone’s been so nice and welcoming and we all challenge each other a little bit, but at the end of the day, we’re all like each other’s cheerleaders at practice.
Connie Rahbany: That’s awesome. Did you end up going into the club with previous friends or did you make your friends while participating?
Erin Menich: I made my friends while participating. None of my friends in college have Irish danced before. Um, there is someone from my dance school who was on the team, but we weren’t as close as we are now.
Bridget Ertl: Yeah, I was in the same position. I also didn’t know anybody in the Irish Dance Club, so I met everyone, like all my friends, in the club pretty much freshman year, and then even I’ve gotten close with people throughout the years, so it’s been really nice.
Connie Rahbany: So do you have to be of Irish descent to get involved or is it all dependent on interest? How does recruitment work?
Bridget Ertl: Oh, so recruitment. It’s really more based on interest. We have some people that joined the club this year who have never danced before in their life. Not even like ballet or tap or jazz, but um, you also don’t have to be of Irish descent. It’s just anyone that’s interested in learning some Irish steps is welcome to come. Typically, we meet once a week. This year we’ve been blessed to have two meetings a week for the more advanced dancers who work on choreography.
Connie Rahbany: That’s really awesome. So how far does your club go when it comes to dance? Is it competitive?
Erin Menich: I would say the polish competitions are a lot different than the traditional, like sessions or competitions that you would do in a normal Irish dance school. I think like the Dayton competition, it’s honestly just more about having fun and being able to continue dancing in college because it’s just fun to talk to all the people on the other teams and sometimes like, um, people from our dance school, that dance, like on the opposing team. So it’s really fun to reunite with people who we’ve danced with like maybe like five or 10 years ago.
Connie Rahbany: Can you pick a favorite moment from the club?
Bridget Ertl: Um, my favorite moment was probably dancing at the women’s basketball game. Everyone in the audience was really excited to see us and they keep asking when we’re coming back and we just didn’t expect that response. We were just so excited to be given the opportunity to be at that.
Erin Menich: And for me, one of my favorite memories would also be the women’s basketball game, but I would also say the Detroit Pistons game, which was my sophomore year, um, not being from Michigan, like I’d never been to Detroit or been to the arena there. So it was really fun to be able to dance in an NBA arena.
Connie Rahbany: Now, a lot of people who have not experienced anything like you have performing in a big arena in front of a huge crowd. Can you explain the feeling you had being able to perform your Irish dance for everyone?
Erin Menich: Um, it was just more of a feeling of like, wow, like this is happening. It was kind of surreal compared to dancing at a smaller Irish dance competition, or even on stage at a recital. It was just. The energy in the room was a lot different. I don’t really know how to describe it other then that.
Bridget Ertl: Um, I would say like, it makes you a little bit more nervous than a typical performance because there’s just so many more people and like the lights are brighter and you’re on, it’s just like a very different stage then you would typically dance on, but it’s also really exciting and I think it was a really fun experience for everyone in our club.
Connie Rahbany: Do you have a personal favorite dance that you do?
Bridget Ertl: I don’t know. I’m really a fan of our Kaylee’s, which is what we call our group dances. Um, just because. In a traditional Irish dance school, you do more work on solos, which is just you and all the focus is on you. But I like the focus being more on the group and making the group look good. So I would have to say for our club, I really like our 4-Hand Reels.
Erin Menich: And for me, I would say I really like our original choreography. So we normally call them like our fun routine because I think what’s nice is that it combines both like group dancing and dancing in figures, but it also combines steps. And I’ve just liked being able to work together with everyone on the team to choreograph our routine.
Connie Rahbany: How long does it normally take to choreograph a routine?
Bridget Ertl: Longer than you would think. Our vice president, Fiona Brewer, is really good at choreography and she’s so good. We actually wrote it into her job description as vice president to kind of be the spearhead of all the choreography. It all depends on the song really. I think we start with the song and then she just kind of gets this vision by watching other Irish dance studios, like, uh, for example, Trinity Irish dancers has a lot of cool figures that we use as inspiration as well as other schools that put their choreography on Instagram. So it’s a lot of looking at what other schools are doing and then just seeing the skill level of our dancers. So it typically, if we work really hard, we can get a good chunk of it done in an hour and a half. But it really, it takes a lot of teamwork and a lot of just thinking about it in general.
