Giving it a whirl: Dancing with the DU Dance Society at Intervarsities

By Michaela Vitagliano


One of the best ways to both integrate and make friends at Trinity is through societies. At the beginning of the year, Front Square was teeming with colourful stands, goodie bags, and joyous voices as each society tried to reel in a dazed looking student. Naturally I joined way more than I should have; emptying out my change purse in a flat twenty minutes.  Each society handed me a card, all with different student discounts ranging from burritos at student prices to free entries at clubs.

DU Dance’s Contemporary Team


Of all the societies, DU Dance Society has made a lasting impression, helping to form one of my favourite experiences at Trinity. Sometime within the first month, the society held separate auditions for its dance team to select a group of about sixty dancers for its various intervarsity teams. I auditioned for the Contemporary team, figuring it was the closest of Irish, Hip Hop, and Jazz to ballet. And after a gruelling audition process that entailed bruised knees and being videotaped, I luckily made the team! The rest was history…


Due to a lack of funding from the university — despite DU Dance being one of the more successful intervarsity teams — we did not have spaces to rehearse until second semester. Unfortunately, this meant we had less time than the other competing universities to choreograph and rehearse pieces, as well as less social time to bond and form a team. It also meant that we had to all chip in loads of money to pay for dance studios around Dublin.


Getting groovy at the Temple Lane Studios


Our first studio location was at the Temple Lane Studios, which were mainly used for recording sessions. Descending into a dark hallway decorated with a disco ball, some little known records, and filled with the sounds of screaming and crashing cymbals, our team tried best to rehearse in a small room in the far back. Every Thursday night from 8:30 to 10:30pm we rehearsed to Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination”,  Lana’s “Young and Beautiful”, and Lorde’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – a wonderful mix created by our team captain. Between run-throughs of the piece, the thirteen of us (from varying courses and years) all got to know each other. A true team spirit was starting to form…


Down to barre hop? Dance studios above a bar


Our final studio location was at the Liffey Trust Studios, right behind Dublin’s 3Arena and above a bar. Although the area was a bit hard to get to, about a 40-minute walk from Trinity in the dark, the studios were spacious and had proper flooring. In fact, these studios were the rehearsal location for the celebrities in Ireland’s Dancing with the Stars television show, a show I had started following with my host family every Sunday. On the last week before the competition, we put on a showcase of our dance for the other competing teams (Irish, Hip Hop, and Jazz) in order to receive feedback. The whole process was friendly and helpful, and everyone seemed eager and abuzz with the prospect of soon competing in Galway.


The night before our departure for Galway, I had a lovely meal at Vintage Kitchen with my boyfriend and my parents who had arrived in Dublin for a visit. They tied in their trip to see me with the plan of traveling down to Galway to watch my performance. To date, they have never missed a single dance performance I’ve been in. I also received shocking news that one of our fellow members had dropped off the team. Filled with uncertainty, I went to sleep.


The next morning, a group of sixty groggy dancers boarded the train bound for Galway. I had reserved a seat in Coach B in advance, and by chance happened to sit next to two girls I had gotten to know on the bus journey back home after rehearsals. Call it coincidence?


Irish trains know how to make you feel special


Upon arriving in Galway we registered for the event, getting red wristbands for the afters party in Carbon, and a photo of our team. Then we started rehearsing in NUI Galway along with other universities, including, but not limited to NUIG, Mary I, UCD, DCU, Maynooth, and Limerick. The rehearsal time for our team was a bit frantic as we re-choreographed and re-arranged the piece to adjust for the missing person. But as the cliché goes, the show must go on.


Fake tans and team spirit before Intervarsities


After a long afternoon, we checked into Snoozles hostel, a comfy and welcoming hostel right in downtown Galway complete with a free breakfast. With about half an hour to unpack, we quickly made our way to the Black Box, a theatre in Galway, to run through our piece on the actual stage. The stage was quite large, but to our chagrin had no wings, so we had to climb up and down stairs and run behind the crossover to make it onto stage for our various entrances and exits. That night we took over the hostel kitchen, gorging ourselves on pizza and takeaway food.


Journeying around Galway


Up at the crack of dawn, we put on makeup, ate breakfast, and packed our costumes before heading over to support our Irish team. Once all the teams had finished in the Irish category, our team went to do hair, finalise our makeup, do a mini run-throw, and warm up. The nervousness and excitement began to build…



The Contemporary Team all dolled up with blue lips


And then, although we were the last slot for the Contemporary category, it was our turn. All the hard work we put in, obstacles we pushed through, and love of dancing we felt led us to this final moment. [Dance:]. When we were done, surprisingly, we received a standing ovation. Somewhere in the crowd, I knew my parents were also clapping and beaming.


The rest of the day consisted of watching the other teams, snacking, and trying to get coursework done for school in between categories. I also got to meet up with my parents and hear the run down of what they thought of the piece: they loved it!



My parents were definitely my biggest fans


Although the Trinity team had wanted to watch the Mixed Piece category, since Trinity was not competing in that category and since there was a shortage of seats for the parents who had come from across the country to watch their children, we collectively decided to give up our seats for them. We then used that hour and a half to hang out in McGettigan’s pub in Galway (funny enough, a member of my host family’s uncle owns the chain).


We then trudged back to the Black Box for the awards ceremony. The presenter had a lot of banter, but still you could feel the tension in the air as they began to hand out awards. Trinity made out like a bandit. Irish – 2nd place. Hip Hop – 3rd place. Jazz – 1st place. When they came to Contemporary, you could hear a pin drop. After they had announced third and second places, we all put our heads down and waited to hear the outcome. It was between not even placing and first for us. And then the sweet sounds of “TCD” sounded out, and our collective breath turned into squeals of delight and laughter. After all that hard work and dedication, not only did our team have a blast, but we placed first.



The team captains holding our winning trophy


That night everyone in DU Dance had something to celebrate, and if it weren’t enough to have danced competitively all day, we danced until the wee hours of the morning at Carbon. All in all, my participation in Trinity’s DU Dance Society was the highlight of my time here. Not only did I get to know new areas of Dublin, continue my passion of dance at Trinity, get to see Galway, and win a trophy, but I made wonderful friends and memories.

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