Translated with the help of deepl.com
Part 1 Explore Ireland, 20 to 23 Aug 2018
The idea for Explore & Dance 2018, this voyage of discovery in Ireland at the end of August 2018 paired with a 3-day line-dance event, was born in spring 2017. Gary O’Reilly was asked during a visit to Switzerland whether he would like to organize an event in Ireland for German-speaking line-dancers, which should also include getting to know the country and its people. Gary took up the idea and turned to his good friend Bianka at Carlow Tours. A rough plan was quickly worked out and Gary told his fans about his idea at the events he attended later in 2017. So it happened that he hadn’t yet advertised his event publicly on FB, that more people from all over the world had registered than he had imagined in his wildest dreams. On May 15th 17 Gary told us about his plans in Genthin Germany and a few days later we registered with him. It was not fast enough to get rooms in the Dolmen Hotel where the line dance event was to take place. All the excitement about the chance to combine our hobby with a visit to Ireland, this circumstance disappeared from our memory and should only cause some unpleasant moments when we arrived in Ireland.
In August 2017 the flyer was published on FB. The event was already fully booked with 180 participants from all over the world. Only when we arrived in Dublin, could we fully understand, what that really meant. Up to now I was only at one event in Europe, where line dancers from all over the world met in one place. I’m talking about Eurodance, which takes place every 2 years in Southport. On August 20, 2018, dancers from the USA (Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas, North Carolina), Canada, Korea, South Africa and Europe (Germany, Great Britain, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland) arrived in Dublin. The travel company could not be more colorful and attractive. It was an indescribable feeling to be surrounded by so many different nations and to experience this journey and line dancing with them all. In my eyes there is only one explanation for this constellation: all these people had come to Ireland because Gary had invited them.
I think it made Gary and his team incredibly proud, and rightly so, that we all came to get to know his country and to enjoy line dancing his way.
So the first part of the trip was „Explore Ireland“. For me personally, this trip was a long-cherished dream come true. Like many others of my age I saw the movie „Ryan’s daughter“ on TV in the 70s and fell in love with the landscapes and the wonderful beach on the Dingle peninsula. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0qXgUvQo2s. During the trip I learned, that this movie really caused a tourist wave. Many visitors came to this remote and underdeveloped region and made it possible for the people living there to gradually move into modern times. But today, the tourists don’t come anymore because of this old movie. Today they drive on the west coast of Ireland over the Ring of Kerry to experience the locations of the Star Wars movies.
In order not to lengthen the report too much – it will already be very long anyway – I will not describe all the details of the first part of the week .
Day 1: Monday 20 Aug 2018
Since our small travel group from Franconia in the north of Bavaria (Germany) arrived in the early afternoon at the Maldron Hotel near the airport in Dublin, we could take a look at Dublin on the day of arrival and make the first experiences with left-hand traffic. The short impression was lasting and very positive. Dublin is a very lively city, that has a lot to offer. Due to the short time we only strolled through the city, ate very well in a nice little restaurant and bought theatre tickets for „Riverdance“ -:).
Day 2: Tuesday, 21 Aug 2018
We traveled by bus to the Wicklow Mountains to see the very beginnings of Christianity in Ireland by visiting the monastery settlement of Glendalough. The visit of the Powerscourt Gardens followed. This park impressed me very much and amazingly we found a big metal gate from Bamberg (the town, I live in since 1993). At the end of the afternoon the busses took us to Carlow. There the travel company, consisting of 4 buses with the team colors red, green, blue and orange, was divided among 2 hotels. The green and the orange bus were accommodated in the Talbot Hotel. The passengers of the red and blue bus moved into their rooms in the Dolmen Hotel, where all line dance events should take place. On the first evening our group from Franconia explored the small town of Carlow a little and learned again, that one gets good and abundant food in Ireland.
