Surrey, B.C.-based dance studio sends Irish dancers to World Championships

Surrey, B.C.-based dance studio sends Irish dancers to World Championships

A troupe of young dancers from an Irish dance studio in Surrey, BC travel to Montreal for the World Irish Dancing Championships later this year.

Steel School of Irish Dancewhich runs dance classes in South Surrey and White Rock, is sending nine students to compete after qualifying through Canada’s national competition.

According to a statement from Tourisme Montréal, more than 6,000 participants will take part in the championships. The event normally takes place in Ireland and the UK

“It’s like the Irish dancing Olympics,” said Megan Largy, a dance teacher at Steel School.

“Some of these dancers have been dancing since they were three, four years old, and they’re in the studio several days a week.”

Brianna Kraft, centre, is the oldest dancer from the Surrey studio to leave for the World Championships. To her left is Instructor Megan Largy. (Submitted by Erin Lylyk)

The dancers who qualified ranged in age from 10 years old to the oldest, Brianna Kraft, who is 22 years old.

“When I found out I qualified, I was just thrilled,” Kraft told CBC News.

“I’ve had a lot of injuries over the past few years and it was a bit uncertain if I could continue to compete or dance at all.”

The World Championships will take place from April 2nd to 9th at the Montreal Convention Centre.

Multiple dance styles

Irish dance is a form of traditional dance popularized through theatrical productions such as river dance.

“Irish dance is very energetic, it’s very cardiovascular,” said Largy. “It’s so energetic and so challenging, but so much fun.”

The instructor says Riverdance indirectly helped boost her career – her grandfather saw the production and told Largy’s mother about it, which led to her joining the Steel School, founded in 1981.

“It was there that I started my dance career and fell in love with Irish dance and fell in love with the dance school and the community,” she said.

Largy says there are many styles of dancing, but there are two major differences – softshoe and hardshoe dancing.

Dancing with soft shoes is more balletic and “bouncy” according to Largy, while dancing with hard shoes is more rhythmic and similar to tap dancing.

“When you see softshoe dancing, you’re going to see more of the artistic side of the dancers,” she said.

A young girl in a blonde wig holds up a trophy while wearing a sash and elaborate costume.
London Hardychuk, 10, is one of the youngest dancers from the studio taking part in April. She has been dancing since she was a preschooler. (Submitted by Erin Lylyk)

At the World Championships, Steel will host a group performance of softshoe dancing with the youngest dancers. One of them is 10-year-old Londoner Hardychuk.

“I’m looking forward to dancing on the big stage and getting in front of everyone and just doing it with my friends,” she said.

pomp and costume

Irish dancing, especially at grand performances, involves the use of elaborate costumes and wigs.

Kraft says she’s been used to donning the huge wigs since she was six years old.

“It comes naturally to me now,” she said. “You go to a competition, then you go to the supermarket and everyone stares at you and that’s normal.”

On the coast6:38The Steel School of Irish Dance is preparing for the World Championships

CBC’s Jennifer Wilson met dancers and their supporters at the Steel School of Irish Dance in Surrey as they prepare to compete with the world’s best this April.

The 22-year-old says the costumes have to be bespoke for individual dancers, often from Ireland.

“There is no age limit for competition in Irish dancing. If my body could handle it, I could compete until I was 100,” she said.

“But I’ll probably retire from competition soon and then I’ll probably get my teaching certificate.

“Irish dancing will always be part of my life.”

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