Irish Spring

By on April 17, 2019

Local dancers leap into action this week at World Championship of Irish Dance

You don’t have to be Irish to be a dancer at Hooley School of Irish Dance.

What you do need is lots of energy and a love of the lively rhythms of the reels and jigs of Irish dancing.

Crystal Glick Carper, founder of Hooley School of Irish Dance in Brownstown, admits that her own heritage is mostly Pennsylvania German. She does have at least one Irish ancestor, her great great grandmother Katherine Hooley.

“When we decided to name the school, we needed an Irish name, and so we named it after my great great grandma,” says Carper.

For Carper, her fondness for Irish dance began when she was just 10 and watched “Riverdance” on television. From then on, she was smitten. She begged her parents for lessons, which wasn’t easy. The closest school was in Delaware.

Now in her 30s, Carper always dreamed of having her own school of Irish dance. Dooley School of Irish Dance was started in 2009 by the Rothsville native. Back then, she opened her school in Neffsville, then relocated to rented space in Akron.

In 2016, Carper and her husband Matt opened the current building in Brownstown, on a site where the one-time Brownstown Restaurant used to be located. The new building allowed Carper to double space and offer classes to more than 160 students, ranging in age from 2 to 50-plus years old.

Marking the 10th anniversary of Hooley School of Irish Dance, Carper and 12 of her students are competing in the World Championship of Irish Dance, being held in Greensboro, N.C. from April 14 to 20.

“This is one of the first times the championships are being held in the U.S.,” says Carper, adding that her students have competed in Ireland and many other international locales over the years.
The competing dance students are competing with more than 4,000 competitors who have qualified at their regional championships. Competitors come from Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Great Britain, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States.

For the students who are competing in the championships, it is a moment to shine on stage, doing what they love. In recent years, the team has won numerous medals and trophies. They are hoping for the luck o’ the Irish to be with them again this year.

“I have taken ballet and tap,” says 11-year-old Emily Stauffer. “I saw an ad in the paper for Irish dance and decided I wanted to try it. I love the music and the steps are so different. I have been doing Irish dance for four years and it is so much fun, even though it’s hard work.”

Avery Winters, 10, agrees. She has been dancing at Hooley School of Irish Dance for five years. She loves dancing with her friends, and the good feeling she gets from dancing.

Hooley School of Irish Dance students have competed in Ireland and many other international locales over the years before attending their first world championship competition in the U.S. this week. Photo courtesy of Fly Away Home Photography.

“The music makes me happy,” she says.

David Irwin, 14, is one of the few boys at the school. He is a star soccer player and a member of his school track team. He reports that Irish dance takes as much energy as sports and he enjoys the competition. He first got interested in Irish dance when his sister took classes.

Crystal Carper explains that Irish dance is more than just dance. It is indeed a sport, with very specific rules of competition. The team from Hooley School of Irish Dance consists of 14 students. There are 10 on the group team, with six soloists. Two of them are soloists and on the group team.

The average dance takes about a minute, which is a very high energy dance. Dancing for as much as two minutes is extremely difficult.

Unlike many other forms of dance, Irish dancers hold their hands down and to their sides. It’s all about the footwork. There are two types of Irish dance. One is the soft shoe dance, where dancers seem to float on air as they jump and leap. Hard shoe resembles tap dance, with lots of clicking and heavier steps that make lots of noise.

The music is mainly a series of reels and jigs, often done to traditional Irish fiddle music. Steps are quick, with constant motion that can look downright exhausting to observers.
That’s part of what first appealed to Carper when she was a child. Once she became enchanted with Irish dance, she practiced constantly to the Riverdance video, watching it as many as 250 times.

By the time she was a teenager, she was able to take classes at an Irish dance school in Harrisburg.

The average dance takes about a minute, which is a very high energy performance. Dancing for as much as two minutes is extremely difficult.

Before she opened her Hooley School of Irish Dance, Carper was certified as an Irish dance certified teacher by Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, passing the rigorous TCRG exam in 2008. Her sister Angelina Press became a certified TCRG teacher in 2015. Carper is also certified to be judge, passing her ADCRG exams on her first attempt. ADCRG is short for the Gaelic term Ard Diploma Coimisiuin le Rinci Gaelacha.

“Ever since I was 10, this is what I wanted to do,” says Carper, adding that the students perform at events like Taste of Lititz, at local retirement homes, summer camps, day care centers and at St.

Patrick’s Day celebrations at Annie Bailey’s and Tellus 360.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Hooley School of Irish Dance, a performance is being planned at Warwick High School on June 1 at 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students and free for under 8. For information, check www.hooleyirishdance.com.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the pages of the Record Express. She welcomes feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com. 

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