Life can be a bit dull these days. After all, staying home day after day is rather monotonous. Is there a young person in your life that could use something new and exciting? A new hobby perhaps, something entertaining and active? Have they considered taking dance lessons?
With many team sports currently on hold, dance is a great non-contact way to get kids out of the house and keep them active during these less than ideal times. O’Shea Irish Dance in St. Paul continues to offer classes with in-person, online, and hybrid options. Their classes take place year-round and registrations are accepted on an ongoing basis.
But why Irish stepdance? It’s not just about dancing. Co-founder and dance instructor Natalie O’Shea gave me the inside scoop: “Training in stepdance is not just to ‘be’ an Irish dancer – it is to develop form, strength, character and discipline. Soccer coaches love Irish dancer feet because they develop such speed and agility.” And the benefits go beyond physical fitness. “Learning stepdance has been scientifically proven to prevent Alzheimer’s, similar to learning a new language. Whether or not you excel at the highest levels of competition, Irish dancers succeed in healthy bodies and sharp minds,” she told me.
Classes are available for even the smallest dancers. Preschool sessions are for kids ages three to five, where they’ll learn to enjoy dancing (and the importance of working together) through play and games. Beginner lessons start at ages five to eight, where kids start connecting to Irish music and learning the basic steps. Of course, there are also classes for older kids – as well as adults with limited experience – to learn jigs and reels. The studios themselves were especially built for dance with sprung floors to absorb impact, because it really is important to be kind to your joints.
A family-run school established in 2005, O’Shea Irish Dance trains students for fun and fitness as well as for serious competition. The school has coached dancers for dozens of regional and national championship titles, and trains students to be part of two annual touring stage shows. They clearly know their stuff. Co-founder, dance instructor and Dublin native Cormac O’Sé was a member of the original Riverdance cast! He can be seen in the ’90s favorite Riverdance: The Show and four other film productions. This is world-class level instruction, available right here in Minnesota.
Located within the Celtic Junction Arts Center, O’Shea Irish Dance is at the heart of the historic Irish community in St. Paul. Prior to the pandemic, O’Shea Irish Dance worked to bring Irish culture into schools and rural areas to keep traditional dance and music alive throughout Minnesota. The school also offers its own tight-knit community, a family of sorts. As Natalie told me, “Dancers and their families develop bonds that outlast changes in their lives. Many go on to take music classes together, compete in majors, perform in shows together, and celebrate their lives into their adulthood with one another. Parents become best friends. We celebrate living life deeply, in a heartfelt community with each other.”
Music and dance are a great way to bring people together and raise spirits during tough times. As such, we may need dance now more than ever before. But is it for you? Natalie O’Shea had these parting words: “It is about skill and athleticism, and it’s an incredible art that transcends culture, gender and age. Just like you don’t have to be Italian to eat pasta, you don’t have to be Irish to stepdance. Anyone can do it!”
Please visit osheairishdance.com for more information and class schedules.
By Liz Walker