Students gain confidence with each step

Erin Zagursky
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***The world may have Riverdance’s Michael Flatley, but the KMC has Mary Sweeney.
And her Irish dance classes have both adults and children here doing a lot more than tapping their toes.

Ms. Sweeney started Irish dance at the age of 4 and has been involved in it for the past 29 years, even winning the World Championship with her teammates in Céili dancing.

She started offering classes in the KMC seven years ago, and currently teaches approximately 130 children and adults at all skill levels.

The class costs vary depending on the class and length, but usually range between $5 and 9.
Though Ms. Sweeney accepts students at all skill levels, she expects a certain level of dedication from each.

“I expect them to listen in class and to practice at home,” she said. “I hope I can also impart in my teaching a love of Irish dance and contribute toward their development not just in dance.
“My classes and methods of teaching are extremely popular with both children and adults alike. I emphasize proper technique, but at the same time I make it fun and exciting. The school is in a state of constant growth, and I welcome each new person with enthusiasm.”

Wendy Nail’s two daughters, Katherine and Olivia, started taking lessons in 2002. “The oldest was dragged kicking and screaming, but now it’s her passion,” said Ms. Nail.

Lisa Flaugher has seen her four girls gain self-confidence since they began the classes.
“They’ve learned how to walk better and how to carry themselves better, and they’ve made a lot of new friends,” she said.

Her daughters – Sydney, Kyle, Alex and Quinn – enjoy dancing so much that they do it every chance they get.

“I have to tell them, ‘No dancing in the commissary,’ or ‘No dancing upstairs with hard shoes on,’” she said.

***image2***David, Meg, Elizabeth and Katherine Crowe all take lessons, but each enjoys it for different reasons.

“We started because everything else was full, but we had never heard of (Irish dancing) before” said Elizabeth, 13. “But we really liked it once we started.”

“(Irish dance) stands out because of the interesting costumes and footwork. And the music’s really cool,” said Katherine, 12.

“I’ve learned how to flex my body, and how to work together,” said David, 9. “I like the dancing,” added Meg, 8.

But the fun isn’t limited to children.
Ms. Nail began taking lessons for the exercise.
“It’s very aerobic. It will put you in good shape,” she said.
But she’s gotten much more out of it than merely exercise.
“It’s a chance to get out and interact with grown ups and make good friends,” she said.
Ms. Sweeney’s students get to put their skills to use as they perform in shows and competitions, or “feiseanna.”

Molly Guzman, 7, has been dancing for two years, and has competed in six mainland European competitions, and one class competition.

Molly’s dancing has earned her 23 medals and eight trophies, 17 of them for first place. But it isn’t about winning to Molly’s parents.

“We tell her to go and do her best but above all to enjoy herself and that is exactly what she does when she is up on stage. She shines,” said Gill Guzman.

“We have traveled so much more since Molly has been competing and even though it can be very stressful at a ‘feis’ when we see her perform we just feel so proud,” she said. “It is hard to put into words the emotions that you go through, but I get choked up every time I see her and am almost at the point of tears. She has achieved so much in the last year and it has increased her confidence to no end.”

Currently, Ms. Sweeney and her students are preparing for an Open Feis in Munich at the end of June (

“We have over 60 dancers from the KMC area participating. A lot of the parents have volunteered to help out,” she said. “I would like to wish all our dancers the very best of luck and a big thank you to their committed parents who are so eager to help out.”

“When we came to Germany, (Irish dance) was the last thing on our minds,” said Ms. Nail. “But it’s been a lot of fun. I’m so thrilled we did this.”