While there are many ways to serve your community, the owners and dancers at Claddagh Irish Dance School in Park Hills choose to give a little something back to the Parkland through dance.
Located in Park Hills, the school is the only Irish dance school in the area and has students of many different ages — mostly female, but not exclusively — and offers its students, not only an opportunity to learn a unique style of dance, but the chance to make a difference in people’s lives as well.
“We’ve been dancing at nursing homes pretty much since we opened, so that’s almost four years now,” said Director of Dance Marianne Politte, who co-owns the school with her husband Charles. “We try to go once a month to a different nursing home. It’s just something we like to do for the community. It kind of goes along with what I teach the kids — that this dance is not about being a superstar, it’s about your audience. So we share our dance with all different types of audiences to bring them joy. We like to share the tradition of it, and the beauty of it and the uniqueness of it and hopefully make people happy.”
With lots of events occurring in the spring and summer months, nursing home visits are generally scheduled from September into April.
“We’ll start back up on the nursing home schedule in September, unless someone else calls,” Marianne said, adding that the performances are voluntary for the students.
“We try to set up a regular day — the first Friday of every month there’s a nursing home show,” she said. “There’s no stress involved. They do the dances they know so far … And we’ve tried to cover every one in the area.”
For their last performance of the season, which took place earlier this month, several dancers, along with Marianne, visited the Farmington Manor assisted living facility located south of Farmington on U.S. 67. They had danced there before and were welcomed back with smiles from residents and staff, some of whom were eager to thank the dancers personally after a performance of several numbers.
Irish dance has been described by some as “feet of fire, arms and hands of ice,” because the dancers’ feet move quickly, almost as if they are on fire, while their arms and hands are usually kept at their sides.
As director of the school, Marianne began her life of dancing with ballet when she was only 7 years old. She began to learn Irish dance when she was 13 while living in her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. She became an accomplished student at the Tighe School of Irish Dance and a founding member of Friends of Ireland Dancers. She has trained with eight-time Irish Dance World Champion John Carey and has performed in many shows, festivals and parades, in the United States as well as internationally.
The school offers classes on weekday nights for people ages four to adult, for beginners as well as more advanced dancers. Although located in Park Hills, Marianne said most of her students come from outside the town.
“We have kids coming from the surrounding areas, including Farmington, but as far away as De Soto and Potosi,” said Marianne. “We are the only Irish dance school in southeast Missouri.”
Claddagh dancers have also performed at area elementary schools and various community events, including the Polittes’ own Parkland Celtic Festival, which is coming up on its third year this September. Having outgrown the downtown Park Hills area, this year’s festival will be taking place at the Park Hills Sports Complex.
The dance school has just moved to a new location at 514-B E. Main St. in Park Hills, just up the street from their former location.
“We needed more space, which is a good thing,” said Marianne. “It’s about four times bigger than where we were and we have a large dance floor as well as two smaller classrooms.”
An official ribbon cutting is taking place Friday at 2 p.m., followed by an open house until 6:15 p.m. that will include refreshments, dance demonstrations, sign-up specials for new students and more.
For more information about the school or to sign up for dance classes, call 573-330-4543, send an email to email@example.com, visit www.irishdanceparkland.com or look for Claddagh Irish Dance on Facebook.
Amy Patterson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3616 or firstname.lastname@example.org.