Day 3: Wednesday 22 Aug 2018
Big day excursion by bus to the east coast of Ireland to see the famous and incredible cliffs of Moher. We were lucky. It was a bit sunny, the wind was blowing around our noses and the view was magnificent. But it is not a lonely place anymore. Many tourists come in big buses and it’s a bit crowded to move on the narrow paths on the edge of the cliffs. From the steep coast we went back towards Carlow. The next stop was Bunratty Castle and the adjacent theme park, where you can see replicas of 19th century rural and urban houses. I liked the self-guided tour through the theme park very much, because I always find it much more interesting to see how the normal population lived in former times than the high rulers in their castles and fortresses. The light rain did not hinder our curiosity. Between the two stops of this day the buses stopped at Barack Obama Plaza. This is not an exclusive hotel or any other beautiful property, but a motorway service area at the M7 near Moneyball in the middle of the country. There is a lot of landscape in front and behind this service station. Barack Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather comes from Moneyball. In 2011, the President of the United States and his wife Michelle paid a visit to the area and their relatives. Afterwards the restaurant with a large exhibition room on the 2nd floor explaining the history of Ireland and showing Barack Obama and his visit was built.
But I will always remember this service area for a completely different reason. Someone came up with the idea that it would be cool to dance a flash mop in the restaurant area. The idea was hardly born, when it was already implemented and other visitors to the service area got something to see and marvel at. We had a lot of fun and were cheered on by Gary, Sheba and Fred so that we couldn’t be overheard.
After returning to the hotel, the first line dance party took place at the Dolmen Hotel.
Day 4: Thursday 23 Aug 2018
Last day of the trips. After building small groups we visited the Walsh Whiskey distillery in Royal Oak, 20 minutes south of Carlow. The tour, during which the production process is explained and we could try a variety of Irish whiskey, is of course interesting. Unfortunately I can’t remember everything. On the HP of the family business you can read the details of how whiskey is produced today. I personally find the history of whiskey and especially the history of whiskey making in Ireland much more interesting. It is explained here that whisky production came to Ireland in the 7th century by monks. Whisky has always been produced in small family businesses. But various external circumstances and above all the influence of the English neighbors – e.g. the granting of the license to produce whisky from James I to Scotland in 1608 – led over many centuries to the decline of whiskey production in Ireland. It also explains why there is a different spelling for the drink. I quote here for those who did not know where the „e“ in „whiskey“ came from. In Scotland the whisky was mixed. That was completely against the beliefs of the Irish whiskey producers. „The Irish looked upon blended whiskey with outright disdain and their export sales began losing out to Scotch blends. The situation became so bad that in 1879 the four Dublin distillers joined forces to publish a book titled „Truths about Whisky“, which called for the banning of blended whiskey. They were so enraged at the blending of whisky that the Irish began to use an e in their spelling to differentiate it from what the Scottish were now calling whisky. So Whiskey was officially the name for Irish Whiskey.“
Today there are 18 distilleries. The Walsh Whiskey Distillery is one them and their owners have been working since the end of the 90ties to grow the market for Irish whiskeys
Then we took the bus to Kilkenny. In a short 30 minutes we arrived in this small town on the River Nore, where a large castle and many medieval buildings are well preserved. We took a small tour on a tourist train and we tried ice cream with sea salt for the first time. Again, I was impressed by the magnificent flowers on the houses, which I had already admired in Dublin. Afterwards we went back to the hotel and got ready for the 2nd party night.
Thursday was the end of traveling and discovering the Irish island. For this part Gary had commissioned the Carlow based travel agency „Carlow Tours„. Their boss Bianka McDonagh comes from Germany and married an Irish man. In Carlow she created the travel enterprise. She took care of our large travel group together with her coworkers and tour guides Karin, Trudy and Roghan. I was with Roghan on the green bus. Roghan is purely Irish and told us a lot about his country, his people, the history and the peculiarities during the trips and he sang to us. Not everyone understood him well. His accent needs getting used to. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun with him and got to know the Irish national sport „Hurling„, which was completely unknown to me until then. Playing this rough sport left a few traces on his body, but if you’re addicted to hurling fever, there’s no stopping. Gary, Debbie, Fred and Shane always stood by Bianka. The line dance boys mixed with the people and provided action and a good mood on the buses. All 3 of them enjoyed travelling with us to places in Ireland, they had not seen before themselves!
Part 2 Line Dance in Ireland, 23 to 26 Aug 2018
The 2nd part of this trip I can’t describe in details. There would be VERY many pages. I will be as short as I can :-).
Those, who read my reports, know that I have big trouble being short.
