Dancers from the Butler-Sheehan Academy of Irish Dance in Rome perform for an audience at the Little Falls Public Library on Saturday.

by Dave Warner

On Saturday, the Little Falls Public Library hosted a performance by the Butler-Sheehan Academy of Irish Dance.

Butler-Sheehan was founded over 70 years ago in Dublin Ireland. The current instructor, Pattie Sheehan-Malinowski, is a four-time Irish Dance World Champion. She choreographs all of the group’s dances. The group performs constantly, at parades, festivals, senior centers, nursing homes, pubs, and half-times, and several members compete at feis.

Kim Berry, one of the members of the group said “These are traditional Irish dancers. Our school is based in Syracuse, but we have an extension in Rome. We start with girls as young as four years old, all the way up to adults.”

One of the dancers had to call in sick, so there was a last minute change in all of the routines. “The girls will be doing various dances, jigs, and reels. They’ll also be doing group dances called Ceili.”

During a show, dancers keep their arms close to their sides and their upper bodies stiff. No one knows for sure why. Legend has it that, during the 14th century, when Irish dancing was outlawed, dancers adopted this style so that if English soldiers walked by a pub and looked in the window, they wouldn’t be able to tell there was dancing going on.

“We perform in Madison, Oneida, and Herkimer counties and the general area in Utica and Rome. We perform at nursing homes, schools and shows like the Great American Irish Festival. We’ve even performed at a soccer game at the Utica Auditorium,” said Berry.

For performances, dancers wear curly wigs and embroidered dresses ornamented with Celtic symbols lifted from the Book of Kells.