Here at The OrganWise Guys, we are always on the lookout for ways to get ourselves and our children to be more physically active while having FUN! One of the owners of The OrganWise Guys’ daughter, Shealyn McNamara, has a unique way to work up a sweat, have fun with friends and feel a sense of personal accomplishment by doing Irish Dancing! To share more about this wonderful form of dance, we sat down with one of her teachers, Jacquie Berger – a former World Champion Irish Dance competitor.
Jacquie: Irish Dance originated in Ireland many years ago as a means to entertain visitors to the country. This dance form can be performed solo or in groups. It differs from other dance forms in that you traditionally do not use your arms, they must stay down by your side during competitions. Show troupes have made Irish Dance become popular around the world because of Michael Flatley’s shows such as Lord of the Dance and Riverdance.
OWG: How did you get involved in teaching Irish Dance?
Jacquie: After dancing in the World Irish Dance Championships in 2006 in Belfast, Ireland, I decided to retire as a competitive dancer and teach full-time instead. This was a hard decision, but I knew that it was my time to give back. I find teaching to be more fulfilling because I get to see my students succeed and enjoy the sport. I got a taste of this when I helped assistant-teach classes when I was younger by going with my teacher to different class locations and helping other dancers. When I was a freshman in high school, I began to teach more often by assistant-teaching beginner and novice level dance classes; I continued throughout high school and college. I am currently teaching dance class to all levels at the Drake School of Irish Dance in Norcross, Georgia.
OWG: What are some of the ways you see Irish Dance having a positive impact on the lives of young women and men?
Jacquie: For one thing, it keeps them busy! It requires a lot of practice and self-discipline to learn the individual steps and then the routines. I’ve witnessed, both as a competitor and a teacher, how this sport inspires girls and boys to work hard and set goals to reach the Championship level. The dancers become friends with their classmates and they help each other to achieve their goals as well. Irish Dance show troupes give the dancers the opportunity to perform at many different venues and gain valuable professional experience.
OWG: What is the average age that most of your students begin and how long does it normally take to get to the level (Champion) you achieved in your competitive dancing days?
Jacquie: The average age to begin taking lessons is around seven years old, but I have taught dancers as young as three. Most dancers can take an average of 4 to 5 years to get to the Champion level, however, some students I have taught have moved up from beginner/advanced beginner to Champion level in 4 to 6 months.
OWG: In addition to St. Patrick’s Day events, where else might we be able to see your troupe in action?
Jacquie: You can see The Atlanta Irish Dance Troupe in action at Emory University for the Atlanta Celtic Christmas Concert each December and, throughout the year, the Troupe performs at different churches in the Atlanta area for parish picnics or events. The Troupe has also performed for political rallies, benefits, schools, and much more. Anyone interested in having AIDT perform at their function can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org