Line dance took place at the Woodford Dolmen Hotel in Carlow. Half of the participants had their room in this hotel. The other half was accommodated in the Talbot Hotel on the other side of the town. Therefore, for line dancing, these dancers and accompanying persons were driven back and forth between the two hotels. Not everyone liked this circumstance. For the workshops, I think, it was okay. In the surroundings of the Talbot Hotel we had good shopping opportunities and were able to buy fresh food for lunch. It was different for the evening parties, because we had to choose the bus we wanted to take back to the hotel: shortly before midnight or at 2 o’clock. Since many decided to return on the earlier bus, after midnight the lines on the dance floor were less full than one would have wished. I always took the later bus, because I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Avril told me that their Irish parties often end at the breakfast table the next morning.
Workshops started on Thursday. Here is the list of all dances taught alternately by Shane, Fred, Gary and Maggie. Maggie did not arrive until Saturday, because her sister Annette had married in the days before. Many of the dances in the below list have since become very common around the world. There will be some extra comments about the fun dance „Baby Shark“ after the list.
- Groovy Love, Workshop Fred Whitehouse, 32/4 Improver, If Jesus Loves Me
- Baby Shark, Workshop Shane McKeever, no step sheet, Musikvideo von 2016
- A Double Whiskey, Workshop Gary O’Reilly, 64/4 Improver
- Second Time Around, Workshop Fred Whitehouse, 64/2 Intermediate
- Sanctify My Sins, Workshop Shane McKeever, 48/2 Advanced
- All The Way Up, Workshop Shane McKeever, 32/4 Improver
- Sleep Walk With Me, Workshop Fred Whitehouse, 32/4 Easy Intermediate
- I’ll Be There, Workshop Maggie Gallagher, 32/2 Easy Intermediate
- The Thing About You, Workshop Maggie Gallagher, 64/2 Intermediate
- Vampire City, Workshop Shane McKeever, 48/2 Advanced Phrased
- Walk In The Night, Workshop Maggie Gallagher, 64/2 Advanced
- You Deserve Better, Workshop Fred Whitehouse, 64/2 Advanced
The fun dance „Baby Shark“ will certainly be remembered by all of us. I don’t know who had the crazy idea to make a line dance out of the video for kids. There is no dance script, nor is it necessary. I guess it was Shane’s idea. When traveling on the green bus, Shane showed us the arm movements. In the afternoon the „dance“ was rehearsed and it was a lot of fun for everyone when the music was danced again and again on the following days. Gary created a special FB page “Explore & Dance 2018”, so participants could share their photos and ideas. It was used a lot to comment about “Baby Shark” and share the fun.
Evening and theme parties
The Woodford Dolmen Hotel is a 3 star hotel on the outskirts of Carlow. I liked the lobby, the bar and the hall. An impressive staircase is leading to the first floor, the ideal place for many beautiful group photos. On the first floor there is the big hall giving enough room to 180 dancers. During the workshops it was never too narrow and during the parties you could always choose your favorite line on the dance floor. The distribution of seats was predetermined. Half of the dancers were seated at the large round tables on the right and the other half on the left side of the dance floor. I know such a table arrangement from Blackpool (CBA) and Scotland, and from the parties of the Forty Fours in Sindelfingen (Ger). I think it’s great because you can talk to other people much better than sitting at long straight tables, which, due to lack of space, is the case in Germany. Drinks were taken from the bar on the ground floor. The bar offered a big choice of beer, wine and of course of whiskey. The prices for lunch and dinner were surprisingly moderate.
Gary was DJing all the nights. He was doing the job the same way, as he is doing it at all his own events in Ireland since he was 17 years old. Before their arrival the participants were asked to send him their favorite dances, which Gary made into a list of top 10 dances. There were played regularly from Thursday to Sunday, among these Gary’s Vanotek Cha, Celtic Duo and Wandering Hearts. All other dances Gary chose from the wish lists, the dancers gave to him. He announced them via microphone. If you were absent, you would miss a dance, because the names were not displayed on a screen. Gary explained to me that he did not want to use precious time for writing the names on his computer. I am aware that many DJs work like Gary. I find it impractical, because I can’t plan ahead. In general I can say that participants of our little group were dancing quite a lot, which made us happy.
In the evenings with motto the hall was decorated according to the motto and the dancers came in colorful and partly very imaginative outfits.
