“March Madness” – An Irish Dancer’s Perspective

Niche Activity Draws Mainstream Attention Around St. Patrick’s Day

March is a particularly busy month for students at the Teelin School of Irish Dance. Although classes follow a typical school year schedule, and various Irish dance competitions are scheduled year round, March brings increased requests for performances, as well as participation in mainstream public events such as the Baltimore St Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 15. Simultaneously, several Teelin students are preparing to compete in the World Irish Dancing Championships being held March 29 through April 5 in Montreal, Canada, only the third time that this event has been hosted in North America in its 45-year history.

“This is my favorite month of the year!” boasts Maureen Berry, Owner/Director of the Teelin School of Irish Dance. “Sure, we’re very busy, but we’re doing what we love to do.”

school logo for pagesTeelin School is co-owned by Berry’s sister, Kathleen Young, who serves as Business Manager and is an Irish dance teacher. Young adds, “An Irish dance school is not your typical dance studio. This is a niche activity, and students either love it, or they soon realize that it’s not their thing. Because of that, we are fortunate to have a close-knit community of dancers and families who share a common interest in their passion for Irish dance, Irish music, and Irish culture.”

Berry and Young, along with a third sister, Eileen Narvell, who is also involved with Teelin School as a substitute teacher and event organizer, are the daughters of Irish immigrants Brigid and Michael Berry of Bridgewater, NJ. Irish dance and Irish music have been an integral part of the Berry sisters’ lives since childhood, and all three have felt inspired to share this experience with others through the Teelin School. The school is named after Brigid’s hometown of Teelin, Co. Donegal.

The Teelin School of Irish Dance is comprised of approximately 250 students hailing from seven Maryland counties. Training focuses on a solid foundation in traditional Irish step dancing, with the opportunity to explore challenging choreography developed with innovative style. Director Maureen Berry was awarded top recipient of the 2009 Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) Individual Artist Award for Dance Choreography.

company logo performance pgsUpon achieving an advanced level of proficiency, a subset of students from the Teelin School choose to audition for the Teelin Irish Dance Company, which is an elite team of approximately 45 dancers who stage performances, big and small, throughout central Maryland on a regular basis. Known for performing traditional steps with innovative style, the Teelin Irish Dance Company will present a feature-length showcase on Saturday, March 7th, 7:00pm at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, comprised of energetic numbers deemed audience favorites from the past decade. Additional theater performances include two shows at the Carroll County Arts Center on March 14, and two shows at Charlestown Retirement Community on March 21. Further information about these events and the many additional March performances at various venues may be found online at http://teelin.com/TIDC/.

knotSeparate and apart from the multiple performance opportunities at Teelin, many students also choose to participate in competitions, which are governed by the international Irish Dancing Commission. Competitions are held locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Through a rigorous qualifying process, some top-level dancers are eligible to participate in the World Irish Dancing Championships, which are typically held the week before Easter.

Twelve students from Teelin School of Irish Dance will be traveling to Montreal, Canada, this spring to compete at the World Irish Dancing Championships: Isabella Pelura of Millersville, age 10, in 5th grade at Monsignor Slade Catholic School; Kayleigh Donnelly of Ellicott City, age 11, in 6th grade at Mayfield Woods Middle School; Abigail Miller of Catonsville, age 13, in 7th grade at Lamb of God School; Gaby Stratmann of Ellicott City, age 14, in 9th grade at Mount De Sales Academy; Emily Galoppo of Odenton, age 14, in 9th grade at Mount De Sales Academy; Ellie King of Arnold, age 15, in 9th grade at McDonogh School; Saoirse DeBoy of Mt. Airy, age 15, in 10th grade at Mount De Sales Academy; Rachel Steeley of Woodstock, age 16, in 11th grade at Glenelg Country School; Jade Shields of Clarksville, age 16, in 11th grade at River Hill High School; Katie Ortel of Glenwood, age 17, in 11th grade at Mount De Sales Academy; Amanda Golebiowski of Ellicott City, age 19, a student at University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and Ben Koolbeck of Woodstock, age 21, a student at Howard Community College.

The Teelin Irish Dance Company is performing in more than a dozen different locations throughout the month of March, and their performance schedule may be found at http://teelin.com/TIDC/performance-schedule/.