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Local dancers jig at St. Paul Irish Fair

Six students --Sean Boyles, Kaitlin Boyles, MaryKate Schoonover, Meghan Schoonover and Megan Bratland -- performed with the Rince na Chroi Irish Dance School at the St. Paul Irish Fair Aug. 13-15.

A lot of different things come to mind when you think of the word "Irish" -- folk music, red hair, shamrocks and green -- but one of the most recognizable aspects of Irish heritage is the jig.

A group of six Woodbury students, who attend St. Ambrose Catholic School, have tapped into their Irish heritage by studying Irish dance at the Rince na Chroi Irish Dance School in St. Paul.

Rince na Chroi is Gaelic for "dance of the heart."

The Rince na Chroi Irish Dance School practices at Concordia University in St. Paul and performs at St. Catherine's University.

Additionally, Kaitlin, Meghan, and Sean Boyles, Megan Bratland and MaryKate and Emily Schoonover all performed at the St. Paul Irish Fair, Aug. 13-15.

"It was really fun," Meghan Boyles said. "But, I was kind of scared at first."

Jigging and jumping

Even though all of the young dancers have Irish heritage, that wasn't what drew them to Irish dance.

The Boyles began studying Irish dance after their parents signed them up and Megan Bratland began dancing after learning that a friend was in Irish dance.

MaryKate and Emily Schoonover were not available for an interview.

Sean and Kaitlin Boyles have been dancing for four years and Meghan Boyles and Megan Bratland are finishing up their first year.

If you've ever seen an Irish dance performance, it's no secret that it is a difficult dance to master.

"You don't get the dance at irst -- it takes a while to learn," Sean Boyles said. "But once you get the hang of it, it's not so bad."

The most challenging part of Irish dance is remembering to keep your hands down and a smile on your face, Megan Bratland said.

"The teachers really stress that a lot," she said.

The students take classes at Rince na Chroi either once or twice per week.

"I really like the technique of Irish dance," Sean Boyles said. "It's really athletic."

Megan Bratland said her favorite part of Irish dance is the music and the friends she makes.

The group of dancers learn a variety of different styles of Irish dance ranging from jig, to folk to step dancing while wearing either soft or hard shoes.

The hard shoes make a loud tapping sound during the performances.

Sean and Kaitlin Boyles said they prefer dancing in hard shoes rather than soft shoes.

"I like doing hard shoe because all that noise," Sean Boyles said. "With all the stomping, if you're mad, you can let your anger out with it -- you can feel powerful with those shoes."

Megan Bratland said she likes the soft shoe dancing.

"It makes me feel like I'm flying," she said.

The entire group of students said they intend to keep with Irish dance and work their way up to becoming advanced dancers.

"I like Irish dance because you get to work really hard on your dance and than you get to show the crowd how hard you've been working," Megan Bratland said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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