Irish Dance for All Levels, All Bodies, All Genders

Under the multicolored lights of a Brooklyn pub on a recent Monday night, a small crowd skipped and swung in circles, scrambling to keep up with the tempo of an Irish reel. Some were seasoned professionals; others were dipping a toe into Irish social dancing for the first time.

People came close to colliding as they advanced and retreated in rows of four, hands linked, or spun with partners in the tightly packed space. A formation that was supposed to resemble a square, with one couple stationed neatly on each side, wound up looking more like a wavy half-circle. Faces were flushed with confusion and joy.

In Irish dance, a form known for its upright posture and exacting rhythmic footwork — as well as its culture of high-pressure competition — precision is prized. But perfection is beside the point at Gayli, a series of L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly ceili classes in March at Mary’s Bar, a queer Irish pub on the border of Greenpoint and East Williamsburg. (The Irish word “ceili,” pronounced KAY-lee, refers to a social gathering with dance and music; Gayli is an affectionate play on words.)

“It’s pure chaos, in the best way possible,” said Rocco Lujan, a bartender at Mary’s who can be found bopping along to the music while pulling a pint. “It brings a lot of goodness to the space.”

Hosted by Brooklyn Irish Dance Company, a women-led troupe founded in 2018, Gayli is open to anyone who wants to join; picking up the steps is secondary to mingling and having a good time. At recent sessions, the demographic skewed young, the room full of people in their 20s and 30s who had answered the event flyer’s call: “All Levels & All Bodies Welcome!”

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