High-stepping, soft- and hard-shoe reeling members of the McHale School of Irish Dance have been taking part in the Baltimore St. Patrick's Day Parade for more than 25 years, and this year is no different.
On Sunday, March 10, up to 70 dancers from the Lutherville school — depending on the weather; sunny skies bring out more dancers — will entertain thousands of spectators at the popular annual event. They will perform intermittent one-minute dances from the beginning of the route at the Washington Monument to its end at the Inner Harbor. Music will be provided via a CD blast from the back of an SUV driving the route with the dancers.
Director Linda McHale Poggi says the school will be presenting four routines, with beginners doing basic steps all the way to advanced dancers performing hard- and soft-shoe reels.
While Irish dance classes run from September to June, the dancers begin practice for the parade at the end of January at their home base, the Fr. O'Neill Knights of Columbus Hall in Lutherville.
An Overlea native, Poggi herself remembers looking forward to performing in the parade for the first time as a 9-year-old with the Unsworth School of Irish Dance offered through the YMCA.
"It's your chance to show off what you can do — it's your time of year," Poggi said. "My own passion for Irish dancing is why I became a dance instructor."
About 95 dancers, from 5 to 18, are enrolled at the school, and most get an opportunity to perform sometime during the year at one of a myriad of venues, including the Maryland Irish Festival, the Towson Fourth of July Parade and Kennedy Krieger Festival of Trees, to name a few. A schoolwide recital is held each year in June at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Hampton.
For more information on the St. Patrick's Day Parade go to http://www.irishparade.net. For more information on the McHale School of Irish Dance, go to http://www.mchaleirishdance.net.