The award-winning Acadamh Rince Irish dance studio is slated to open in Murray this May.
Acadamh Rince, which won the 2015 Hibernian Society award for the best certified Irish dance school in Utah, offers recreational and competitive dance classes from age three through adult and has had several dancers compete in the western regionals, nationals and even at world championships.
“I love Murray and the community events that are held, from the children’s series in the park to the 4th of July parade,” said Acadamh Rince owner and instructor Amy Stanfield, who has been teaching Irish dance in Sandy since 2004. “There’s a strong dance community here with a lot of talent, but this will be the first Irish dance studio in Murray. We will have small, intimate classes so students can be given individual attention and will know how they can improve their dancing. We want to give equal time to each dancer, whether it’s the beginning recreational student, or a student who competes in beginning levels to champions, so they all can learn how to be better.”
Stanfield said many people confuse Irish dance with clogging. Although it is related, and a variation has become popular with “Riverdance,” Irish dance has traditional dance forms originating in Ireland, and generally is characterized by a controlled upper body, straight arms and back and precise steps with the feet. Dancers wear soft leather shoes, or ghillies, as well as hard shoes that are made of black leather with fiberglass heels; dances are performed in teams or solo.
“It’s a lot of fun, but requires upper body control, and like ballet, there are specific steps, which are technical and rigid,” Stanfield said. “Irish dance is infectious. Once students start, they just get hooked and can’t stop because it becomes part of them. It is just so much fun.”
Stanfield started Irish dancing at age eight along with her sisters and brother.
“My mom was a dancer, but didn’t want us to grow up in a strict dance environment, so she found Irish dancing and thought it was more athletic, which fit our family since we were into sports. A lot of the school’s dancers participate in sports and Irish dance does help with footwork in soccer or jumping in basketball, and as athletes, they are stronger and have better endurance,” she said.
In addition to competitions, Acadamh Rince dancers perform at many community events. For example, in March, they were part of the St. Patrick’s Day parade and danced afterward. They performed “An Irish Evening” at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center and plan to take part in Murray’s Fourth of July parade and talent show, as well as the children’s series in Murray Park. In the winter, the group takes the stage at the Festival of Trees in Sandy.
“We want to give back to the community. It gives our students a chance to perform their talent and be a part of the community. Students can do as much or little as they want or are able to. It’s up to them. Irish dance is for anyone. There’s no restrictions to a body type, age, sex or anything, and it’s just fun whether students dance for recreation or competition,” Stanfield said.
Acadamh Rince champion dancer Moira Turner practices her leaps during rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Amy Stanfield