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Katie Alexander, Pure Irish Co-Founder


Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, co-founder of Pure Irish: Mizzou’s Irish Heritage Club, Katie Alexander sat down with Her Campus Mizzou to talk about this brand new campus organization. Alexander, a sophomore atmospheric science major, started the club last semester with sisters Jennifer Kelly and Shannon Kelly. Dancing, music and celebration of all things Irish can be found in this unique club.

Her Campus Mizzou:  What is Mizzou Irish Heritage Club’s goal as a campus organization?

Katie Alexander: Firstly, when we came to MU and realized that no one had started an Irish dance club, we were shocked because Irish dancing is pretty popular in St. Louis, and a lot of St. Louisans go to MU. We wanted to start a club to allow retired dancers to continue dancing in college because we missed dancing so much and we know other students are out there that miss it too!

Secondly, we started the club to get musicians together who were interested in playing Irish music. Jennifer, Shannon, and I have all competed at the World Championships in Ireland in 2010, and we think the music should be just as important as dancing!

Finally, we want to open up the club to anyone (not just musicians or dancers) who has an interest in Irish culture. It doesn’t matter if you’re Irish or not!

HC: Describe the Irish style dancing done by some of the members.

KA: Most of the girls are retired competition dancers, which is really intense! They wear wigs and sparkly dresses and train extremely hard to compete. The Kelly girls and myself weren’t pushed to dance in competitions, and we were not allowed to wear wigs. We did compete but just not as much as a typical Irish dancer would. Our dance school focused more on music competitions and preserving the culture of Ireland rather than doing the dance competitions. We learned a lot of traditional group dances (called set dances) that are typically done in pubs or at designated places. There are set dance competitions, but we mainly learned these dances to do socially.

HC: How did you become interested in this type of dancing?

KA: I started dancing when I was seven when my school had a two-week summer program where you could take classes in different areas, and I chose Irish dancing. I started out in a dance school that was very focused on competing, but a family friend told me how St. Louis Irish Arts (SLIA) was an Irish dance school that also taught music. I loved dancing, but at that time I was discovering my passion for music, so I started taking lessons at SLIA when I was 11.

HC: Do your members perform dances? If so, when and where?

KA: We’re having a performance at Bengal Lair in Memorial Union on Thursday, March 14th at 7 p.m. St. Patty’s Day weekend.

HC: How can a student become part of MU Irish Heritage club?

KA: We aren’t holding tryouts to join the club because we want everyone with an interest to be able to join! We’ll be announcing our first meeting during our performance on the 14th.

HC: Anything else to add that you would like MU students to know about the Irish Heritage Club?

KA: We really want to stress that all students are encouraged to join, regardless of ethnic background, talent or previous training (or lack of.) This club is supposed to be fun, and we want every Mizzou student to experience how fun it can be to just be a part of it! Even if you used to take dance lessons when you were younger, but quit for whatever reason, join! Most of us are a little rusty at dancing, but the point of this club is to have fun, enjoy each other’s company and celebrate Irish culture!

 Follow the club on Twitter @PureIrishMU. 

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