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Young dancers take to the floor

BALLROOM dancing is making a comeback and in Clare, children and teens are being given the chance to lead the way back to the ballroom culture as part of a new series of classes being offered in the county.

Behind the idea is Bridget Harte, who is launching classes in Ennis, Ennistymon, Corofin and Limerick next month. However, they are not just strictly ballroom, as the roll-out includes Latin dance, jive and rock ‘n’ roll.

This is the first time the classes have been made available for children and teens in the county. Bridget, who has been living and working in Clare for the past 10 years, has been teaching professionally for 38 years. She explained where her passion for these dance styles comes from.

“I am qualified with the All-Ireland Board of Ballroom Dancing (AIBBD) teachers for the past 20 years and I’m affiliated to the International Dance Teachers Association (IDTA). I have taught classes in Cork, Waterford, Dublin, Limerick, Tipperary and further afield in New Zealand and London.

I started teaching disco moves in my secondary school many moons ago. I’ve always loved what I do and have been blessed to do what I love for a living. I trained with the All-Ireland Board before opening up the Cork Dance Centre,” she said.

She said ballroom and Latin American dances are inevitably more popular now with the advent of dance programmes, such as Strictly Come Dancing.

“The social aspect of the classes is probably a contributory factor for class success. It was mostly on an adult level but with teens joining their parents in dance classes, it’s a sign of the need for their own mainstream classes,” she added.

Bridget said it is not unusual for whole families to participate and classes she runs in Killaloe are a primary example of this.

The dancing techniques to be taught vary from routine to routine and she outlined the various types of dances covered in the classes.

“The Argentine tango is based on passion and staccato movements, whereas the salsa, mambo, rumba and cha-cha are based on hip actions, while slow waltzing, foxtrots and quicksteps are elegant and flow much more than other dances. The traditional ballroom dancing covers waltz, foxtrot, quickstep and tango, while traditional Latin American has always consisted of cha-cha, rumba, samba and mambo,” Bridget said.

She explained it is only in recent years that salsa, merengue and bachata have become popular. “Ballroom jive, in its purest sense, is not danced at local functions, weddings and so on, it is more of what could be described as a country jive. The ballroom jive is equal to the swing (east coast), which is not difficult but is counted as a triple step. The east coast swing, rock ‘n’ roll, west coast swing, lindy hop and jitterbug all really developed in some way, shape and form in the States,” she said.

The classes are open to five to 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds to teenagers and students will also have the opportunity to compete at the Limerick Dance Festival at University Limerick from July 22 to 26.

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