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Poetry and dance the Irish way

Celtic Storm features Campbell Snoddy, Patrick DeBoy, Maureen Berry, Ben Koolbeck and Catherine Kinkopf.
Celtic Storm features Campbell Snoddy, Patrick DeBoy, Maureen Berry, Ben Koolbeck and Catherine Kinkopf. (Courtesy photo/Scott Ortel)

At this time of year, who could resist the lively beat of a jig or the whirling music of a reel?

For those involved with master teacher/choreographer Maureen Berry at her Teelin School of Irish Dance in Columbia, the answer is simple: no one.

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Folks won’t have to wait until St. Patrick’s Day to see world-class Irish step dancing and Ceili, a bouncy real performed in soft shoes, as the Howard County Poetry and Literature (HoCoPolitSo) has scheduled some talented musicians and dancers for its 41st Irish Night at Howard Community College on Feb. 8.

Berry will be joined by her protégée, world champion dancer, Saoirse De Boy, at the celebration that includes a welcome from the Irish Ambassador; a poetry reading; book sales and a signing; and a cash bar featuring Irish cocktails.

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Following intermission, a concert of Irish music by the Hedge Band featuring Billy McComiskey, Laura Byrne, Jim Eagan and Donna Long will perform accompanied by the dancers.

It was McComiskey, a renowned accordion, or “box,” player and composer who booked Berry for this gig.

These are heady times for Berry, who won the “Howie” award for artist in 2017, among other accolades from the state including an invitation to dance at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow summer festival in Massachusetss. Director of the professional Teelin Dance Company reigns supreme in what she calls, “Irish dance flavored with an edginess and lots of passion.”

“Our school gives the kids the chance to show the passion the Irish people have in their hearts. The pride. The determination. The joy,” said Berry.

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In the studio, a group of Irish dancers (ranging in age from the “peanut” group to company members) were getting ready for both national and world competitions. Her company of 28 well-trained dancers performs “Celtic Thunder” at the Weinberg Center in Frederick on Saturday, March 2, at 7 p.m., and at the Carroll County Arts Center over St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

Teelin dancers will, of course, be marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Baltimore, scheduled for Sunday, March 10.

“Our dancers take up two full blocks,” said Berry with more than a hint of pride. A list of events is posted on the website.

Meanwhile, HoCoPolitSo’s guest for Friday’s Irish Evening is the award-winning poet Vona Groarke, called “brilliant and original” by the Irish Times.

Groarke writes haunting and candidly sensual poems – that should heat up the audience quicker than you can say, “Erin Go Braugh.” She joins a long list of illustrious Irish authors the poetry society has brought to Howard County audiences, including Frank McCourt, Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, Colum McCann and Emma Donoghue.

For over four decades, HoCoPolitSo’s Irish Evening has celebrated the substantial impact of Irish-born writers on the world of contemporary literature. Kudos to founders Ellen Kennedy, Jean Moon, and Prudence Barry, among others, for giving us this treasure.

The reading, the dancing, genuine Guinness at intermission and authentic Irish music and dance is wroth the $40 ticket price at the door or online at brownpapertickets.com. To purchase by phone, call 443-518-4568.

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