Irish step dancers keep the tradition alive

Maura Vandyke teaches Irish step dance.Maura Vandyke teaches Irish step dance.
Maura Vandyke teaches Irish step dance.

Maura Vandyke teaches Irish step dance.

BY Molly Congdon
Gazette Reporter
“In Dublin’s fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel-barrow,
Through the streets broad and narrow,
Crying, ‘Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

“Molly Malone”
Unofficial Dublin anthem

“Twas a wonderful craft, she was rigged fore-and-aft,
And oh, how the wild winds drove her.
She’s got several blasts, she’d 27 masts,
And we called her the Irish Rover.”

“The Irish Rover”
Irish folk song

St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland and legendary snake whisperer, has a lot of fans each March 17.

Every St. Pat’s Day, people wear shades of green from head to toe, rock shamrock-shaped sunglasses and enthusiastically slake their thirst with pints of green beer.

But not everyone celebrates this holiday by becoming completely inebriated. Some people go a more traditional route and do some Irish step dancing.

Maura Vandyke has been perfecting the art since 1986, when she was 4 years old. Her childhood was spent competing all over at traditional Gaelic arts and culture festivals. Her father, Patrick Hale Jr., has played a significant role in this aspect of her life; the two competed together in the Parent-Child Dance category, and won more than 50 contests.

Now she shares her expertise of Irish dance culture with her students at the Stars of Dance studio, located off of Route 146, with classes beginning every September. Her youngest pupil is 6 and the oldest is 17. Her father teaches the adult classes in Irish dancing.

On March 14, her girls showed off their jig capabilities at Powers Inn and Pub, at 130 Meyer Road. “We have a half-hour slot with five different dances taking place during that time, consisting of a reel, jig and slip jig, three of the four most common Irish step dances.”

The performers make it look so fluid and easy that spectators may want to try some of the moves. For those of you who witnessed some stellar Irish step dancing while celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, here are some tips to help you start tapping your feet:

Stay on your toes: As in most sports, it’s important to remain on the balls of your feet. “Your toes need to be pointed,” Vandyke said. “Your calf muscles are responsible for lifting your heel off the ground.”

Keep rhythm: If you lack this necessary skill, your movements will most likely not look very pretty. “It all goes back to the beat,” Hale said. “There’s the one, two, three; one, two, three, four; or one, two, three, four, five,” Vandyke said. “Even more modern music like Michael Jackson songs and Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’ ”

Smile: You can never go wrong by flashing your pearly whites to an audience, even if it’s just members of your family. “If you mess up, normally no one knows that except for you,” Vandyke said. “Just keep going.”