For Meghan Kelly of , Irish step dancing is in her blood. The 100 percent Irish Kelly, now business owner has been Irish step dancing since she was six years old, and sharing her love of the art through teaching since 2006. Now she has her own studio on Sandy Bottom Road in Coventry, where she is able to teach more students and spread fun amongst dancers of all ages.
Meghan, who began her dance training at the Goulding School of Irish Dance in Cranston, began teaching Irish step dancing as a part time job while in college after seeing a listing for a teacher at a local Irish club. When asked if she always knew she wanted to teach, she stated, “Not at all!” But one class soon became two, and before she knew it the gig “became bigger than a hobby or a part time job.”
She began renting space in various studios to hold her own classes as her brand grew, until two years ago when teaching and running the school blossomed into a full time job. opened its first independent studio in June 2011.
Kathleen Kelly, Meghan’s sister, joins her as the school’s main teacher. While the pair may not have always known they wanted to teach, they certainly have always been drawn to the art of Irish step dancing as part of their heritage. “We’re 100 percent Irish,” said Meghan, who has been to Ireland ten times to visit family.
“When we were little, I personally wanted to do ballet. I wanted to learn other forms of dance and our mom said, ‘No, you’re Irish, I’ll sign you up for Irish dance.’ It was actually our grandparents who signed us up. All four sides of our family are from Ireland, so it meant a lot to them for us to dance and as we got into it we both liked the idea of keeping the culture alive and feeling connected to that.”
Despite the Kelly's strong connection to their Irish heritage, they stress that one need not be Irish to enjoy Irish step dancing. “It’s really appealing to a wide range of kids,” Meghan explained. “We don’t get into shamrocks or stereotypical Irish things everywhere because we’re trying to make it more modern and show that it can appeal to more cultures and heritages and backgrounds.”
In fact, puts more of an emphasis on fun than other traditional Irish step dancing schools. While the school does participate in traditional competitions, they also perform at community events and are less strict than other schools to ensure that students not only learn the art of Irish step dancing, but also enjoy doing it.
“We have an emphasis on fun,” said Megan. “There are four schools in the state, so why try and separate ourselves? We are not as rigid as other schools. A lot of schools wear big wigs and fancy dresses and we try and take it down to just the dancing and performing. I want all the kids to become good dancers, but I want them to have fun while doing it.”
Fellow teacher and dancer Erika Damiani agrees with the school’s emphasis on fun, stating, “Here’s it’s not forced upon you; of you want to do better you will. Being here has rekindled my love for Irish dance.”
does have a group of dancers they call the Performance Troupe that competes at competition; however, any dancer at the studio is encouraged to and welcome to compete. “It’s the little ones that often steal the show,” said Meghan.
This weekend 27 dancers will be attending the North American Irish Dance Federation Nationals in Philadelphia. The school’s colors are pink and green (they even have a pink studio and a green studio) and call themselves Team Pink and Green. Kathleen explained that the students have a strong sense of camaraderie, stating, “The team spirit is ridiculous.”
The school serves not only younger dancers, but also older ones as well with the studio’s age range spanning from two-year-olds to grandparents. Kathleen understands adult's reluctance to try Irish step dancing, but encourages them to attend at least one class, the first of which is free for students of any age.
“It’s definitely rigorous dancing,” she admitted. “There’s a lot of jumping and I think the adults who do come and try it out notice after the first class it’s a workout…I think sometimes adults shy away because they’re nervous they won’t be able to keep up, but once they take a class they realize we start out with the basics and build them up to where their ability is. Once they realize they can do it, they love it.”
No matter what group you may fall into, the Kellys encourage everyone to attend their Open House for Fall registration on August 21 from 2-6. The event will include meet-the-teacher sessions and demo classes to educate all potential students on the workings of the school and the fun they could have as students.
If you are looking to have fun and learn a new art form, may be the place for you or your child. “We really, truly just want to have fun,” said Meghan. “We really encourage the students to laugh a lot and love Irish dance. We care about it so much, and we hope it reflects to the students.”
To learn more about the school check out their website at www.thekellyschoolofirishdance.com.