Tir na nOg school part of Irish tradition

Seen kicking up their heels at local events, the Tir na nOg School of Irish Dance has a history steeped in Irish tradition.

Mary Sweeney established Tir na nOg in 1994 with 15 students. Today, the school has more than 500 dancers in Germany, Poland and Russia.

Tir na nOg provides American dancers living in Germany the opportunity to participate in this exhilarating sport and trains qualified dancers to compete at the world championships.

The history of Irish dance is as complex as the history of Ireland itself.

In the early days of Irish dancing, performers danced without use of their arms because the local priests believed dancing to be sacrilegious. But the dancing evolved from the early years of peasants frolicking in the street to the rhythm-filled style seen today.

The 18th century saw the development of modern dances such as the reel. With the birth of internationally renowned “Riverdance,” the popularity of Irish dance soared and numerous dance schools were born around the world.

The meaning of Tir na nOg is “land of the forever young.” Ms. Sweeney is an instructor in the KMC while Shane McAvinchey trains dancers in Munich. Both offer workshops in Poland and Russia.   

“Our dancers come from all corners of the world and have been brought together with one common interest – their love of Irish dancing,” Ms. Sweeney said.
Students are encouraged to compete at “feiseanna” (Gaelic for dance competition) as it gives them a competition goal, a chance to perform and an opportunity to observe advanced dancers.

Irish dancing offers competitors the exciting opportunity to travel throughout Europe. Eight Tir na nOg solo dancers and two celli teams recently qualified for the annual Irish Dance World Championships. This spring is the first time America will serve as host country for the Irish Dance World Championships. Through hard work and determination, a local American dancer, Lauren Moriarty, recently qualified to represent Tir na nOg in the under-16 age category in Philadelphia. Lauren is the first dancer to qualify for Tir na nOg from the Kaiserslautern area.

Aside from the competitive aspect of Irish dancing, students enjoy performing at gigs. Dancers at all skill levels partake in exciting routines choreographed specifically for each gig. Locally, dancers have performed at festivals, parades, bazaars and Irish pubs.

If you enjoy Irish dancing and fancy trying a reel or jig yourself, join Ms. Sweeney for adult ceili class. Exercise, socializing and traditional Irish dance are combined for a unique experience!

Tir na nOg offers dance classes for children at the Ramstein Youth Center and on the German economy.  For more information on class times and locations, e-mail Ms. Sweeney at Mursweeney@aol.com.

(Courtesy of the Tir na nOg School of Irish Dance)