SaltWire E-Edition

Joy embraced through the power of dance

Tír na nÓg is in fine form for special St. Patrick’s Day event


Tír na nÓg, or the Land of the Young, is a mythical enchanted island, located somewhere off the west coast of Ireland. It’s a place without illness or unhappiness, where everyone remains eternally young and beautiful.

Besides living on an enchanted island, another way to stay eternally young is through dance. From preschoolers to adults, participants of all ages are discovering the joy of Irish dance at Tír na nÓg Irish Dance Academy in Kentville.

“When you dance you feel young and anybody can do that,” Niamh Webster, owner of Tír na nÓg, says with a laugh. “I feel like I’m 22. But I’m not.”

Although springing forth from similar Celtic roots, Irish dancing and Highland dancing are quite distinctive dance styles, she adds.

“Irish dancers don’t use their arms, while Highland dancers do,” Webster explains. “Irish dancers cross their feet and hide their knees, so it’s more like step dancing.”

It was the phenomenal success of Riverdance almost three decades ago that ignited an explosion of interest in Irish dance, Webster points out.

“I remember going to dance competitions where there were 300 people signed up and then a year after Riverdance the same competition had to cap it at 800 competitors.”

Students at Tír na nÓg come from as far away as Windsor and Annapolis

Royal and all feel safe and supported in a positive environment, Webster says. Through teamwork and small class sizes, students build confidence and earn personal progression.

“Our students are engaged right from the beginning,” she says. “Even from the first day of class they will leave knowing a few steps.”

Classes are available for preschoolers (ages three to five), beginners (ages five to seven) and for ages eight and above.

Webster began teaching Irish dance while still a teenager in Elora, Ont., and after travelling to Ireland and passing the exam to become a teacher, opened her own studio in 2000.

“I passed the exam the first time, which is rare,” Webster points out. “I was actually the youngest teacher in North America at the time.”

The studio was relocated to its current location in Kentville when the family moved to Nova Scotia in 2009.

With a non-slip sprung floor, modest costumes and no explicit lyrics in the music, students at Tír na nÓg feel safe and free to become the best dancers they can be.

“We are here to nurture the students every step of the way,” Webster says. “They will count the days each week until class time comes around again.”

It will come as no surprise that there is always an air of excitement at the academy around St. Patrick’s Day. This year will feature the seventh annual Little Leprechauns, an event for children ages three to six, on March 17.

“We started this as a way for children to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day without having to be in a bar,” Webster says.

Then that evening Tír na nÓg will also present the Family Ceilidh Dance at the Louis Millet Centre from 6 to 9 p.m.





SaltWire Network