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Salem Irish dancers to compete for World Championships in Belfast

Posted by Susannah Blair  March 16, 2012 10:00 AM

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This St. Patrick’s Day, keep an eye out for some of the world’s best Irish dancers here on the North Shore. Dancers from the Bremer School of Irish Dance in Salem will be performing locally to celebrate the holiday and six Bremer students will head to the World Championships in Belfast, Ireland. 

Billy Petrocelli, 12, of Georgetown, has been dancing at the school, located on 87 Canal St., for seven years. Petrocelli has seen more of the world than most kids his age through his dance competitions, known as a feis (pronounced “fesh”) and he said Dublin is his favorite city he has visited so far. This year will be his third time competing at the World Championships (Worlds).

“I’m feeling excited mostly,” said Petrocelli. “It’s nerve-racking on the big stage, but it’s really fun. I like the sport and meeting people at the competitions.” 

Maggie Osbahr, 19, of Nahant, Siobhan O’Neill, 15 of Lynn, Meghan Phelan, 15, of Lynn, Micoletta and Julianna Bremer, 11 year old twins of Swampscott are all students of the Salem school returning to Worlds.

Irish dancers compete for a regional title, in this case New England, before proceeding to the World Championships. Over 5,000 qualifying dancers ranging from ages 5-22 travel from all over the globe to dance and win the title of the world’s best. The 2012 Championships will take place in Belfast, Ireland, beginning March 31 and ending April 8.

“This is an extremely busy time for us,” said Sheila Bremer of Swampscott, teacher and owner of the school for 13 years. “We have St. Patrick’s Day performances, some of my students are trying out for a dancing documentary in Brooklyn and Worlds at the end of the month.”

Irish dancers usually start lessons at age four or five, and if they want to compete, are required to practice a minimum of three times a week, one to two hours a day as they advance. Dances are performed in a set of “soft” and “hard” shoes. 

At each feis, dancers compete with their age group and are judged on their posture, timing, and intricacy of steps. Dances are set to traditional Irish music, choreographed with no arm movements and fast paced footsteps. Irish dancers are often recognized by elaborate costumes with curly hair and bright Celtic designed dresses. 

“We have to pick up our new matching ones [dresses] when we get to Ireland,” said Micoletta Bremer. “They’re bright orange and yellow, that shows a lot so we stand out.”

All dancers from The Bremer School will perform on the North Shore before they leave. On March 10 at 7:00pm they will host a fundraiser open to the public at Ganon Golf Course in Lynn to raise money for their travels. They may also make dance appearances at Salem’s Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) Club on St. Patrick’s Day, as well as local schools and nursing homes.
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“We usually go to a lot of restaurants and nursing homes,” said Ceire Rocco, 10, who has been for dancing for 6 years. “Two years ago we got to perform at the Celtics halftime show, but my favorite thing about dancing is just spending time with friends.”

According to Bremer, Irish dancing was popular because of heritage ties, but the interest surged during the Riverdance phenomena and now people participate for the love of the dance. 

Petrocelli agrees. He became interested in dancing after his grandmother took him to a Riverdance show and tried the same sports as other boys his age, but said nothing compares to dancing.

“Irish dancing is so athletic and artistic,” said Sheila Bremer. “The kids are dedicated dancers and if they excel at it, it carries over into the other areas of their lives.”

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