From St. Patrick’s Day Performances To World Championships
March is a particularly busy month for students at the Teelin School of Irish Dance, based in Columbia, Maryland. Hot off the heels of the February 24 sold out Celtic Storm show at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, featuring the Teelin Irish Dance Company (an elite subset of Teelin dancers) alongside professional Irish musicians and dancers, the month of March brings increased requests for performances, and participation in mainstream public events such as the Baltimore St Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 11. Simultaneously, ten Teelin students are preparing to compete in the World Irish Dancing Championships, to be held this year in Glasgow, Scotland, March 24-April 1. Among the contenders representing Teelin School will be 18-year-old Saoirse DeBoy, of Mt Airy, recent winner of the 2018 NAFC Senior Belt Championship (Feb 2018), the All Scotland Championships (Oct 2017), the Great Britain Championships (Oct 2017), and the North American Irish Dancing Championships (Jul 2017), who will be vying for the chance to repeat her previous title of World Champion, now in the Ladies 18-19 solo championship division.
Kathleen Young, TCRG, Co-Owner/Business Manager 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.” The Teelin School of Irish Dance is comprised of approximately 250 students hailing from seven Maryland counties, with highest caliber teaching staff, including Whitney Hanson, TCRG.
Berry, Young, and a third sister, Eileen Narvell, are the daughters of Irish immigrants Brigid and the late Michael Berry of Bridgewater, New Jersey. Irish dance and Irish music have been an integral part of their 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, Ireland. The popularity of Irish dancing has skyrocketed since the inaugural performance of Riverdance in 1995, and the success of subsequent shows such as Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance. Irish dancing schools throughout North America, and indeed throughout the world, continue to attract new students to this high-energy style of dancing.
Training at Teelin School focuses on a solid foundation in traditional Irish step dancing, with the opportunity to explore challenging choreography developed with innovative style. Participation in competitions is optional, and students may independently decide the extent to which they are willing to train. Competing at a championship level requires significant time commitment, with many top champions training upwards of 20 hours weekly. Separate and apart from competitions, a subset of advanced level students from the Teelin School also 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. Upcoming public performances include two March 10 shows at Carroll County Arts Center. Further information about these shows and the many additional March performances at various venues may be found online at https://teelin.com/TIDC/.
Irish dance competitions are governed by An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (Irish for “The Irish Dancing Commission” based in Dublin, Ireland). The World Irish Dancing Championships are akin to the Olympics of Irish dancing. Approximately 5000 competitors from around the globe will participate in this year’s championships in Glasgow, and are only open to eligible dancers who have qualified by placing in the highest percentage of their regional or national championships earlier in the season. In addition to Saoirse DeBoy, the following Teelin School students will be traveling abroad to compete at this prestigious event in their respective age groups: World Medal Holder Ellie King of Arnold, age 18, in 12th grade at Severn School; Lillian Cimbora of Glenwood, age 10, in 5th grade at St Louis Catholic School; Jonathan Brinker of Crownsville, age 10, a 5th grade home school student; Emma Donahoe of Woodstock, age 13, in 7th grade at Mt View Middle School; Bridget Adams of Myersville, age 13, in 7th grade at Middletown Middle School; Kalie Smith of West Friendship, an 8th grade home school student; Katie Miskelly of Kingsville, age 16, an 11th grade home school student; Alyssa Savard of Bowie, age 16, in 11th grade at St Vincent Pallotti High School; and Ben Koolbeck of Woodstock, age 24. These ten dancers are currently training 20-30 hours a week, and have each been placing well at local, regional and international competitions throughout the year.
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/.