It’s called step dancing or simply Irish dancing, and chances are you’ll see plenty of it around St. Patrick’s Day. But this mode of dance started far before any modern day celebrations.
“I think it goes back hundreds of years, it was a group dance first, the Ceili dancing is their group dancing and that was probably the first of the Irish dancing and then it went to solo dancing form there. There were dance-masters that went throughout Ireland and taught dances, and then it just spread. From there it came over to this country probably in the late 1800’s,” said Barbara McNulty, Founder of McNulty School of Irish Dance.
Barbara’s history of teaching the style goes back to 1971 when she started her first class in Naperville with just 30 dancers.
Today the McNulty School of Irish dance has about 20 locations and teaches hundreds of students the various forms of Irish dancing, from soft shoe to hard shoe, and solo to group dancing, attracting many young dancers along the way.
“We watched most of the show and towards the end they had where they would teach you a step of one of the dances, so I went up and I learned one step of the jig and I said ‘mom this is what I want to do,’” said Margo Paluch, dancer at the McNulty School of Irish Dance.
And today that’s exactly what she’s doing. But it takes many hours of teamwork with her classmates to get the Irish technique just right.
“We don’t use our arms at all except for team dances. We’re really tense and it’s all leg work, so in ballet, it’s more graceful but for Irish dance, you’re pounding a lot on the ground in your shoes and it’s not as graceful as other types of dance,” said Carina Collins, dancer at the McNulty School of Irish Dance.
The look is unique to the dance as well.
“The curly hair started from when it was considered the Sunday best and after church all the girls would have their hair curled and they would go dance at a pub,” said Collins.
The dancers also sport custom made dresses that can cost upwards of $1000. It’s a large investment of both money and time, but with a payoff that for Barbara, is priceless.
“It’s a beautiful form of dance and I love doing it, choreographing, love to see them performing and see them out and performing,” said McNulty.
Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.
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