Woodbury’s Irish Dancers from O’Shea and Rince ne Chroi Schools

Known for its rapid leg movements, embellished costumes, curly wigs and festive music, Irish dancing is an art form originating in Celtic and Gaelic traditions. Popularized by the famous Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, Irish dancing continues to receive worldwide attention, and this time of year you can catch exciting performances around the Twin Cities featuring Woodbury students.

Irish dancing is taught in several schools in the Twin Cities that train girls and boys in both performance and competition-style dancing. Several local students from ages 4-18 dance between two popular schools: O’Shea and Rince ne Chroi in St. Paul.

Cormac and Natalie O’Shea are the founders of O’Shea Irish Dance. Cormac was one of the original dancers in Riverdance with Michael Flatley in 1994; he and Natalie toured with Riverdance until the end of 2000. Opening their school in 2005, they’ve continued a family tradition, as Cormac’s parents have been teaching together since 1971. The school has a focus on competition, and sends students to local competitions or feis (pronounced “fesh”).

“We have six competitions locally, but many of our best dancers travel around the country to challenge their skills and qualify for major championships,” says Natalie O’Shea. They recently brought 68 students to regionals or oireachtas (pronounced “o-rock-tus”) in Chicago, coming home with two regional champions and four world qualifiers. Their students are preparing for nationals in New Orleans in July and they will also be taking six solo championship dancers and three ceili teams to the worlds competition in Dublin.

Also based in St. Paul, Rince na Chroi School of Irish Dance (pronounced “rink-a na Cree”) is a performance-based school. Rince na chroi means “dance of the heart.” “Our dancers perform at least 100 times each year at festivals, community events and the Irish Fair,” says owner Katie Stephens Spangler. “We strive to have all our dancers become more confident in the skills of performing and presenting.” The school offers classes for children from age 3 to adults, and Spangler says their students often find the school after seeing the school's many performances around town.

And they start young. Four-year-old Teagan McCulloch of Woodbury participates in pre-kindergarten dancing at Rince na Chroi. “I like the music and learning new steps with my friends,” she says. Reghan Sikorski, 11, is a 6th grader at Lake Middle School who has been dancing for six years. “I love Irish dancing because it's fun, it's fast moving and it's something that a lot of people don't do,” she says.

Meet the Rince ne Chroi Dancers

Katie Irwin

Age 12 • Afton-Lakeland Elementary
6th grade • Dancing for 8 years
“My friends at Rince na Chroi have been like family to me. I love to dance with them.”

Ellie Landers
Age 7• Liberty Ridge Elementary
1st Grade • Dancing for 2 years
“I like Irish dance because it is active and fun. I like the music because it is very fast and beautiful, with a lot of beats in it.”

Maggie Irwin

Age 13 • Oakland Junior High School
7th grade • Dancing for 8 years
“I love to perform with others and spend time with my friends at Rince na Chroi.”

Ayden FitzPatrick
Age 7 • Nuevas Fronteras School • 1st grade
Dancing for 4 years
“I really like the music and all my teachers.”

Megan Bratland

Age 16• Hill-Murray School • 11th Grade Dancing for 8 years
“Irish dance has given me so much confidence! From the support of my friends, to being on stage and hearing the cheering and clapping of the audience, it makes me feel like I can do anything.”

Hallie FitzPatrick
Age 9 • Nuevas Fronteras School
3rd grade • Dancing for 4 years
“When we were little we used to dance around to Irish music, so my mom asked if she should sign us up and I yelled ‘yes!’ I enjoy Irish dancing because I have met friends that don’t go to my school. I like the music a lot and the dance steps are a lot of fun.”

Emily SChoonover
Age 13 • Visitation School
8th grade • Dancing for 10 years
“I saw a group of Irish dancers when I was really young, so I decided to try it. I enjoy it because I am really close with all of my dance friends and I love hanging out with them, and I love the way I feel while I Irish dance.”


  • March 12, 2 p.m. Catholic Eldercare on Main, Minneapolis
  • March 14, 7 p.m. Sunrise of Edina, Edina
  • March 15, 12:45 p.m. St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Savage
  • March 15, 5:30 p.m. The Shores of Lake Phalen, Maplewood
  • March 16, 12:45 p.m. Maple Grove Parks and Rec, Maple Grove
  • March 16, 6:30 p.m. Waverly Gardens, North Oaks
  • March 17, 10 a.m. Irish Dance and Music Association’s St. Patrick’s Day, Landmark Center, St. Paul
  • March 17, 3 p.m. Sunrise of Golden Valley, Golden Valley
  • March 17, 5 p.m. McCoy’s Pub, Elk River
  • March 19, 11 a.m. Irish Dance and Music Association’s Day of Dance, Landmark Center, St. Paul

Meet the O’Shea Dancers from Woodbury

Bridget Gerber
Age 12 • St. Ambrose of Woodbury Catholic School 7th grade • Dancing for 5 years
“I have a great time doing Irish dancing. Although there is a lot of hard work, I get a lot out of it. I really enjoy the competitions all over North America, and I hope to compete in Europe someday.”

Maddy Shaback
Age 13 • Woodbury Middle School 8th grade
Dancing for 8 years
“I actually got interested at the State Fair when I was 5 or 6. I enjoy it because you get to see all of the work that you put in at competitions. I also enjoy it because you get to travel and you form great friendships with people that you would otherwise never meet. The highest place I have earned is a third in the preliminary champion level.”

Caitlyn Starkey
Age 12 • Woodbury Middle School • 6th grade
Dancing for 7.5 years
“I really look forward to learning new steps, and the music just seems to make my heart dance. Dancing is very strenuous on your body, so you develop a lot of muscles from working at it. I also really enjoy dressing up in really sparkly dresses, gorgeous wigs and makeup to make you look like a porcelain doll.”

Meghan Rice
Age 16 • Woodbury High School
11th Grade • Dancing for 10 years
“I enjoy Irish dancing because you can be a soloist and a team member. I have formed some very good friendships with my team members and also people from out of state that I compete against. Also, it makes me feel like I’m flying.”

Sean Boyles
Age 18 • East Ridge High School
12th grade •Dancing for 9 years
“I enjoy my friends I make, but I also enjoy the places it takes us for our major competitions. This past year I took second in the Boys U17 North American Irish Dance Championships.”

Elizabeth Leis
Age 14 • Woodbury High School
9th grade • Dancing for 6 years
“I got interested after first attending a dance camp in New York with a friend and I was hooked. It’s a good way to exercise and build confidence.”


  • March 10-12, 7:30 p.m. Kickin’ It Irish The Celtic Junction, St. Paul
  • March 13, 8 p.m. Kickin’ It Irish Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, Chanhassen
  • March 17, 1 p.m. Irish Dance and Music Association’s St. Patrick’s Day Landmark Center, St. Paul
  • March 19, 12:30 p.m. Irish Dance and Music Association’s Day of Dance Landmark Center, St. Paul