Emma Wiggle is inspiring a new generation of Irish dancers
Dancers of all ages will perform as part of St Patrick’s Day festivities in Canberra. (ABC Radio Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
It wouldn’t be St Patrick’s Day without the sound of a traditional Irish jig, shamrock green dresses, towering hair and feet tapping in unison.
Irish dancers of all ages from McGrath Irish Dancing school will feature as part of the festivities across Canberra on Friday.
The dance school is one of five in the city, training kids as young as three and four in the high-energy pursuit.
While many of the young dancers have Irish heritage, dance school director Leanne McGrath said there had been a new kind of resurgence in the sport.
“Since last year, Emma the Wiggle has been doing Irish dancing on the Wiggles,” she said.
“A lot of beginners watch the Wiggles and so a lot of the intake in the last couple of years has been because of that — it’s been awesome for the sport.
“Also if you go and see Riverdance and you have a child with you, they’re going to want to start Irish dancing no matter what.”
Ms McGrath said aside from the big hair and jewel-clad costumes, the students were attracted by the fast pace of the dance style.
“The fitness that these kids have is unbelievable,” she said.
“The material that even my six and seven-year-old class are learning is really technical.
“The standard is quite high now and I can expect a lot from these dancers.
“As well as the little ones, we’ve got dancers who are training to compete on the world stage.”
Irish dancer Aine Fitzpatrick, 19, prepares for St Patrick’s Day in Canberra. (ABC Radio Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
Aine Fitzpatrick has been training up to six times each week in preparation for the world championships in Dublin in April.
The 19-year-old ANU student said she was first attracted to the sport while living in its heartland.
“I started when I was really young living in Ireland but gave it up when I moved to Australia, thinking there were so many other things I could do,” she said.
“When I moved to Canberra about five years ago I was so inspired when I met Leanne and have kept going ever since.”
Starting from 7:30am on Friday, Ms Fitzpatrick and the troupe will be performing at the Irish Club in Weston, at various nursing homes across the city, and then busking around Woden.
“Then in the afternoon we’ll be back to the Irish Club,” she said.
“After we perform on St Patrick’s Day there are always tonnes of people asking where we have classes and what kind of ages can do it.”
Jayden, 11, and Imogen, 9, took up dancing after being inspired by a performance at the National Folk Festival. (ABC Radio Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)
A family sport
Siblings Jayden and Imogen started Irish dancing after seeing a live performance at the National Folk Festival in Canberra two years ago.
“The dancers looked like they were having so much fun and they looked really fit,” Jayden said.
“Dancing helps us to be strong for the other sports we play because we both play rugby too.”
“It’s great doing a sport together, because we can help each other out when we need it,” Imogen said.
“If one of us has had to miss a lesson, then the other one can teach us anything new we might have missed out on.
“It means we never fall behind and we’re always at the same stage.”
Dancers from McGrath Irish Dance school practising ahead of St Patrick’s Day in Canberra. (ABC Radio Canberra: Hannah Walmsley)