Theme party on Friday „Stetsons, Stars & Stripes“
Gary surprised us by inviting us to a game, which he invented for this home parties. He calls it „Say What You See„. The
participants were divided into teams. Each team was given a piece of paper. Then pictures were made visible on a screen, which Gary had designed for this game. The task was of course to find the name of the dance. Some pictures could be easily deciphered easily,
others not, and those not at all, if one did not know the dance. Competition was running high and some people’s heads were smoking. The winner was a small group consisting of Jenny from Germany and the siblings Raquel and Corey from Florida. They had recognized all dances correctly and noted the names cleanly, without spelling mistakes and without corrections on the piece of paper. They were the right winners. Our note looked somewhat different.
And the winners were:
Saturday theme „The Ultimate Celtic Party“
This evening started with a dinner. The hall and the tables and chairs were beautifully decorated in Irish colors. The food looked good and tasted delicious. Everything reminded me very much of the festive evening at the Crystal Boot Awards in Blackpool. I don’t know of any party in Germany that is so festive. I understand that the aim of this is to create a nice atmosphere and to make us feel special. To make use of the time between the courses, we played line dance bingo. Gary distributed bingo cards with dance names on them. The music was played and we had to find the name on our bingo card. Our group had no luck on either of the 3 rounds called „Mega Mix“, „Golden Oldies“ and „Linedance Hits“. The winners each received a bottle of sparkling wine.
I liked the games very much. They helped creating a relaxed atmosphere and encouraged interaction between the dancers. Those who didn’t dance had a chance to get really busy.
Gary turned 30 in July 2018. Debbie Henlow provided a nice birthday cake, which was handed over to him by Maggie Gallagher on Saturday evening.
Gary O’Reilly invited dancers from all over the world to Carlow. That in itself was a sensation for the small country and a very big affair of the heart for Gary. Only in 2015 Gary had his first appearances on the world stage of line dance. From the start he impressed line dancers again and again. His many small and big dances convinced the line dance community and soon enough he started to travel the world. Dancers from all over the world returned his visits. I am very sure, that coming to Ireland is their unique proof of love to Gary and to his country. Gary worked to exhaustion to not fail his goal: taking care of his visitors and to present them his country and line dance in Ireland from the best possible side.
In order to prepare and organize the first “Explore & Dance” Gary choose his closes friends and family to help him. His friend of many years, Debbie Henlow, who became his tour manager not too long ago, took care of the registrations and clarified all questions and tasks. She was always available and open for any problems you might have. Debbie was on the buses and was the fairy godmother every evening.
Gary’s friend Avril Burke, who always replaces Gary as the trainer in their local line dance groups in Sligo, when Gary is travelling, was also very committed and always approachable during the whole time. His sister Ciara and his boyfriend Mark actively supported Gary’s event. Here’s a group picture of all these loved ones, including his parents who were present on Saturday night.
Fred and Shane
Fred Whitehouse from Northern Ireland and Shane McKeever from the Republic of Ireland are best buddies of Gary and have supported Gary’s great Irish adventure each and every day. All they had to do was be themselves and laughter and fun filled the buses, they were on, and the dance hall. Since they are great dancers and choreographers, they also brought us great moments of happiness while dancing.
is Gary’s line dance „mother“. With her help Gary managed to find his way into the light. Since „Galway Gathering“, which they choreographed together in Jan 2015, many other dances followed. Gary has long since found his own way, but still today Maggie and Gary are very closely connected. They continue to choreograph dances together, which are loved by line dancers all over the world. Maggie is the Irish rock of line dance. Even though she lives in England, she loves her home country, the Irish culture and not only line dancing. She dedicates a big part of her dancing activities to „Irish Dance“, working with her dance group „Celtica„. I found it very interesting that Maggie Gallagher is not so well known to some participants from overseas. In Germany every dancer knows Maggie’s name and her dances, old and new ones. Her 50th birthday was just celebrated in Dresden (Ger) in January 2019. Maggie came on Saturday and stayed until Sunday at noon. She taught 3 dances in her very particular way.
Explore & Dance 2019
Gary suspected that there would be a demand and he prepared the 2nd edition of „Explore & Dance“ on time. Participants were allowed to register for it during the event and it was sold out quickly in the following weeks. 2019 all participants will stay overnight in the Dolmen Hotel. I wish everyone, who signed up for „Explore & Dance 2“, a lot of fun and an unforgettable time with Gary and his team. Fred and Shane will be there again and will be sharing workshops with Joey Warren from the USA.
THANK YOU SOOO MUCH, GARY, for „Explore & Dance 2018“