U.S. economy deals a harsh blow to Irish dancing
Irish stepdancing is suffering thanks to the economic downturn
Christina Ryan-Kilcoyne doesn’t normally advertise her dance classes. She doesn’t normally have to.
“The kids just used to come. But this year my beginners’ class is down by half.”
Ryan-Kilcoyne hasn’t started yet, but she’s soon going to put out fliers publicizing her school.
Since the 1990s, and especially after "Riverdance" Irish stepdance has grown wildly popular. But it has also become hugely costly, and in this downturn it is suffering.
Enrolment is low at schools across the country this fall as parents who have lost their jobs struggle to pay for lessons. Parents who have money are doing their best to hold onto it, signing their kids up for fewer classes.
This has had an impact on teachers. Ryan-Kilcoyne is married and the school is not her sole source of income, but others are less lucky.
“For people for whom it’s totally their livelihood, it must be a hard place to be,” she says.
Kerry Kelly-Oster is another teacher whose school has taken a hit. She teaches at her Kelly-Oster School of Irish Dance, based in Brewster, New York. It’s a well-established school and her students win awards at feiseanna across the country, but in this economic climate even that success doesn’t help.
“I can definitely see an impact,” Kelly-Oster affirms. “There’s not as many children joining the classes.”
Last year was even worse, Kelly-Oster adds, saying this year numbers are more level. Now, she says, “parents and families are being more stringent with their choices.”
How schools are faring depends on where they’re located -- whether there’s a strong Irish presence in the area, and, of course, how much the downturn has damaged local industry.
Kathy Egloff, a parent director of the Butler-Sheehan School in Syracuse, says there have been few foreclosures there. Everyone worries about money, but student numbers at the school are about the same as before.
“If you don’t get too heavily into feises, it’s not as expensive as other sports,” she says.