In the lush lands of Ireland, the art of Irish step dancing is considered to be an art steeped in years and a gesture to ancient Celtic traditions. In the Applicachian hillsides of Athens County however, Irish step dancing is a mysterious art of sorts, despite the heavy settlement of Irish and Scottish immigrants in Ohio.
At the Ohio Valley School of Celtic Dance and Culture (OVSCDC), Irish step dancing is taught to encourage growth, confidence and knowledge in the history and cultural impact of dancing.
“Our primary mission is to support confidence and self-esteem in our dancers through the art of Irish dance,” Jessica Fletcher, curriculum director of OVSCDC, said in an email. “We accomplish this by focusing on healthy execution of Irish dance steps, building strength, body positivity, within an inclusive, non-discriminatory space. All of our instructors are also dancers, who are motivated to share their love of Irish dance with future generations.”
If you go:
What: Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day celebration
Where: Little Fish Brewing Company, 8675 Armitage Rd.
When: Sunday, 3 p.m.
Little Fish Brewing Company, 8675 Armitage Rd., will be hosting the nonprofit in addition to providing food and refreshments. Little Fish will be donating a dollar for every beer sold during the celebration.
“It is not everyday that you have the opportunity to learn some Irish dance steps from the well-trained dancers and teachers of the OVSCDC,” Little Fish taproom manager Beau Nishimura said. “The owners and a lot of our staff are from Athens and we love to connect ourselves as much as we can with the Athens Community.”
OVSCDC oftentimes performs in Athens and surrounding towns to spread the word of the school and the simple joys brought about by dancing. In addition to various businesses on St. Patrick's Day and the homecoming parade, nursing homes, opera houses and local schools all host OVSCDC’s various dance troupes in order to promote and support the nonprofit. Workshops and collaborations with other Irish dance groups also help to elevate recognition for local dancers, which currently boasts 60 dancers ranging from three to 60 years old, Fletcher said.
While OVSCDC works hard to enlighten and make themselves known in Athens, they work twice as hard with their dancers, pushing them to build confidence and strength through dance.
“(Irish) dance allows kids to have a creative outlet to express themselves as individuals,” Megan Starkey, creative director and dance instructor, said. “Giving them the confidence to dance in front of their peers in class, an audience or a judge if they decide to compete. It is truly amazing to see our young dancers light up while they begin a performance and how proud of themselves they feel once they leave the stage.”
Starkey has been dancing with Ohio Valley School of Celtic Dance and Culture for 10 years and currently teaches four classes at the school alongside other instructors.
With the halfway to St. Patrick's Day celebration right around the corner, OVCDC has plenty of work to do but remain excited to exhibit their dancers and beautiful choreography on Sunday.
“Our primary mission is to support confidence and self-esteem in our dancers through the art of Irish dance,” Fletcher said. “We love sharing and teaching traditional Irish dance with the community.”