Despite cancellations, local Irish dance schools keep St. Patrick’s Day spirit alive

St. Patrick's Day

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Local Irish dance schools aren’t letting postponed parades stop them from celebrating the Irish season. 

Despite cancelations, the dancers are still practicing in the studio for their next competition.

The Irish dancers in the Coastal Empire are some of the most talented and award-winning in the southern region. NOW reporter Claire Going spoke with The Irish Dancers of Savannah and The Legacy Irish Dance Academy in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day before the global pandemic was declared. Learn more below.

The Irish Dancers of Savannah, which was the first school dedicated to Irish dancing in our area, has been working to promote and preserve Irish culture through dance since 1989.

With a school of just 25 dancers, girls as young as 3 years old practice all year round for the area’s Irish season. 

Irish Dancers of Savannah Director Maggie Sikes says despite the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day events being postponed, the school is eager to dance at other celebrations. 

“We’re very excited,” Irish Dancer of Savannah Director Maggie Sikes said. “I’m feeling a little bit like I’m a chicken with my head cut off this week but we’re really excited because next week is like the peak of everything and we’re really excited just to come together as a community and celebrate our Irish history and to be with family and friends and everything.”

The Legacy Irish Dance Academy also participates in local St. Patrick’s Day festivities, but that’s just a small fraction of their year-round dedication to the sport. They have locations in Charleston, Jacksonville, and Savannah and send dancers to the World Championships each year.

“The girls dance year-round for competitions, so we’re constantly in the studio getting ready for the next competition or just keeping our skills fresh for St. Patrick’s Day and all the shows,” Irish dance instructor Brianne Sigman said. 

Sigman says it’s more of a competitive sport than some may think.

“I would say even more so in the last five or six years it’s gotten even more competitive where the top of the top dancers have personal trainers and some kids have decided to be homeschooled and do this full time so they can really focus on it, so it’s gotten really competitive,” Sigman said. “But the World Championships, I would put it at the same tier as Olympic training.”

Two of the school’s top dancers, who have been dancing with Legacy for 15 years, say they’ve sacrificed a lot for Irish dance— including going to practice four to five days a week. 

“We’ve missed a lot of high school things,” Open Champion Irish dancer Anna Kate Clemmons said. “High school dances, going out with friends. But I enjoy giving that up just for this.”

They say they love the sport because it gives them the opportunity to travel to Ireland for competitions, which brings them closer to their background and its traditions. 

“It was cool when we went there for Worlds we went to each place and I saw where each part of my name came from and it really connected me with my heritage,” Open Champion Irish dancer Tara Saga Ennis said.

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