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Chris McMurry: Celebrating Her Heritage Through Irish Dance

When not studying at USF, freshman sociology major Chris McMurry performs Irish jigs at local fairs and festivals, celebrating her culture and making new friends. Photo by Photo Courtesy of Chris McMurry

With all the different cultures that can be found on campus from all around the globe, one student knows how to celebrate her culture—it’s in her genes. Chris McMurry, freshman sociology major, has been dancing the Irish jig from the beginning of her freshman year of high school. In turn this has led her to appreciate her heritage, being more than 50-percent Irish. Her dancing has also led her to become involved with Renaissance Faires and playing the accordion. It just shows how one good thing can open up many doors.

Having grown up in Oakland, California, she has been coming into the city of San Francisco for dance classes and competitions since she first began Irish dancing. She describes her urge to dance as “completely random” and explains that it was the “first thing she wanted to do on her own.” In fact, it became one of her reasons for coming to the University of San Francisco. Also, she said, “I wanted to be in the Bay area and I liked a small school with small classes.”

McMurry’s first dance school was the Raven Valley School of Dance in Davis. While improving she progressed to the dance school of Cumann Rince Naisiunta, or CRN, and the prestigious McBride School of Irish Dance. CRN’s policy is to support and protect the Irish dancing tradition. At McBride, McMurry competed up to primary champion and soon became bored with competition and went to the Celtic Dance Ensemble, which also falls under the CRN. This past fall McMurry proved her worth as an Irish dancer in her first national competition. McMurry received first place in all her dances, which included the “Reel,” “Trouble Jig,” and the “Hornpipe.”

Through a Scottish and Irish dance and music troupe, Siamsa le Cheile, McMurry finds herself performing at different venues all across northern California, such as Celtic festivals and renaissance faires. They usually dance about twenty dances per show and are one of the only troupes to perform Irish and Highland dances. McMurry recognizes this troupe as her extended family. With multiple dance performances accomplished, she stands as the Irish sub-director for the troupe. Along with dancing for the troupe, McMurry wears the traditional renaissance garb. She has also has been practicing the accordion for over a year now in order to play with some of the other members of the troupe who play English, French, Spanish, Irish, and Middle Eastern music together.

Siamsa le Cheile describes itself as practicing “the traditional music and dance of Scotland and Ireland, and we all share a love of traditional Gaelic culture. We try to pass on our love of the arts and traditional folk cultures through our performance.”