Training winning ceili teams

While there is a lot of time and effort devoted to solo dancing, ceili dancing takes centre stage at many schools in the lead up to Oireachtas and Worlds. Producing top teams is tough work though. Following on from our last story about putting a strong team together, we asked our experts how they train their teams, and get them to work as one cohesive unit.

Placing couples

Putting together a team is not an easy task. According to Conor Ayres, ADCRG, from the Christine Ayres School of Irish Dancing, there are a variety of factors to take into consideration when placing dancers into couples and various positions, including their age and experience. “In senior teams, we like to keep our teams the same where possible, as they are used to working together. It ensures consistency, and gives them a goal to achieve i.e. they may have won a championship last year. They will then work towards trying to retain that title for the next competition. In younger teams, height, dedication i.e. regular class attendance, and abilities are all factors.”

Team spirit and leadership

One of the best ways to build team spirit and encourage team work is through dancing ceili. Dancers learn skills that are valuable for life, and make friends in the process. But teamwork doesn’t always come naturally. Marie Moore, ADCRG, from the Marie Moore School, notes, “We feel teams are an important part of a dancer’s life – it creates team spirit, morale and bonding with other class members. It also helps with the overall fitness of the dancer.” Ayres adds, “Bonding comes naturally through being in teams all year but it’s always nice to encourage some after class social interaction.”

Another way to foster teamwork is through assigning a team captain. Colleen Schroeder, ADCRG, from the Lynn O’Grady Quinlan Connick Academy, relays her experience, saying, “Usually the team is in charge of selecting the team captain. It’s the first thing they need to do as a team. I feel it is so important that the team cares enough to allow a member to be in charge of leading the team in the right direction. When the team members stop arguing amongst each other and start listening to the team captain it shows the teacher that this team is serious and wants to work together. The duties of a team captain are to call the counts to the team and to point out little things that are wrong that need to be corrected. They are also in charge of the group text messages that go out to the team and will sometimes even schedule practices outside of regular ceili practice with the TCRG!” This cooperation can start at an early age, with Ayres mentioning, “We assign a team captain in younger teams. It’s a nice encouragement for them, and we usually assign that position to a dancer who may need a boost in confidence.”

Drills drills drills

When it comes to hands and feet, it’s all about drilling the pieces before it all comes together. Schroeder explains, “We drill the teams in different formations depending on what we are working on. There are times where dancers will just stand in a straight line facing the mirror so they can see themselves and other times when it’s important to stay in their group.” Moore echoes this, saying, “We do plenty of drills on footwork, hands and arms in lines, and then follow through in the team formation.”

Ayres points out the importance of drills in helping to put teams together. “We start with drills early in the year, to not only make sure everyone is on the same page with footwork and arm work, but also monitor who’s working well together, then after we put the teams together we work in formations.” When it comes to drilling though, Schroeder has the final word, saying, “More important than drilling is the desire of the team members to want to work on and fix what they are doing. If the dancers on the team don’t want it bad enough they will not correct their feet and stay in a straight line no matter how much the teacher drills. Making the dancers understand that it’s up to them to fix corrections is the first thing that needs to be drilled!” Truer words were never spoken.

Do you teach teams? Are you a team dancer? What do you like about dancing on a team? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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How to train winning ceili teams – part 1