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Irish dancin' for all ages

Working on one of the circle dance steps, Margaret Blubaugh leads her students through the choreography. Around the circle clockwise from left are: Margaret Blubaugh, the instructor; Gillian Blubaugh, 7; Shaylee Beall, 10; Corinne Adams, 8; and Colleen Blubaugh, 6. All are from Westminster.
Working on one of the circle dance steps, Margaret Blubaugh leads her students through the choreography. Around the circle clockwise from left are: Margaret Blubaugh, the instructor; Gillian Blubaugh, 7; Shaylee Beall, 10; Corinne Adams, 8; and Colleen Blubaugh, 6. All are from Westminster. (Photo courtesy of Nancy McKenzie, Carroll County Times)

Irish dancing attracted global attention, and acclaim, in the mid to late 1990s, when "Riverdance" hit the stages of London and video of the show came to America by way of public television. Those performances inspired many people to try this style of ethnic dancing.

One of those trying it was Margaret Blubaugh. "I started dancing in 2000," she said. "'Riverdance' and 'Lord of the Dance' had come out."

Fast forward 14 years, and Blubaugh is now teaching Irish dancing in a program co-sponsored by Carroll Gymnastics and Carroll County Recreation & Parks. The class started last fall, with a series of seven- to eight-week sessions.

Blubaugh currently focuses the class on individual soft-shoe step dancing, as well as Ceili dancing.

Ceili dancing has formations of multiple dancers in a line, a circle or a square of eight dancers, known as a quadrille.

The Irish dancing class is open to ages 5 through adult, so families are welcome. Blubaugh is teaching her own two daughters, ages 6 and 7, in the class.

Although she had an adult trying the class at the beginning, the current participants are girls ranging in age from 6 to 10. Three of the girls, including her daughters, have been dancing with Blubaugh since the class first started.

On the first night of the latest session of the class, Blubaugh started the dancers out with warm-ups and stretches. After that, the students formed into a line and worked to duplicate steps taught by Blubaugh.

For part of the class, she would demonstrate a step, then each dancer took a turn performing that step down then length of the room, with Blubaugh coaching them as they went.

The last few minutes of the class were spent working on a line dance and, then, in a circle dance, with the dancers stepping toward and away from each other, holding hands and circling as a group.

One of the dancers, Corinne Adams, of Westminster, turns 9 the day before St. Patrick's Day. She started Irish dancing when the class started in the fall.

Corinne explained her focus on Irish dance. "I have some Irish blood in me," she said. "I think it's awesome, and I really like it."

When asked about what particular dance she preferred, Corinne said, "Well, first of all, I like the jig. I like watching it on stage, and now I do it."

Corinne enjoys studying dance with Blubaugh. "She's an awesome teacher," said Corinne. "She's very patient and a very smart woman."

The class still has room for more students and will accept new dancers when the next session begins on April 23.

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