Comhluadar (Huh?)


Learning an Irish set dance. 


That’s right. I’m here to talk to you about comhluadar. No, it’s not English, but yes, it is a real word. Comhluadar (co-loo-uh-der) is an Irish word that means companionship. Here, I’m going to I’m going to use it loosely to refer to community. Not just a group of people who live in geographical proximity to one another, but a group of people who share a passion and want to celebrate it together.

So, why am I talking about illegible Irish words? Because I have recently returned from an entire weekend steeped in Irish-American comhluadar. It was a weekend filled with learning, sharing, and mighty craic (pro. crack, i.e. fun and camaraderie).

My passion for Irish culture is something that has radiated from deep within my soul for as long as I can remember. It’s in my blood, as the Irish might say, not necessarily through lineage, but through a deep-seeded need to be steeped in the culture.

I finally found my Irish outlet five years ago when I took a sean nós dance class on a whim. Sean nós (pro. shan nohs) dance is a style that originated in the kitchens of Ireland back when it was beset by poverty (which was not that long ago). It’s a percussive style that predates clogging, flatfooting, and tap, and prizes improvisation, individuality, and rhythm above all else.

I’ve spent most of my short dance career alone with YouTube, learning new steps through imitation, but the one thing I was always missing was comhluadar. I feel as if I’ve been raised in a dance vacuum, because while I have the skills to learn the style, I’ve always lacked the community to teach me the social nuances that go along with it.

Events like this are incredibly important to me, because they’re not just about learning new steps, and vocabulary, and tunes. They’re about learning what it means to be a respectful, responsible member of the Irish-American community.


“But, Brianna, this is a writing blog. This is all interesting, but what does it have to do with writing?” you say.

Yes. Yes. I’m getting to that part. Passion is an immeasurably important part of my life. It is my sun, and without it, I wither. I am lucky that I have two great passions in my life right now! Between dancing, writing, and a full-time job, I often feel like I’m working three jobs. Sometimes, I worry that I’ve taken on too much, like when I’m trying to organize my dance students and ensure they get their money’s-worth out of a weekend event, participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, and trying to keep it together at work while we make some major changes.

I’ve wondered more than once in the past few months if I should let go of one so the other can thrive, but my weekend of Irish comhluadar made me realize I can’t. Though dance and writing may seem like two very different things, the skills and lessons I learn from one often feed directly into the other, and make me an all-around better human (or, at least I like to think so).

Case in point, last weekend, while we were all exhausted from an entire day of dancing, we sat down and had an important discussion about community, comhluadar, that thing that I have always felt was missing from my dance experience.

We discussed the social norms of Western audiences. We’re taught to sit quietly, and stand and applaud when a performance is over. That is not the way of things in the traditional Irish community. If you like someone’s step, you tell them, right then and there. If you want to let a musician know you’re paying attention, and you think they’re awesome, you give them a “YIP!” If you’re really feeling the vibe and you just can’t contain it, you let it out, give a holler, a “whoop,” you share in the experience right then an there.

That’s the craic, the comhluadar, the thing that makes the Irish experience so brilliant. I spent a lot of this week trying to understand when I became the expressive, bold, boisterous ball of egomania I displayed last weekend. It wasn’t until I started writing this post that I realized it was something that blossomed out of necessity, out of my longing for community.

Seeking community forced me out of my tiny introvert shell, but it’s not something I was cognizant of until I joined the writing community. I’ve become acutely aware of how wonderful it is to have someone else compliment something I’ve spent hours toiling over, and it is really important to me to give that gift to others.

These days, I spend an exorbitant amount of time building the community around me, because without it passion doesn’t grow. I encourage you, gentle reader, to do the same. If you see something you like, don’t walk away without saying so. Leave a review on Amazon, send the creator a message, leave a nice note on their work. It doesn’t have to be a master’s thesis. Just a single word, a quick “awesome,” or “I loved it” can make a creator’s day, and make all of their hard work worth while.

If you’re passionate about something, find your tribe, build your community, because passion is great, but comhluadar is the fertilizer that makes it grow and shine, and makes the world a better place for everyone around you.

Wow. That was a long ramble. For those of you who made it this far, here’s a little video treat: the finale from the concert last weekend! (I’m the third in line) You can hear us all whooping and hollering for each other, and sharing in the craic! Hopefully, you can all see the video. It’s not mine, so I don’t know how open the permissions are. Shout out to Kimberly Goetz, the organizer of the festival, for sharing it!


3 thoughts on “Comhluadar (Huh?)

  1. 1) This is a great post.
    2) You are such a talented writer and I don’t think I tell you that enough (or if I ever have, in which case I’m awful and I’m sorry!)
    3) I’m really happy we’re part of the same writing ‘comhluadar’ 🙂


  2. Pingback: Book Baby! | Brianna Kienitz

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