Between earning good grades and scholarships, senior Spanish and art history double major Eilish Haley has worked hard to continue her love of Irish dancing since she arrived at Temple.
Haley has been dancing since she was in second grade, participating in both Irish dance and dancing for a ballet company while in high school. Following her high school graduation, Haley was well prepared to take the reins of the Temple Irish Dance Team.
“My schedule is difficult, I work and my classes are heavy. I have to do extra field trips outside of my class time due to my major, but it’s been really rewarding,” said Haley, who now leads the team of 12 to 16 students as the dance education chair. “I’ve been working really hard since freshman year to make this a bigger group. It’s turned into something I’m proud of.”
A performance group usually includes 12 regular members, Haley said, but she has goals to expand the Temple Irish Dance Team by creating a strong foundation to help them gain more members after she graduates.
“It’s not easy being a small group, but it’s worth it. Culturally it’s important to me because I am half Irish and half Italian,” Haley said. “It’s a really important social culture and some of our dancers aren’t a lick of Irish. It’s for the young and it’s for the old. You meet a lot of different people in Philly. It’s amazing.”
The team participates in dance competitions called Feis, which were historically held as festivals in Ancient Ireland, where traditional Irish dancing used to take place. It has competed and performed at Villanova University, Temple University’s HootaThon fundraiser, the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Red Lounge fundraiser for HIV/AIDS victims. The team has placed in competitions for best treble tapper and four-hand reel.
Team president Audrey Rankin handles the administrative tasks for the performances on and off campus.
“Eilish is a fantastic dancer, with tons of dance experience,” Rankin said. “She helps a lot with technique and makes sure everyone is on the same page. As the dance education coordinator, she has been incredibly helpful for the club.”
Quinn Heath, a member who started as a freshman, has been involved with the team for about a year and a half.
“Eilish is a good teacher and probably one of our best dancers,” Heath said. “The great part about the organization is that anyone can join. Even if you think you can’t dance, you should still try it because we have great people who can teach you dance.”
Haley said that her experience studying abroad in Spain her junior year gave her the confidence to lead the team to more success. In addition to her goal of becoming a museum curator, she also aspires to become a certified Irish dance teacher and one day own her own dance studio.
“If you have something small to start with, don’t be afraid or nervous,” Haley said. “Take the chance and stick with it.”
Written by Aurica Hurst
Photographed by Jademan Baker