AROUND NJ

Students of all ages learn the tradition of Irish dance

BY Lauren Wanko, Correspondent |

In thunderous unison, Irish dancers perfect their craft.

“When people hear that you Irish dance,they’re like, ‘Wow!'” said dance student Delaney Purcell.

At D’Arcy School of Irish Dance, students prepare for their busiest time of the year: St. Patrick’s Day. They start booking parties and parades six months before the holiday.

“The biggest thing in Irish dance that makes us different is that we don’t use our arms. It’s something that started a long time ago in Ireland when we first started. There are different theories,” said Colleen Nicosia, owner of the dance school. “I always was told when the English came to Ireland and they banned all dancing in the pubs, the bartenders behind the bars would keep their arms down and do the dancing with their feet.”

The students dance with hard and soft shoes.

“Hard shoe dancing is very based on rhythm and the soft shoe dancing is based on technique and keeping your legs straight at turn out, hands at your side, chin is up — there’s a lot that goes into it,” Nicosia said.

Since the dancing requires so much stamina, the school brings in a personal trainer each summer. He focuses on things like muscle strengthening and cardio workouts.

The dancers travel to competitions along the East Coast. This year many are headed to the World Irish Dancing Championships. Nicosia beams with pride. A few years ago she left her advertising job in New York City to pursue her dream and honor her family’s history.

“It’s the passion of teaching children and seeing them grow into an amazing dancer but also grow with confidence and passion themselves. Seeing that kid who comes in shy and a year later just shine on stage, there’s nothing like it,” Nicosia said.

“It’s such a huge sense of accomplishment because you think the first time you try to learn it, you’re like ‘Oh my gosh.’ Then once you finally have it down, you’re so proud of yourself that you would never know you could do it before,” Purcell said.

There are about 150 students at the dance school, ranging in age from 2- to 70-years-old. They can start as beginners and move on to the champion class. The most advanced dancers at the school typically practice about four days a week.

“It feels really good especially because I’m more young then a lot of the girls so I feel good about myself,” said 11-year-old dancer Ellie Loboda.

“You kind of just forget everything and you just dance. Everything you’re worried about with school, or work, or whatever it just goes away and you’re just dancing,” said dance student Coleen Mamudoski.

Mamudoski has been dancing for about 10 years.

“It makes you feel proud of who you are, and your heritage, and everything that has been and created from,” Mamudoski said.

Since they say everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, these dancers hope we all feel that sense of pride — at least for the holiday.