“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 13. Simultaneously, several Teelin students are preparing to compete in the World Irish Dancing Championships being held March 20-27 in Glasgow, Scotland.

“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 an event organizer, are the daughters of Irish immigrants Brigid and the late 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 has been named the 2015 Outstanding Artist by the Howard County Arts Council, and was also the 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. This year, the Teelin Irish Dance Company is being presented in a feature-length show called Celtic Storm on Saturday, March 5th, 7:00pm at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick. Celtic Storm accentuates the energy of Irish dance with cutting-edge choreography, and celebrates Irish culture with locally renowned musicians, just in time for St Patrick’s Day. Additional theater performances include two shows at the Carroll County Arts Center on March 12, and a performance with the Columbia Orchestra on March 19. Further information about these events and the many additional March performances at various venues may be found online at https://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.

Nine students from Teelin School of Irish Dance will be traveling to Glasgow, Scotland, in late March to compete at the World Irish Dancing Championships: Emma Donahoe of Woodstock, age 11, in 5th grade at Waverly Elementary School; Isabella Pelura of Millersville, age 11, in 6th grade at Monsignor Slade Catholic School; Katie Miskelly of Kingsville, age 14, a 9th grade home school student; Alyssa Savard of Bowie, age 14, in 9th grade at St Vincent Pallotti High School; Gaby Stratmann of Ellicott City, age 15, in 10th grade at River Hill High School; Emily Galoppo of Odenton, age 15, in 10th grade at Mount De Sales Academy; Saoirse DeBoy of Mt. Airy, age 16, in 11th grade at Mount De Sales Academy; Jade Shields of Clarksville, age 17, in 12th grade at River Hill High School; and Katie Ortel of Glenwood, age 18, in 12th grade at Mount De Sales Academy.

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 https://teelin.com/TIDC/performance-schedule/.