The melodic clatter of dozens of swiftly tapping shoes was heard — and applauded — across the North Fork this weekend, where step dancers from the Inishfree School of Irish Dancing performed routines in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
Step dancers from the school, which has locations on Long Island — including one in Wading River — and in the Bronx and Rockland County, performed at St. John the Baptist Church in Wading River, the Riverhead Lions Club and North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue this weekend, said Inishfree director Sean Reagan of Shoreham.
“They do a great job,”, said Mr. Reagan, a former competitive Irish step dancer who founded the school in 1985. “Their stamina is unbelievable.”
With roots in the 18th and 19th centuries, Irish step dancing is widely practiced today in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and, of, course, Ireland. It’s characterized by quick, rhythmic footwork and was most recently popularized here by the 1994 theatrical show “Riverdance.”
On Monday morning, Inishfree dancers also performed live on WPIX Channel 11 and appeared at the Consulate General of Ireland in New York City.
Tapping their way across New York State and beyond is nothing new for Inishfree step dancers — especially around St. Patrick’s Day, when the number of performances increases exponentially, Mr. Reagan said.
“We have extra classes and drill them on routines — make sure they have their lines straight and that they know their steps,” he said. “Then we go out on the road and give everyone a show.”
Each year, he said, students perform at a Mets game at Citifield Stadium in Queens. And a few years ago, Mr. Reagan and his troupe were featured on a “Sesame Street” segment where a Muppet named Murray joined the line.
Inishfree step dancers clearly have the talent to warrant their numerous appearances. In 28 years, the school has produced five World Irish Dance Champions, including current dancer Paige Turilli, a high school senior from Pearl River, N.Y., who has won three such championships — the most an American has ever won, Mr. Reagan said.
Ms. Turilli will take a shot at her fourth title next month, when Inishfree dancers travel to London to compete in the 2014 World Irish Dance Championships.
In July, students will head to Montreal for the North American Championships, Mr. Reagan said.
It’s hard work, he said, but he believes in all his students — and that’s one reason they’re so successful.
“We call ourselves a family,” Mr. Reagan said. “We all work together to get everything accomplished.”