“Tell me ma when I go home, the boys won’t leave the girls alone” – my favourite Irish Folk Song.
Welcome to my Quirky Encounters series, Dziwaczne Odkrycia and this time believe it or not, I went Irish Dancing in Gdańsk, Poland with Animus Saltandi and Dziewczyna w żółtych Spodniach. The series will cover my more zany and unusual stories within Poland. This is probably one of the least expected posts on here, as I am not really a dancer! But here I am living in Gdańsk, Poland. It seems ridiculous enough, as I only came here for a week in July 2016 and ended up staying! I have been promoting not just Gdańsk, but the entire region around it. I spent weekends in places like Tczew, Pelplin, Leba, Starogard Gdański, Kokoszkowy and even Kaliningrad, writing about it and promoting it. But here in Gdańsk I found a home somehow and I hung up my backpack after years on the road.
During my promotion of the area, one of my articles was shared on Facebook and Twitter and was noticed by the Dziewczyna w żółtych Spodniach (Girls in Yellow Bottoms) and Animus Saltandi. Having read my story, they invited me to a night of Irish Dancing! I couldn’t really believe it – I had never been to Irish dancing before, despite hailing from the island itself!! Yet here in Poland, I was getting an invite to Irish Dancing! Of course in life, I hate saying no to things (I also dislike people who say no), so I was in!
About Dziewczyna w żółtych Spodniach and Animus Saltandi
Animus Saltandi is a dance group based in Gdańsk, Poland. They practice Irish and Scottish dancing regularly and often display it in public at events. The events can be in Gdańsk, other parts of Poland and also abroad. I was invited by Jowita to come along to this and it was a pleasure to be there. If you are interested in joining the group, please do it!! Dziewczyna w żółtych Spodniach translates as “Girls in Yellow Trousers” and Animus Saltandi roughly means “Willingness to dance”. All the details you need are on their Website and Facebook pages:
My Journey to the University of Gdańsk
13 Years ago this month, I started studying at Bournemouth University in England on a Public Relations Degree. Before this, I had gained a qualification at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland (in Sociology and Irish&European History) and an NVQ in Journalism at Belvoir Tech. Today. on life’s corridor, I got a train from Gdańsk Główny to Gdańsk Przymorze. Train ticket was 3.50. You can also go by tram. I arrived here looking for the University of Gdańsk.
I turned left on exiting the station and headed through to the University of Gdańsk on route to the venue of the dancing. I was here a bit early and so I had time for a sandwich and a coffee, at a cafe called Kanapowo.
It reminded me of my student times in Bournemouth and I wondered if doing a Masters Degree is something new for me to aspire to in life. Certainly, the University here in Gdańsk Przymorze is magnificent.
Irish Dancing Night in Gdańsk, Poland with Animus Saltandi and Dziewczyna w żółtych Spodniach
I arrived early to the ACK Building on Wita Stwosza Street, and first up I met Jowita (who invited me), Kasia (the instructor) and Monika, one of the dancers. It is 17.00 (5 pm) and gradually more of the dancers start to arrive.
The evening is going to be a long one, and is split into two types of dancing:
1. From 5 p.m.-7 p.m. – Irish tap dance class
2. From 7 p.m.-9 p.m. – Irish soft shoe class
(Both classes over-run and we finish around 9.10 pm!)
The evening went roughly like this:
17.00 – First we have a warm up and introduction. For one night, Kasia will explain all the moves and dances in English as well as Polish. Her English is excellent. Apart from Denys (from Ukraine), I am the only foreigner here. These exercises are great – on my travels despite hiking a lot and backpacking endlessly, I wasn’t at gym often or doing exercises, something my best mate Millwall Neil always helped me with particularly with the recent London jogging night.
17.30 – The girls all put on hard shoes and we start some moves. The music is from the “Book of Celts”. I struggle with co-ordination and remembering the moves! I am wearing my trainers and am in admiration of the girls feet movements. There’s a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 movement that I enjoy but find hard to get it right. The girls are experts and they are great fun to watch.
18.30 – Next up is some Hornpipes music. The rhythm is excellent and Kasia reminds us the importance of looking tall, being happy and not looking at our feet. For an absolute novice, it is difficult not to look at my feet! Thanks to Jowita for these photos!
My tapping is surely out of sync, I’m not going to use the fact I wore trainers as an excuse. We have a custom mat for the hard shoe tap dancing and we move along the mat. To finish off the hard shoes session, we dance to “The Blackbird”.
20.00 – After 19.30, a few more have arrived and we have the soft shoes sessions. Denys from Ukraine joins in, the only other man on the evening to attend. The soft shoes part is all done on tip toes. There is also about 30 minutes of warm up exercises for this.
20.30 – The last dance we do is called “Walls of Limerick”. Surprisingly, I backpacked to over 800 towns and cities around the world (120 + countries) but haven’t been to Limerick yet! What is stranger is that Limerick is TWINNED with Starogard Gdański, a town I toured in July 2016! All that fades into insignificance as we enjoy the last dance of the evening and my highlight.
After dancing to the Walls of Limerick, we have some warm down exercises and drink plenty of water and we head off into the night. It’s almost half nine when we finish. The evening was an incredible experience for me, I thank everyone so much for my invite – follow my journey at Northern Irishman in Poland and look out for my story on the Scottish Dancing night in Gdansk too.
Here are some videos from my evening:
And here is the information, I was told about to prepare in advance which I copy below, for your reference: