Courtesy of Erin Flynn
The members of Sláinte are heard before they are seen due to their hard shoes, or “heavy shoes.” Their feet clack against the hard floor at a rapid pace while their upper bodies stay perfectly still. The women perform in black dresses with a red sash and the men wear black button downs with dress pants.
The team can be seen at various events around Fordham’s campus, from sports games to club showcases to Fordham Dance Marathon, but what students do not know is that many of the members have danced their entire lives and are decorated Irish dancers who have placed in national and international competitions.
Erin Flynn, FCRH ’20, is the co-president of Sláinte. “I’ve been an Irish dancer my whole life … and I knew I was going to try out for the team before even arriving at Fordham freshman year,” she said.
Flynn’s duties as co-president include choreographing routines and running the group’s social media while co-president Deirdre Kozicki, GSB ’20, handles the behind the scenes club management.
Sláinte, which in Irish means “cheers,” started at Fordham in 2011 but Flynn says it took a few years for it to grow. Now the team performs on and off campus as well as in the intercollegiate Irish Dance Festival at Villanova in Pennsylvania.
While Flynn said their weekly routines vary, they usually practice twice a week and hold auditions at the beginning of the school year. Most members have at least five years of experience, but many have more.
Grace McLaughlin, FCRH ’23, has danced competitively for ten years. She came in seventh in the age 17 divisions in the 2018 World Championships in Dublin.
McLaughlin said she is glad she gets to keep dancing at Fordham.
“It’s something I’ve been doing for the last 10 years and it would feel so weird to not do it anymore,” said McLaughlin “I really like that we perform at a bunch of big events throughout the year so I can share it with my friends who aren’t dancers.”
Mackenzie Cranna, GSB ’22, has also placed in a myriad of competitions. She said she has been Irish dancing for 15 years , since she was four, and saw Irish dancers at a festival and decided she wanted to do what they did.
She competed at the 2013 World Championships and one of her teams placed 11th. She has also competed as both a soloist and with a team at the North American Championships where she placed as high as second with her team.
“Irish dancing to me is the perfect combination of an art form and a sport,” said Cranna. “It is a way to express creativity while also getting exercise. I love being a part of Sláinte. I always look forward to practices, and I love the energy from the crowd when we perform.”
Flynn said both current students and alumni come out for Irish Night every year.
“It’s on March 12 this year,” said Flynn. “There’s food, music and Irish dancing and we may even have alumni perform this year!”
Libby Vernon, GSB ’22, said she started dancing when she was young because a lot of her family did and then joined Sláinte at Fordham.
“I began Irish dance as a way to celebrate my Irish heritage and because many members of my family were Irish dancers before me,” said Vernon. “Some of my favorite things about Irish dance was that I was able to do it with my four sisters, and Irish dance allowed me to travel to cool places all over the U.S. to such as Rhode Island, Orlando, New Orleans and allowed my family to travel to Ireland, Scotland and Canada as well.”
While not all Irish dancers are of Irish descent, according to Flynn, some use the sport as a way to connect with Irish roots.