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Dancers jig their way to Times Square

Two Okotoks dancers have been keeping in time in Times Square.

Two Okotoks dancers have been keeping in time in Times Square.

Possak Bhriomhar Academy of Irish Dance students Emma Berarducci and Bree Mullaghan were among 80 high-level dancers from around the world selected to perform with the nine-day Irish production studio2stage at Kean University in New Jersey from July 24 to Aug. 2.

The teens spent long days learning dance routines before performing at the university’s theatre and Times Square in New York.

“Not many people get to say they danced in Times Square,” said Berarducci the day after returning home. “It was amazing just looking around and seeing everybody. The experience has definitely make me consider professional dancing more.”

Ali Hampshire, the academy’s artistic director and instructor, said she encouraged both girls to audition for the opportunity to get a taste of what professional Irish dancing is all about.

“They are both exceptionally talented dancers and very strong competitors,” she said. “They are born performers. You can’t take your eyes off of them when they’re on stage.”

Hampshire said those selected have to be a minimum of 15 years old, and with most of the academy’s dancers being young it was the first opportunity she had to encourage her students to audition.

She said western Canada was well represented with dancers from Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, and she was glad two of her own dancers had the chance to be a part of it.

“It demonstrates that they’ve worked hard and that they learned to not just be good technical dancers but good performers as well because both are so important in Irish dance,” she said. “If they want to audition for a troupe like Riverdance this has given them a really valuable experience to help them forward their career.”

Berarducci, who has been dancing with the academy for seven years and assists Hampshire with teaching, found the experience challenging.

“It was very difficult with long hours – sometimes 10-hour days,” she said. “The first six days was constant dancing. You would get up and have breakfast, then dance for a couple of hours and then eat lunch and dance for a couple of hours and then dinner and dance for a couple of hours and then go to sleep.”

The experience taught Berarducci to be more dramatic in her movements.

“I’m used to keeping my hands at my side but we learned to use our whole body and interact with the other dancers on the stage. I can bring more personality to my dancing now.”

Mullaghan, who has been dancing with Possak Bhriomhar Academy of Irish Dance for 11 years, said she was excited when she learned she was selected to join studio2stage.

“There were hundreds that auditioned and they only take 80,” she said. “It was a professional show opportunity.”

Upon arriving in New Jersey with Berarducci and the other 78 dancers, Mullaghan had no idea what the nine days ahead held.

“Both of us went into it not knowing how much we were going to dance every day,” she said. “The second day was 11 hours of dancing. I was getting shin-splints halfway through the week.”

Jigging and reeling at Times Square last week made up for the hard work and sore shins.

“It was really cool to be dancing in the middle of Times Square with people watching,” she said. “New York has such a cool energy to dance in that with the lights and big city kind of feel it was pretty cool.”

For more information on studio2stage go to

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

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