Immigration was the winning theme for the Claddagh Dance Company.

They won the Girls Minor Figure Dancing Under 13 category with a choreography dance entitled, “Immigration.”

The dance’s movements represented Irish immigrants who came to America, and their emotion of having to leave everyone behind at home.

The Claddagh Dance Company has nine branches throughout California and Utah, and the 16 girls on the figure dancing team represent five of the different locations. They come from Ventura, Orange County and as far out as Sacramento.

So just how did director of the Claddagh Company, Máire O’Connell, bring these girls together to become World Champions?
“With lots of advanced notice,” she told “They come to Venture for weekends and they stay with the local families. It really does make for good camaraderie.”

One of the Irish dancers, Amanda Noel, agrees. Amanda is from Lake Forest, California and travels to Ventura to meet with her team for practice. “That’s a two-hour drive, but we drive with all our friends, so it’s fun.”
What’s ironic about the Claddagh figure dancing team’s massive win is that the girls were not sure they were even attending the Worlds this year.

The team, which has been together for over a year, was entered into the Western U.S. regional championships last November in Phoenix, Arizona.

Máire and dance instructors, Kelly Sullivan and Katie Darlington (whose younger sisster, Maggie, captured the Girls 17-18 title in the 2007 World Champs),  told the girls that if they won the regionals, they could come to the World Championships in Philadelphia.

The girls heard their instructors loud and clear, went on to win the regional champs and earned their ticket to Philly.

Though winning the regionals was key, the long and arduous journey to the Worlds was just beginning for the figure dancing team. “We practiced on weekends for six hours each day,” Amanda Noel said. “It was hard, but we did it.”
Even Máire admits: “We worked the legs off them.”

Though the girls’ legs may be tired, it was all worth it to be standing where they are today, and the newly crowned World Figure Dancing Champs are absolutely thrilled.

Liesl Eibschutz, 11, who’s been dancing for six years, summed up the team’s thoughts: “It’s amazing. This is like a dream come true and I’m so happy.”

Alara Worrick,  from Ventura,  said the win was a bit of a shock. “I wasn’t really expecting this. I thought we did pretty good, but I wasn’t expecting a win,” she said.

The Claddagh figure dancers are ecstatic, but they have not forgotten who helped them along the way.

Chase Beeman has been dancing for seven years and has to travel seven hours each way from Sacramento to Ventura for team practice. She paid special tribute to her parents for their dedication and encouragement. “Thank you to my mom and dad for supporting me and driving me and flying me places,” she said.

Alara Worrick said the same, thanking her parents for all their support,”and taking me here and flying me because I know it costs a lot of money and stuff, but they still did it.”

So how will the new World Champion Claddagh Figure Dancing Team celebrate?
Liesl answered excitedly: “Go to our hotel with everybody and just party!”