Driving Forces in the MD-DC-VA Irish Dance Community
Marilyn K. Moore
Marilyn has been teaching Irish social dancing in the Washington-Baltimore area for more than 20 years, and has taught classes for the Blackthorn Ceili Dancers in Bethesda, the Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers in Gaithersburg, and Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (CCE) in Fairfax, and the Greater Washington Ceili Club (GWCC) in Rockville, City of Frederick Parks and Recreation Department, as well as a privately sponsored class in Towson, Maryland. She conducts a monthly workshop for the Emerald Isle Club in Baltimore, and calls the monthly dances for CCE. She organized the evening dance program at the Augusta Heritage Center's Irish Week for more than 10 years, has taught the dance portion of the Elderhostel program at Augusta, and has assisted the dance instructors at the Augusta and Swannanoa summer schools. For three years, she also taught dance at CCE’s MAD week in Bethesda.
She has also organized performance groups for a variety of venues, most notably working with the Chieftains on the 2003 4th of July concert on the National Mall in Washington.
Marilyn enjoys helping non-dancers of all ages learn a few easy movements so that they can participate at festivals, ceilis, birthday and holiday parties, wedding receptions and other events featuring Irish dance music. She has worked with schools, churches, civic associations and scout groups, as well as private parties.
Marilyn has traveled throughout the United States and Canada, as well as to Ireland, to work and study with internationally-known Irish dance teachers, including Pat Murphy, Timmy McCarthy, Larry Lynch, Mick Mulkerrin, Patrick O'Dea, Padraig and Roisin McIneany, Seamus O'Mealoid, Aidan Vaughan and the late Connie Ryan, as well as master musician and folklorist, Mick Moloney.
Marilyn has served on a number of boards and committees of various Irish music and dance organizations in the Washington area, participating in the management and operation of festivals, feisanna (step dance competitions), concerts and social dances.
Obie and Marilyn O’Brien
Obie and Marilyn are well-known to Irish dance aficionados in the Washington, DC and Baltimore areas. They attended their first ceili on one of their first dates in 1985. Neither knew much about Irish dancing, but they happened to sit near some people from an Irish dance class in Gaithersburg and, with help from these nice people, Obie and Marilyn were soon on the dance floor and --- hooked. The very next week they began taking classes and have been doing so ever since.
In 1991 they joined with other dancers and formed the Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers (RKIDs). The dance group has been having fun, learning dances, performing, and helping to preserve traditional Irish dance throughout the Washington area for 25 years. Obie and Marilyn helped shape the social emphasis of the RKIDs, adding to the existing teaching aspect. In the early days, Marilyn wrote a newsletter, The Real Reel News, with details of upcoming events. She also served as Coordinator on two occasions for a total of 10 years. Obie has made the announcements at class since the very beginning, keeping the group informed of Irish dance and related activities in the area and motivating participation. They have danced with the Blackthorn Stick and the Greater Washington Ceili Club, and they regularly attend ceilis in the Washington and Baltimore areas.
On five occasions they helped organize trips to Ireland for the Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers. These journeys took members across the country from Belfast to Mizen Head and Donegal to Waterford. They most recently danced in Tulla, Co. Clare at an Irish festival.
They have also been instrumental in organizing the 10th, 20th, and 25th anniversary parties to celebrate the accomplishments of the RKIDs. Their house is often the scene of the dance group’s steering committee meetings, practice sessions, and fun-filled parties.
They both love Irish dancing, but they really love all the people they have met over the years. Some friendships go back to that first ceili they attended in 1985. These friendships help make Irish dancing a way of life in the O’Brien household. The mix of high energy, intergroup cooperation, creativity, generosity, and humbleness that they bring keeps the bonds of the RKIDs strong, and benefits the larger Irish dance and culture community.