World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Murphy Irish Dance Company

Mary Jo Feeney
First Appearance in SF EDF:

Murphy Irish Dance Company was founded in 1963, and is run by mother-daughter team Mary Jo Murphy-Feeney and Patricia Feeney-Conefrey. The artistic director is Mary Jo Feeney. She first learned Irish dancing in her kitchen on Second Avenue, from her mother Hannah O’Sullivan from County Cork, Ireland. The school now immerses generations of students in dancing, singing, language, art, and other aspects of Irish tradition. Company dancers perform frequently in the Bay Area and internationally, and they have won western regional, national, and world titles.


Murphy IrishTITLE: Dancing at the Crossroads
Tony Comerford and Patricia Feeney-Conefrey
Autumn Amato, Michael Conefrey, Jennifer Corry, Brigid Crossan, Katie Danz, Katelyn Dwyer, Lauren Elliott, Shannon Ferry, Jake Grey, Gavin Haskell, Grace Haskell, Will Haskell, Siobhan Healy, Pierce Honeymoon, Jane Lange, McKenzie Lynch, Julie Maxwell, Marie Maxwell, Mary Ann Maxwell, Rachel Maxwell, Molly McDowell, Hannah McGowan, Sarah McGowan, Claire Naughton, Emily Naughton, Briana Nelson, Marie Rossi, Sarah Rossi, Anthony Sheridan, Melissa Sheridan, Christina Spiers, Melissa Spinelli, Evan Trudell
  Eileen Danz (harp), Melissa Lundy (accordion and concertina), Richard Lundy (banjo and guitar), Lewis Milligan (fiddle), Peter Persoff (piano)

From the green hills and shady glens of Ireland, Murphy’s Irish dancers present Dancing at the Crossroads, a lively set of traditional Irish step, ceili, and figure dances. The young performers enter with their feet flying, exhibiting dances in this order:

The Darling Girls From Clare, a group dance about young girls flirting with a crowd.

Dueling Feet, the boys execute intricate footwork to impress the locals.

The Slip Jig, a light and airy dance by the junior girls in soft shoes.

Celtic Hooley, a lively dance done by the minor dancers and ending with the Irish jig.

The Treble Reel, featuring the Lord of the Dance style (Riverdance), bringing everyone back for a rousing finish.

The title of this piece comes from the time of British occupation, when dances, religion, language, and gathering in social halls were forbidden. It’s said Irish step dance originated then, as communities gathered where they could—at the crossroads and in kitchens—and danced with their arms casually at their sides, their feet making up the difference. Dancers outdid each other with intricate steps, while their neighbors hummed melodies on comb and paper, and kept the beat on a hand drum or a washboard.

Mary Jo and Patricia Feeney (U.S.) and Tony Comerford (Ireland) choreographed the performance. The costumes are the “contemporary traditional” look of Irish dancers, with thick embroidery patterns from the Book of Kells with a 1900s era black jacket and green skirt. A gathering for Irish music and dance is called a ceili: the music is played on traditional ceili instruments—the fiddle, bodhran (drum), accordion, banjo, and concertina.


Title:Tir Na nOg (The Land of the Youth)
Genres: Irish Step, Celtic
Dancers: Maggie Baglin, Maura Baglin, Brooke Brunaman, Karen Byrne, Andria Camp, Rachel Carter, Christine Collins, Carolyn Cody, Michael Conefrey, Brigid Crossan, Letitia Crossan, Eileen Danz, Katie Danz, Katelyn Dwyer, Jake Grey, Dan Guiney, Gavin Haskell, Grace Haskell, Will Haskell, Brendan Healy, Siobhan Healy, Jack Harte, Brendan Kennelly, Jane Lange, McKenzie Lynch, Julia Maxwell, Marie Maxwell, Rachel Maxwell, Claire Manion, Katie McFadden, Hannah McGowan, Sara McGowan, Julia McGuire, Molly McDowell, Gina McGhee, Claire Naughton, Emily Naughton, Paddy Naughton, Alannah Ortega, Molly O’Toole, Lisa Perera, Annie O’Connor, Ellen O’Connor, Sean Rielly, Anthony Sheridan, Joe Sheridan, Melissa Sheridan, Melissa Spinelli, Christina Spiers, Anne Marie Sequeria, Colleen Tiernan, Evan Trudell, Tara Walsh
The Bushmill Irish Pipers, Eileen Dunz, Melissa Lundy, Richard Lundy, Lewis Milligan,Frank Rooney

Murphy Irish Dancers present Tir Na nÓg, a suite of Irish dances based on a fairy tale. Tir Na nÓg is a magical island beyond the edges of the map, a place of eternal youth and beauty, music, strength, and life. An immortal Celtic princess, Niav ("Neev") of the Golden Hair, skims across the waves on her magical white horse; but she can never touch the ground, or the weight of her lost years would crush her. This bittersweet theme—the passage of time—is celebrated in today's performance across the generations. Murphy's youngest students are joined by adult dancers who began with the company twenty-five years ago.

