They are among the elite of the world’s budding Irish dancers, but there’s nothing Irish about these talented youngsters. Meet Kaitlyn Sardin, Mandi Nishimori and Kristyna Pruzinova, a new breed of Irish dancer who have no connection to the Emerald Isle.
They are among a growing number of foreign participants who have been lured into the phenomenon of Irish dance thanks to the international success of shows like Riverdance.
13-year-old Kaitlyn Sardin’s roots don’t even have a hint of green, but it didn’t stop her becoming utterly enchanted by Irish dance.
She told the Irish Voice: “When I was little I saw Riverdance and then when I saw an ad for the Watters school of Dance in the newspaper I decided to start classes. I’ve no Irish roots. My mum is from Georgia and my dad is from Chicago with African and Asian roots”.
Kaitlyn, from Orlando, Florida, has been a member of the Watters School of Dance since the age of six.
Her dedication to her art has definitely paid off as she took to the stage today in the Girls 13 – 14 category of the World Irish Dance Championships in City West.
However, she modestly insisted: “I’m not expecting anything, I’m just enjoying myself. Tomorrow I plan to go to the city to see a little bit of Dublin”.
The Girls 13 – 14 competition also featured a flavour of Japan courtesy of Mandi Nishimori. The 14-year-old is a member of the popular Claddagh School in Venturo, California and already has a title to her name as she was part of the figure choreography group which won the World Championships two years ago.
Her love of Irish dance is due in no small part to her teacher Maire O’Connell, originally from Salthill in Galway.
Maire explained: “I went to college in Galway and then moved out to California 30 years ago and set up a dance school. Now that I’m back home I’m getting to meet a lot of nieces and nephews this week which is great”.
She added: “I have five teams over here for the World Championships so it’s a busy week. Mandi is competing in the solo competition but she’s really into the group competitions and she was part of the figure choreography team which won the World Championship two years ago”.
According to Maire, Irish dancing has never been so popular, and students who don’t have Irish roots are increasingly drawn to it.
She revealed: “I have people from all backgrounds in my school, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican and Hawaiian, you name it. They just love Irish dancing. The oriental students in particular come for the discipline”.
Such is the popularity of Irish dance that countless schools have been set up across central and eastern Europe and throughout Russia. One of these is the Ronan Morgan school in Prague in the Czech Republic, where 13-year-old Kristyna Pruzinova learned her first dance moves.
She explained: “I don’t have any Irish connections but I think it’s a gorgeous dance, I just love it. I started dance school when I was seven years old. Her perseverance has been worth every long hour and blister, as she is now competing in her first World Championships in Dublin.