This past weekend I was reminded how important the arts are to celebrations and how lucky I am to be a part of a family that values and participates in the arts. My sister just got married and her wedding was a testament to the joy the arts can bring to any celebration and how the arts can bring family and friends of any age together.
My family has a strong Irish heritage and my sisters and I all studied Irish step dancing. However, my younger sister has always had her own way of doing things and studied belly dancing as well. This past weekend she married a man of Iraqi heritage and they managed to pay homage to both traditions.
An Incredible Performance
The wedding opened with bagpipes and drums accompanying the bride down the isle. The Irish influence continued when my uncle led the crowd in a rendition of “Clancy Lowered the Boom.” Then an Irish band started up with some great danceable and singable tunes. Dancers of every age filled the dance floor. There were three generations of dancers on the floor. Chairs were pulled up and voices of young and old alike sang along.
During the band’s break came the teenagers. One of my nieces and one of my nephews took the stage to play keyboards and flute – a truly beautiful duet. Then came the surprise for the bride, the Moore Family Dancers. The siblings of the bride along with their spouses and children prepared an Irish ceili dance to surprise the bride. With live accompaniment and matching T-shirts, my family performed a ceili dance while I called the steps. One of my sisters had actually taken her husband and two teenage boys to dance lessons in order to prepare for the wedding event. The fifteen-year-old really took to the lessons and actually brought a friend along who also said he really enjoyed it and wanted to try it again.
After our family performance we opened the floor to all the guests. Four-year-olds partnered with forty-four-year-olds, seven year olds danced with seventy-seven-year-olds. As I broke down and called out the steps and the band played along, I saw smiles, heard laughing and marveled at the community and joy created between people who had been perfect strangers only hours before and between friends and relatives who hadn’t seen one another in years. Nothing breaks down barriers like singing and dancing together.
Now that we had indulged in the Irish side of the couple, it was time to enjoy the Iraqi side. As a surprise to the groom, out came a belly dancer complete with veil and sword. The groom was thrilled but was even happier when the performer pulled his bride onto the dance floor along with three generations of ladies in the audience to dance along. I never knew my aunts could dance like that!
The family style nature of this wedding was incredibly moving to me. In the United States arts are not an integral part of daily life the way they are in some other cultures. Even our celebrations may lack the kind of music and dance that can bring different generations together. This is why we need arts integrated into our classrooms. We need to bring the arts back to the people – out of the museums and concert halls and off the stage. Of course fine art has its place but we need to make art accessible to our students and help them to see it can enhance every aspect of their lives and is something that can be enjoyed together with entire families.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.