Dancing through the Emerald Isle

Sun City cloggers put their best foot forward on guided tour of Ireland

Special to The Sun City PacketMarch 4, 2013 

A group that toured Ireland August 2012 included a number of Sun City Hilton Head residents. The group is shown in front of the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, Ireland.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY NORMA LAVELLE

Five cloggers from Sun City Hilton Head joined street entertainers on Grafton Street in Dublin in August and stepped lively at a number of pubs while taking a tour of Ireland.

"Grafton Street is like Times Square in Dublin," said Sun City resident and clogger John Lavelle.

Lavelle and his wife, Norma, and fellow Sundancers Bette Lynch, and Vince and Karen Taylor took their clogging shoes with them. The tour was led by Ireland natives and Sun City residents Batt and Maura Burns.

The Burns spend half the year in the Lowcountry and the other half in their home in Ireland. They guided the dancers and nearly 30 other travelers -- most from Sun City -- through the Emerald Isle.

"The emphasis was on the music, song, dance and storytelling," Batt Burns said. "They were going to see Irish dancers at the National Folk Theatre of Ireland as well as the regular dancing in the pubs, so it was a natural thing that as there were cloggers in the tour, they would share their dancing in Ireland. That was a lovely interchange of cultures."

It was an interesting experience for the dancers, who perform regularly at Sun City and local community functions, such as the Relay for Life at the University of South Carolian Beaufort's Gateway Campus.

"My husband is Irish and I started clogging with the group a couple years ago," Lynch said. "I enjoyed clogging and the people in the group. I'm newer at clogging than the other four. They're very seasoned cloggers and they suggested we take our shoes. The dancing was great and dancing on Grafton Street was good, but it went way too fast. I wanted to dance more."

When the Burnses lead a tour, they always stop at Batt's hometown of Sneem, Ireland, a point of pride with him.

"He likes to show off his town to his tour and to show off his tour to his town," said John. "That's how we got to perform there, too."

The dancers were billed as part of the entertainment at Sneem House, the Burns' local pub. When technology failed, the cloggers got the real thing.

"We couldn't get the CD player to work, so the musicians at the bar played the flute and fiddles and Maura (Burns) played her concertina," Lynch said. "They were great to dance to."

It was a real Irish hooley, said John Lavelle, an evening of traditional music and dance.

"We got up and we clogged -- when we saw what they were doing, we thought we had a heck of a lot of nerve dancing for them but they were very appreciative and we all had a great time," John Lavelle said.

Batt Burns also was part of the show.

"The best thing was Batt. He is a seanachie, which is something he's done for years," Vince Taylor said. A seanachie is an Irish storyteller, a path Batt Burns followed in 1994 when he took a break from teaching elementary school in Ireland.

"We were travelling with the best," Vince Taylor said. "The stories he told were inside of him and all the poetry he knew from the Irish poets just flowed right out of him."

Batt Burns said he always dabbled in entertainment and participated in Celtic and storytelling festivals in the United States. Teaching Irish folklore is what brought him to Sun City.

"We did a show in Pinckney Hall in 1997 or '98 and we were invited back for four years in a row. The last time we did a show, we looked at a house and bought it. We've been here ever since," Batt Burns said.

In addition to visiting Dublin and Sneem, the tour group visited Cashel Rock, Dublin and Blarney Castle and the famous Blarney Stone in the Republic of Ireland and the Cliffs of Moher and Connemara in Northern Ireland.

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