Connie Rahbany: So how long would you say you have been Irish dancing outside of and included with MSU?
Bridget Ertl: I think I’ve been Irish dancing, this is gonna require some math in my head, um, for about 15 or 16 years. I started when I was four and then continued since then.
Erin Menich: And I’m about the same. I started when I was five, so I’ve been Irish dancing about 16 years.
Connie Rahbany: Wow. So you guys really have a connection with the dances that you’re performing.
Bridget Ertl: Yeah.
Connie Rahbany: How about more personally, has this club benefited your personal life?
Erin Menich: I would say yes. I think being able to meet with and dance one or two times a week at acts as a really nice stress relief while in college, and it’s just a way to do something that’s good for your, like mental health. It’s also like exercise and you get to spend time with your friends and it’s just a nice break from the normal stresses of college life and homework.
Bridget Ertl: Yeah, Erin said it pretty well. The club serves as a really, really good stress reliever. It’s so much fun to just go and release all your energy and then you can go back to studying afterwards.
Connie Rahbany: So, um, once again, for anyone that might just be tuning in, we are speaking with Bridget and Erin from the MSU Irish Dance Club. So if you could describe your overall experience with the club all in one word, what word would you summarize it with?
Bridget Ertl: Fun.
Erin Menich: I was also gonna say fun.
Connie Rahbany: Well, that must mean it’s true.
Erin Menich: Yeah.
Connie Rahbany: Well, my next question, I’m gonna follow that up with, why did you pick that word?
Bridget Ertl: I picked the word because it’s just, it’s really fun. I don’t know. We said it’s like a great stress reliever and even if you do get frustrated with the choreography or anything, you’re still trying harder than anybody else that didn’t come to the club. This is hard choreography. This is such a unique sport, and so to be able to continue it in college, it’s just a really great opportunity and it’s just, it’s really fun. I don’t know.
Erin Menich: I think I also chose fun for similar reasons and because, like what Bridget was saying, even when we might not be able to get choreography or we’re struggling with the dance, we all can like take a step back and like laugh about it or like laugh about our own mistakes and just have a really good time together.
Connie Rahbany: So does your club do anything else besides Irish dance?
Bridget Ertl: Um, we had a club bonding night, our last week before finals in the fall semester. So we all went to our vice president’s house and we watched a movie called Jig, so it’s an Irish dancing movie about like the solo competitions and going to worlds and that aspect, but everyone seemed to really like it. We typically do paper plate awards as well at the end of the year, but we’re still trying to figure that out.
Connie Rahbany: So , how can someone who’s interested get involved?
Erin Menich: Oh, I think one of the best ways to get involved would be to look at our social media pages, we have both a Facebook and Instagram of on Instagram it’s @msuirishdanceclub, or on Facebook, it’s the Michigan State University Irish Dance Club and we post when our events are our practices and pictures and videos from our practices and our performances. And we also have a club email that people could contact if they want to either try to have us perform at an event or if they’re just interested in joining us for our practice, which is at [email protected]
Connie Rahbany: Perfect. So are there any other social links or websites that you would like to share?
Bridget Ertl: I think our Facebook page is really quite the resource. If you scroll back, you can go all the way back to 2016 when the page started up again, and you’ll find a ton of stuff on there. Also, we have a YouTube page. It doesn’t get used as often as Facebook, but we do have some older numbers on there that if anyone is interested in joining, or thinking about joining they can see some of the stuff that we do. I would say don’t get discouraged or freaked out by watching those. Those have come after weeks and weeks of practice and some of the dancers in them thats just started Irish dancing like that semester. So a lot of hard work goes in.
Connie Rahbany: I was going to say, you talked about looking back through your Facebook and other social media pages. Do you have anything you’re looking forward to for your next season?
Bridget Ertl: I think we’re looking forward most to the University of Dayton competition as well as, um, we might get the opportunity to perform at a men’s basketball game as well as a women’s basketball game, so that will be extremely fun for all of our dancers. I know we had a blast this year, so next year it will be even more fun.
Connie Rahbany: Perfect. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Bridget Ertl: Just if anyone’s interested in joining, please check out our Facebook and message to the club directly. We’re really good at getting back to you.
Connie Rahbany: All right. Well, I appreciate you being available to interview. This has been Bridget, the president of the MSU Irish dance club, and Erin the treasurer. Thanks again for coming in.
Bridget Ertl: Thank you for having us.