Students embrace new offerings in Irish music and dance, along with all-campus céilí dances

Author: Mary Hendriksen

St 10

With swelling enrollments in traditional Irish music and dance, and two popular all-campus events last term, the Department of Irish Language and Literature has added more course options for students, as well as continuing this term with two all-campus céilí dances:

February 24, as part of the Center for the Study of Languages and Culture Language Week, 8-10 pm, LaFortune Ballroom

March 31, 8-10 pm, LaFortune Ballroom

Both events will feature live music, called dances (that is, steps are "called" to the dancers, on the spot) and performances by the ND Irish Dance team. 

A céilí is an Irish social gathering, featuring social dancing, live music, and performances. Over 70 students participated at each event last term: dancing, playing music, or performing  . . . and for some, all three.

The event was organized and dances were called by Shannon Dunne, Adjunct Assistant Teaching Professor, Irish Language and Literature and ND ’98. An ethnochoreologist and traditional musician, Professor Dunne began at Notre Dame in the fall by teaching two courses to undergraduates: Beginning Tin Whistle and Sean-nós Dancing.

Nd Alec Jumping Legs In

In this current semester, class offerings have expanded to include Irish Social Dancing.

The new course offerings were initiated by Sarah McKibben, Associate Professor and Chair of Irish Language and Literature, who believed it important to expand departmental offerings to encompass a central part of Irish culture: music and dance.

"In Ireland, the level of musicianship and musicality, fostered in homes, communities, and schools from a very young age is extremely high," says Professor McKibben. "And, along with the Irish (Gaelic) language, music and dance are keys to understanding and appreciating Irish culture. We wanted to share that with our students, especially after the long slog of the pandemic. Our students have been fantastically resilient, and this is a way to give them joy in a difficult time."

As was true last semester, live music will be provided at the February and April events by the newly formed ND Céilí Band, directed by Professor Dunne. The band is multi-age and multi-instrument, an endeavor in which student, faculty, and staff musicians can join in musicmaking together. The band features local musicians Sean Smith (Warsaw, Indiana by way of Co. Meath, Ireland) on accordion; Kim Hoffman (South Bend) on piano; Katie Montoya (Benton Harbor) and Caroline Burton(ND '22) on flute; Will Peeler on drums/concertina (ND ‘26); Larry Sullivan (Notre Dame Professor Emeritus in Theology/Anthropology) on whistle; Patrick Kronner (Director of Notre Dame's Magnificat Choir) on flute; and Coleen Hoover (formerly of the Notre Dame Creative Writing Program) and Elizabeth Hanley(ND '23) on percussion. 

To join the céilí band, or for details about classes or céilís, please contact Professor Dunne at


Please follow this link to see videos of the fall céilís.


Read more: Experiencing joy: Department of Irish Language and Literature’s new 1-credit dance and tin-whistle courses give Notre Dame students the ‘keys to unlock Irish culture’