The story begins with Oisin ("O-sheen"), the graceful and strong son of the Celtic king Finn McCool. Murphy's young soloist performs a reel as he explores the Irish countryside. At the crossroads, he meets villagers who celebrate with a traditional set dance. Next, a hypnotic slip jig celebrates the meeting of the prince and princess. Niav has been searching for her prince for seven years. The couple falls in love, and, Naiv brings Oisin home to Tir Na nÓg, where flowers always bloom, and no one suffers illness, age, or death. At her golden castle, banner-carriers welcome the couple by dancing a 12-hand figure reel. Crowds gather for the festivities, and the wee flowers and wee brownies dance an Irish jig.

Countless years pass, and finally Oisin longs to see his homeland. Niav lends him her white horse, but she warns him not to set foot on the soil of Ireland, or all his lost years will fall upon him. When he reaches Ireland's distant shore, Oisin recognizes no one; he has been away for so long. He races around with such anger that he falls off the white horse, stomps to the treble reel, and becomes an old man. Luckily, St. Patrick is wandering through Ireland right then: he keeps Oisin alive long enough to dance a celebration for the ancient king.



TITLE: Dancing At The Crossroads
GENRES: Irish step and Celtic
ARTISTIC DIRECTORS/ CHOREOGRAPHERS: Mary Jo Murphy-Feeney and Patricia Feeney-Conefrey
DANCERS: Maggie Baglin, Andria Camp, Rachel Carter, Christine Collins, Michael Conefrey, Jennifer Corry, Brigid Crossan, Letitia Crossan, Eileen Danz, Katie Danz, Gregory Diesse, Ciara Duggan, Katelyn Dwyer, Rosaleen Folan, Jake Grey, Grace Haskell, Brendan Healy, Siobhan Healy, Marlene Lundy, Claire Manion, Katie McFadden, Ryan McFadden, Kevin Molloy, Julia Maxwell, Rachel Maxwell, Claire Naughton, Emily Naughton, Briana Nelson, Alannah Ortega, Molly O'Toole, Savannah Prentiss, Melissa Sheridan, Christina Spiers, Brigid Tiernan, Colleen Tiernan, Evan Trudell, Ciara Waite Karski, Tara Walsh, Amy Young
MUSICIANS: Melissa Lundy (push-button accordian), Richard Lundy (guitar/banjo), Lew Milligan (fiddle), Elisa Welch (keyboard)

Journey Through Ireland is a lively sequence of Irish step dances performed to the lively tunes of musicians Lew Milligan, Richard and Melissa Lundy, and Elisa Welch. The dancers kick it off with a traditional figure dance, to evoke the valleys, rivers, and bridges of Ireland. The junior dancers quicken the pace with intricate reel steps, and a favorite céili, piece, Trip to the Cottage. Next, the wee dancers show off their light-footed traditional jig. Then we move from the old to the new, to the stark rhythm of dancing feet—the syncopated reel steps of Riverdance, Celtic Rhythm. The young men show off their strength in Lord of the Dance, and all dancers join for the Treble Reel.



Patricia Feeney
Haley Adams, Mary Bea Boland, Ashlin Bruce, Brooke Bruneman, Lindsay and Elaine Brunner, Monica Coen, Jennifer and Colleen Corry, Brendan and Letitia Crossan, Greg Diesse, Ciara and Cormac Duggan, Noelle and Lauren Elliot, Erin Fuller, Siobhan Healy, Shelby Kilmartin, Danielle Lefzsik, Cassidy Lewellan, Francis Loyd-Vargas, McKenzie and Dylan Lynch, Natalie Macia, Rachel, Drew and Marie Maxwell, Aine and Vince McGovern, Katie Mcgrath, Julia and Jack McKeon, Julia and Caroline McGuire, Kevin Molloy, Emily Naughton, Brianna and Sinead Nelson, Molly O'Toole, Colleen Povey, Savannah Prentiss, Christina Spiers, Sarah Rossi, Matthew, Nicholas and Caleigh Teahan, Brendan and Evan Trudell, Ciara Waite-Karski, Tara Walsh, Marie and Kerry West
Sean Alveany (borahan), Melissa Lunday (push button accordion, concertina), Richard Lundy (guitar, banjo), Lewis Milligan (fiddle), Frank Rooney (accordion), Barbara Southworth (keyboard)

For the 2005 Festival, the Murphy Irish Dance Company performs a collection of traditional Irish dances. Through the use of lines and circling formations, the opening Figure Dance alludes to rivers, valleys and other locations reminiscent of Ireland. Following is a "soft dance" in the unusual 9/8 time, called a Slip Jig. Junior team members continue with a traditional Céili, while the wee ones perform an Irish Jig. The ensemble concludes with a progressive Treble Reel done partially without music to emphasize the catchy rhythms.

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