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Living Skies Irish Dance in Regina is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with performances at five different pubs, bringing “a little bit of true Irish culture and fun,” said Emily Armer, owner and dance instructor at Living Skies.
Some of the company’s younger dancers will also have the opportunity to perform for St. Patrick’s Day, at Queen Victoria Estates retirement community that afternoon and at two other retirement residences before and after the Irish holiday.
“Performing for community events is integral,” said Armer. “The residents love it; the kids love it.… It’s good for everybody.”
“It’s really exciting.… We haven’t done it very much because of COVID,” said Sophie Houchen, a 12-year-old student at Living Skies who started Irish dancing when she was four. “Everybody appreciates it when we dance and there are lots of smiles in the crowd, and that makes me really happy.”
After a long pause in live performances during the pandemic, the company got back onto the stage in Sept. 2021. “The opportunity to be on a stage and get all dressed up and have an audience watching what they’ve been working on… it’s really big,” said Armer.
Dancing at retirement residences is a long-standing tradition for Armer and her students. For several retirement communities that are not ready to welcome back live performances this St. Patrick’s Day, Living Skies will be sharing a recorded version of the dance performances instead.
Armer describes Irish dance as “a way of connecting with our culture, connecting with our heritage and keeping that alive. It’s also just a lot of fun.” Students of Living Skies range from four-year-olds to adult dancers in their late ’30s.
Armer has been teaching Irish dance since 2003 and has been working with some of her students for many years and from very young ages. She expressed how meaningful it is to watch her students grow and to see “how their participation in dance shapes them as a person.” Irish dancing is “more than just the dance steps,” said Armer. “They’re learning confidence, they’re learning discipline, they’re learning stage presence, the ability to carry on when you make a mistake. These are really important life lessons.”
The movements in Irish dancing primarily come from the legs and feet. “Unless you’re doing a céilí or a group dance where you’re holding hands with people, our arms stay glued to our sides, which is actually a lot harder than it looks,” said Armer.
“Working with other dancers is really fun because sometimes we get to use our arms and move each other’s hands and do cool traditional dances,” added Houchen.
Outside of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, Living Skies is looking forward to their year-end recital at the end of May.
“Irish heritage is not required [in order] to participate in Irish dancing in any way,” said Armer, but she does have some Irish heritage and travelled to Ireland at age 19 with her cousin. Armer even did a bit of spontaneous Irish dancing while she was there, at Johnnie Fox’s Pub, a mountain location that is dubbed “the highest pub in Ireland.”
“We had perfect tourist weather.… We were there for two weeks and we had no rain, which is not common in Ireland at all,” laughed Armer. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.… [I] can’t wait to be able to go back.”