Why Kaleidoscope

I must confess that I love etymology. I am a bit of a language nerd, so it’s common for me to look up the origins of a word so that I can understand better what it means and how best to use it. It also gives me fun facts on which to draw for any social occasion (I won’t succumb to the temptation to insert a laughing emoji.)

When I first decided to open the studio in 2020, I was thinking about the unpredictability of life and what mattered most to me. What became clear was my love of Irish dance and my need to share it with others. Covid actually provided me with clarity and was the lens that helped me to see what could be.

The word “kaleidoscope” is only about two hundred years old. It is comprised of three ancient Greek words: kalos which means “beautiful or beauty,” eidos which means “that which is seen: form, or shape” and skopeo which means “to look to, or examine.” Roughly put together it means “a beautiful shape to see.”

The optical instrument that many of us encountered as a toy, was accidentally created through Sir David Brewster’s experiments on light polarization. He was working with mirrors around a candle and was impressed by the visual effect of the multiplied reflections. Eventually, Brewster placed the panes in a tube, some objects and pieces of glass together with a concave lens. He applied for a patent, using the name “The Kaleidoscope”, whose purpose was “for exhibiting and creating beautiful forms and patterns of great use in all the ornamental arts.” Over time, they have become largely the scope of toy makers. Their appeal, however, has sparked people’s imaginations.

In the process of naming the studio, it was the act of turning the kaleidoscope that struck me. All of the parts shift and a new view is created. I thought about life and how we imagine it is going one way, then some new event happens or person arrives in our lives and we have to turn a bit. The view changes, though the elements comprised in the view are largely the same.

There is an obvious connection too between a kaleidoscope and the art of dance. Over the course of 2020, I was also doing some reading and research into disabilities and accessibility. I was struck particularly with the dependence we all have on our bodies, every single day and the effects that it can have for those whose bodies are unpredictable or who encounter “normal” situations where their needs are not met. It challenged me to think about dance and accessibility. It pushed me to explore dance for all bodies, in whatever form they are.

Kaleidoscope Irish Dance & Movement Studio is committed to acceptance; that all are welcome. We are also committed to accessibility; that we will work to create dance opportunities for all who wish to come. Finally, we are committed to authenticity; that is, we teach Irish dance rooted in historical tradition, honouring community practice and expression where Irish dance began.

The instrument of a kaleidoscope is a way of seeing the reflections and refractions of the elements in the line of sight. Our hope is that all dancers who join us will grow in their capacity to dance, but also in their capacity to see beauty in all people and their knowledge that movement is life.

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