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McTeggart Irish Dancers honor Irish culture all year

Time:2017-03-17 00:51Shoes websites Click:

Culture Year Irish Honor Dancers

St. Patrick's Day might celebrate the supposed anniversary of the death of a beloved saint. But it has sure turned into one raging party.

On March 17, everyone's Irish. The day Saint Patrick left the world (circa fifth century) has been transformed into a day that drips green — from top hats to glitter sunglasses, from knee-high socks to shamrock headbands and tutus in every shade of emerald. Even domestic beer is artificially colored — and the Chicago River is a dyed green.

While the Irish celebrate culture, the rest hop on board to enjoy the ride — a ride complete with parades, bagpipers, leprechauns and dance.

One staple of St. Patrick's Day culture is Irish step dancers.

Boulder's McTeggart Irish Dancers don't just celebrate on March 17. They train to honor Irish culture nearly every single day of the year. McTeggart, Boulder's only Irish dance studio — and the first one in Colorado — was founded in 1976 by Maureen McTeggart, who died on Feb. 16 at age 87. McTeggart's daughter, Anne Hall, director of the studio, is honoring her mother's legacy and heritage with unbridled determination — a skill she said her mother passed on to her through traditional Irish dance.

"Irish dancing, in particular, is an activity that promotes good habits, disciplines and values," Hall said. "These kids have to be very focused, they have to work hard. My mother always called it a self-disciplined art form. In other words, if you want to be good at something, you have to have the discipline and the determination to work at it yourself. You can have the best teacher in the world, but you really have to have the inner motivation."

Five dancers from Boulder’s McTeggart’s school of Irish Dance are headed to the world championship in Dublin in April. From left to right:

Five dancers from Boulder's McTeggart's school of Irish Dance are headed to the world championship in Dublin in April. From left to right: Taylor Mosakowski, 12, Audrey Zietz, 12, Evan Acker, 15, Nora Finnegan, 19, and Julie Radcliffe, 24. (Christy Fantz / Daily Camera)

And these dancers appear to have this drive. At the studio during practice Monday night, five dancers — who are headed to Dublin, Ireland, in April for the 2017 World Irish Dancing Championships — talked about the dedication to the trade.

"We spend our whole lives here," said Taylor Mosakowski, 12, who has been dancing for nearly five years.

It's the first time Mosakowski qualified to go to Dublin — along with Evan Acker, 15, who's been dancing for three years and is based out of McTeggart's Fort Collins studio, and Audrey Zietz, 12, who's been dancing for 7 years and is based out of the Denver studio.

But Julie Radcliffe, 24, who's been dancing for 20 years, and Nora Finnegan, 19, who's been dancing for 14 years, have been to the championship a few times, they said. The quintet, when professing their fondness for the pastime, cited discipline, competition, meeting new friends, escaping reality and showing off their skills.

"I love everything about it," Finnegan said. "Definitely the travelling and the lessons I've learned. It teaches you a really good work ethic, which I really like because it translates over to everybody else."

The dancers, who participated in Denver's St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday, aren't done yet. When March rolls around every year, dancers are booked all over the state. On Friday night, the McTeggart dancers will perform at Conor O'Neill's, 1922 13th St., Boulder, at 5 and 8 p.m. and at Mudrock's Tap & Tavern, 585 E. South Boulder Road, Louisville, at 7:30 p.m. They love being "crazy busy," they said, but by the end of the week, they're ready to relax.

Hall said the parades and festivities offer an opportunity for dancers to be appreciated in a non-competitive way.

"They get to be appreciated for all their hard work," Hall said. "It's pure performance, pure fun. They work very hard, but they take pride in putting on a good show that represents their school and their art form."

The eldest of the dancing crew, Radcliffe, said she's retiring from dance after Dublin's competition to attend nursing school. It's been a bit rough on her body after 20 years of dance, with three knee surgeries under her belt. But said she's never regretted it for a day.

Finnegan said that next month in Dublin will be bittersweet, as the dancers lost one of their mentors in McTeggart.

"This year is really special," Finnegan said. "We'll have a chance to honor the founder, which is really nice, because she gave us this all — she gave us everything. So we have a guardian angel with us this year."

Style of the dance

"Irish dancing has very rich cultural heritage," Hall said. "Step dancing goes back to well over 100 years."

The form, which has traditionally been done with no arm work, keeps the dancers steady, tall and erect in the upper body.

"The dance does require a strong core," Hall said. "The idea is to have a steady upper body so that the focus is on the footwork and the rhythm created through the steps."

Hall said other forms of dance may use the arms to create balance, but since all of the footwork is tightly positioned directly under the body, it's actually easier to keep steady up top.

Hairpieces highlight the rhythm of the footwork. Most top-level performers wear wigs with curly ringlets, while the beginner and intermediate dancers keep their natural style.

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