Thomas Bracken, ADCRG and Director of Bracken Irish Dance
is flanked by his newest TCRG Kirsten Hahn (left) and TCRG Alexis Hodel.
Photo: Helene Ossipov

The Valley’s newest certified Irish dance teacher, Kirsten Hahn, started Irish dance relatively late at age 16. In spite of this, and quite possibly because of her maturity, Hahn soon rose to the highest ranks of the sport, qualifying for the World Irish Dancing Championships every year from 2000 through 2009. A skilled solo and ceili dancer, Hahn placed second in both solo and ceili at a memorable Oireachtas, the regional Irish dancing championships, in 2004.

When Kirsten Hahn left New Jersey for Arizona State University, she began training with the Bracken School of Irish Dance on the advice of her former Irish dancing teacher, Dierdre Shea. She also showed talent as a teacher, which Thomas Bracken, TCRG, ADCRG and director of the Bracken School, soon recognized.

Bracken School of Irish Dance Junior Ceili Team and teachers
at 2009 World Irish Dancing Championships
Photo Helene Ossipov

As his assistant, Hahn worked with students, drilling them on the steps they had learned. It was hard but rewarding, as when one of the students she worked with, Julian Gladysiewski, won the regional Irish dancing championship for his age group in 2001. In 2009, though still an apprentice, Kirsten had great success with the Bracken Junior ceili team.

“As a teacher, I have been incredibly proud of our girls U16 ceili team, particularly when they got 2nd at the Oireachtas and recalled at Worlds,” Hahn said. The Bracken team ultimately placed 28th out of 100 teams at the World Championships.

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After retiring from competition, Kirsten joined the show “Celtic Fyre” for their 2010-2011 season in Busch Gardens-Williamsburg,Virginia. This experience culminated in the final show of the season when, says Hahn, “the theatre was packed beyond capacity and the entire audience was on their feet and cheering so loud that we couldn’t even hear the music!”

Although she loved performing, Hahn decided to earn her teaching certification through An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha, the world's foremost authority on Irish dancing. The T.C.R.G. (Teagascóir Choimisiúin le Rinci Gaelacha) teacher certification exam is a rigorous two-day examination on both the practical and the theoretical aspects of Irish dance to the standards of An Coimisiun. Typically, only 40 percent of candidates pass the exam and many retake it several times. It is a tribute to Thomas Bracken’s mentoring that both of his student assistants - beginning with Alexis Hodel who earned her TCRG in 2010 - passed the exam with honors on their first attempt.

Why go through such a difficult exam? Hahn has a ready answer: “Dancing is my passion in life and I want to share that with others. I’d like for all the kids in the Bracken School to be able to experience all of the amazing things that I experienced.”

Do you know an Irish dancer who is studying or who recently passed the TCRG exam? Share your congratulations here on Irish Central's dance page in the comment box below. Post photos and notes on Feis America's FaceBook page and one of our bloggers will follow up toward sharing the story right here on Go Feis! The Irish Dance Blog.