Eleven dancers from the Steel School of Irish Dance will compete in the 2017 World Championships in Dublin

Local Irish dancers to compete in world championships

"Luck of the Irish" revealed to be hard work, dedication.

The Steel School of Irish Dance has done it again.

Last year the school, which operates out of Cloverdale and White Rock, qualified a record six dancers to qualify for the World Championships in Glasgow Scotland. This year, they have 11.

During the Nov. 12th weekend in Calgary at the Western Canadian Dance Championships, the dance school not only qualified 11 dancers for the World Championships held in Dublin, Ireland in April 2017, they also qualified their highest number yet for the upcoming 2017 North American Championships in New Orleans in July, where the school will have 27 Steel dancers competing.

It just keeps getting better for the little school from Surrey, a school that is on the rise in the world of Irish dance. The 11 World qualifiers—and their current local schools—are: Belle Heritage (Johnston Heights), Brianna Kraft (Earl Marriott Secondary), Mikaela Barton (graduate of Sullivan Heights), Calleigh McLaughlin (Clayton Heights). From South Surrey are Annika and Lauren Olson (Earl Marriott Secondary) and Charli Olson (Laronde Elementary).

Joining these local girls will be Thalia Blaskovich of Langley, and Sabine Alexander, Jadyn McInnes-Thorpe and Cataline Gillies from Richmond.

The Steel School of Irish Dance was founded in 1981 in Vancouver by Carol Del Bianco. The school was small at first—enrollment was sometimes as low as four students—and eventually the school moved to the basement of Del Bianco’s home in Newton.

But that was over 30 years ago. Today, the school is ran by Del Bianco’s daughter, Jacquelyn Hardychuk, and has expanded to offer classes in Cloverdale, Surrey and White Rock. Hardychuk, who is also the school’s primary instructor and choreographer, oversees over 100 students.

“It was a very hard feat in the early years to qualify dancers for major national championships,” said Hardychuk. “On average, we would have about one to three dancers qualify for worlds and maybe up to 10 for nationals.”

Hardychuk’s co-director and former world-qualifier herself, Megan Huculiak, also teaches dance at the school. Both women have high praise for the work ethic and dedication that their dancers have for their craft.

“We focus on nurturing a love of dance,” said Hardychuk. “If you don’t love what you’re doing, then you’ll likely never reach your full potential.”

Each dancer is approached with an individual teaching technique, as the instructors are of the philosophy that each student has both natural strengths and weaknesses. Hardychuk said the focus on individual improvement builds confidence as well as a skill set.

“And confidence,” Hardychuk said, “is what competition needs the most.”

When Huculiak teaches students, she focuses on developing physical strength and technical perfection, but she, like Hardychuk, insists that building confidence in her students is vital.

“We teach our students how to perform their best in pressure situations,” she said. “Competitive Irish dance also teaches vital life skills such as goal setting, time management and how to deal with both success and disappointment.”

Huculiak said dancers take these skills with them into other areas of their lives as they move through adolescence to young adulthood.

“There are few, if any, monetary rewards to aim for in Irish dance,” she said. “Their reward is to prove to themselves that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to.”

With so many young dancers qualifying for world and national level championships, it’s clear that they’ve set their minds to be the very best that they can be.

– Gary McLaughlin for Steel School of Irish Dance

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