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Gettin’ jiggy with it

Local Irish dancers will perform to live music for St. Patrick's Day

Nissa Parker performs at an Irish dancing competition. She will perform Saturday night at the St. Patrick's Day celebration at the Steamboat Springs Mountain Theater.
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Irish dancing is a subculture that becomes a lifestyle, said Nora Parker, an Irish dancer, teacher and musician.

Although she is a classically trained ballerina, Parker adopted Irish dancing seven years ago to embark upon something more difficult and competitive.

“Transitioning to Irish dancing is like being an alpine skier and transitioning to telemark skiing,” she said. “You have so many extremely challenging aspects to look forward to in Irish dance, and your brain never switches off when doing solo steps.”



Parker and other local Irish dancers will exhibit this complicated style of dance Saturday night at the Steamboat Springs Mountain Theater to the music of Old School in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. People are encouraged to learn the ceili steps throughout the evening and no prior experience is necessary.

Musicians from Lowell Whiteman Primary School also will perform some Celtic songs.



It is tradition that Irish dancers always practice and perform to live music.

“You have to be able to handle it when the musicians bobble,” Parker said. “You can’t just stop dancing and stare over at them.”

Onlookers may be surprised if they have never seen the dancers in their traditional Irish garb.

“It is not Hollywood at all,” Parker said. “The first time you see an Irish dancer in full regalia, you’re not sure if it is pretty or ugly because it is so different than anything else around. And I’m not sure I always think it is pretty dancing either.”

An Irish dance dressmaker specifically makes the outfits and they start at $500. One of the most recognizable aspects of the costumes are the curly wigs or bun wigs the dancers wear.

“The dancers are evaluated like gymnasts, and they look for really good hopping – hopping with lots of altitude,” Parker said. “And the wig enhances the visual effect of the hopping.”

Irish dancing is something that also ascends all age groups.

“If I had pursued a career in classical ballet, it would be over by now but in Irish dancing, adults are just as welcome,” Parker said. “And it is a lifestyle that becomes you and is not something you can put down.”


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