For most people, the first dance class for baby is ballet. But buns and toe shoes aren’t for everyone. Remember Riverdance?  Turns out, Irish Dancing isn’t just a stage show – it’s an ancient Celtic art form.  One that just got a new studio in LA, with several locations, where kids are taught by a couple of masters.  And if you thought tutus and buns were cute, wait till you get a load of gillies and ringlets.

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Irish dancing isn’t exactly the dance du jour in LA, but two professional Irish dancers are resolved to bringing Irish dancing from the wings into the limelight. Professional dancers Caterina Coyne and Maeve Croke have teamed up to open Celtic Irish Dance Academy. One step in their studio and it’s clear the Irish don’t only dominate pubs and parades, they also know a thing or two about performing. Here’s the basics on Irish Dancing, and the new studio where you can get jigging.

What is Irish dancing anyway?
Irish dancing originated in Ireland hundreds of years ago. It’s a cultural dance that uses the legs only – no arms.

Who are owners Caterina Coyne and Maeve Croke?
Caterina and Maeve are best friends who have been awarded the TCRG distinction in Irish dancing. They’ve traveled the world together for 10 years performing in the highly acclaimed show, Riverdance. “We’ve danced with the best professionals from America, England and Ireland, and we’re passionate about our craft and teaching,” says Croke. “Through our dance classes, we‘re passing on our love of Irish dancing to children…many of whom move on to the competitive side.”

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Does my little Michael Flatley need ballet or tap experience?
Not at all. Your little one will start with the basics called Reel, in a soft shoe, and then move on to Light Jig, Single Jig and Slip Jig. As he or she progresses, a hard shoe featuring fiberglass tips and heels that make sound can be worn. “One of the biggest reasons for putting a child in Irish dancing,” explains Croke, “is for the confidence boost. Having to get up in front of your peers and dance is a terrific skill at a young age.” Other benefits include coordination, learning discipline and team work.

When can my kiddo get jiggy with it?
Age four is the earliest your child can start at this studio. “We keep it fun and light for the little ones,” says Croke. “We make up songs and engaging dances. It’s about instilling a sense of love for Irish dancing, but also about creating a sense of family. The older kids mentor the younger ones and it’s so fun to watch the growth.”

So what’s with the curls?
While competition costumes can be just about anything (fancy dress wise), the biggest tradition is the ringlets in girls’ hair.  The curls are a tradition from years ago.  They are not necessary for class (unlike the bun for ballet), but rather come into play at the performances. Worried already about getting those perfect curls to bounce? Don’t.  Wigs have become quite popular for the little ladies. Who knew?

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Cool Things to Know
The first class is always free for girls, and boys get the first month free! “We’re trying to raise awareness that Irish dancing is not just for little girls. About 1 in every 5 students is a boy at our studio, and we’re hoping to get more interest from the little guys,” Croke told us. Perhaps bribing your son with a shamrock shake afterward might get him in the door (we’re just sayin’). A one-hour weekly class is $65/ month. They have two big performance competitions a year – March and December – where all the kids (no matter what level) get together and perform on stage. Cue camera and tears.

Also, they offer an introductory class for grownups which is a fantastic workout (not to mention loads of fun).

Contact Information
Online: celticirishdanceacademy.com.
Locations are currently in La Canada Flintridge and North Hollywood, with a studio in the South Bay coming soon.  Check the website for details about class schedule by location.

-Lisa Finn

Do you have another Irish Dance Studio you like?  Let us know in the comment section!

photo credits: Celtic Dance Academy and Eoin Gardiner via Creative Commons