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“You’re making music with your feet,” the art of Irish dancing

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Big curly hair, ornate handmade dresses and black leather hard shoes: the outfit of a traditional Irish dancer, originating in Ireland centuries ago. 

"What they would wear would be their Sunday best – their best dress – their best trousers. They would have fancy curls in and that just kinda progressed," Tréa Champagne said. 

Champagne has been Irish dancing since she was a young girl, and now, she is the director and instructor at Champagne Academy of Irish Dance in North Liberty. 

Irish dancing has been around for hundreds of years. It’s a folk dance done to celebrate Irish culture through powerful and graceful movement. 

"While it is dancing, you’re making music with your feet," Champagne said.  

This deliberate footwork can be performed to traditional Irish music, or to more contemporary pieces. 

"All our turn outs and our crossovers – everything is very tight and directly under your torso," Champagne said. "And, of course, the arms are very straight down at your sides."

Dancers can perform solo or in groups, but the purpose remains the same.

"It’s important that people understand that it’s a folk tradition that is very beautiful. I hope that other people are inspired to learn about Irish dance – about the Irish music – so it does keep going," she said. 

Sharing a piece of Irish culture with audiences can be rewarding for the dancers. 

"I always think it’s really kind of fun, especially when you choreograph something that you know the crowd is just gonna go wild," she said. "They’re going to go, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s amazing,’ and it feels really good." 

For Irish dance teachers like Champagne, it’s important to keep the Irish tradition alive – in her own family – and in the hearts of young dancers. 

"It’s something that I find is so endearing and so amazing and beautiful, that I would hate for it to get lost," Champagne said. 

You can click here to find more information about the Academy’s upcoming performances and lessons. 

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