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From Riverdance to Barrie: How Irish dance has evolved


Not surprisingly, St. Patrick's Day is the busiest day of the year for Irish dancers.

Dancers from the Hamilton School of Irish Dance in Barrie spent hours preparing their routines to perform various shows around Simcoe County.

"It's the one day of the year that Irish dancing is very, very much appreciated by everybody, and they get to share it in a different way than typically we do at competitions," said Hamilton Irish Dance School instructor and owner Deirdre Hamilton.

Hamilton was formerly the lead in Riverdance before opening her school in Barrie and knows firsthand how much the sport has evolved.

"Real traditional Irish dancing was very different than what it looks like today. But it's evolved over time, and as athletes and performers get stronger, you know everyone is always pushing the boundaries of what can be done physically," Hamilton said.

Irish dance is no easy task.

Hamilton said many top dancers train with personal trainers and strength and conditioning coaches.

"We dance at least four times a week, and I understand how athletes they train four times a week in the gym or something like that. I don't think they understand the endurance that we have is just as similar as theirs," said Hamilton Irish dancer Alexandra Sinyanskiy.

There are two styles of Irish dance.

The first is soft shoe which is lively, with lots of jumps and high kicks with similarities to ballet.

The second style is called hard shoe, which is very strong and powerful, with lots of loud noise and is similar to tap dance.

The dancer's ages range from as young as five to adult. Hamilton says you don't have to be Irish to be an Irish dancer.

"It used to be, you know, people felt like they needed an Irish connection to be involved in Irish dance, but really these days, it's for anybody. Riverdance and Lord of the dance and all those great shows made it so visible to everybody," said Hamilton.

Next, the Hamilton Irish dancers are preparing for upcoming local competitions and the World and North American Irish dance Championships, where they will represent Canada. Top Stories

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