Category: Archive

Dancing on Sunshine

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

But add to that picture a host of talented Irish dancers doing a jig under the clear, blue Florida skies and you might be a little more than surprised!
“We moved to St. Augustine in Florida in 1971 and there was nothing Irish anywhere around,” laughs Irish dancing teacher and New York native, Kathleen Barnard, TCRG.
Born and bred in an Irish Catholic neighborhood, Barnard says she was constantly surrounded by her Irish culture during her formative years.
“When I was growing up all the kids did something Irish — they danced, played the accordion or the fiddle or the pipes or the drums or fifes,” explained Barnard, whose mother and father were both born in Ireland.
“At that time, every county had a pipe band and a fife and drum band,” she added.
So, just like all the rest of her friends, Barnard (nee Conway) was immersed in all things Irish from an early age. She chose to study Irish dancing as a way to celebrate her cultural heritage.
It turned out that Barnard possessed an impressive talent for Irish dancing – she was crowned champion when she was just 16 years old.
“At that time there were only a few feiseanna, and when you won ‘the cup’ that usually ended solo competition,” said Barnard, who soon took up teaching to maintain her links with the Irish dancing community.
Working first in Mineola, N.Y., and then in the Albany-Troy area after moving upstate, Barnard also taught young dancers in Schenectady before setting up the first feis in the Capitol District.
The Capitol District feis grew quickly over the years and has since become the well-known and hugely successful Gov. Dongan Feis in Albany.
Passing the dancing tradition on to her own daughter, also named Kathleen, is something that Barnard is very proud of.
“My mom was a champion dancer; it was a requirement for my sister and me to dance,” laughs Kathleen Green, who now teaches Irish dance with her mother at the Glas Tara School of Irish Dance in a number of locations across Florida.
“The light jig was the first dance that I learned,” said Green who added that her proudest dancing moment was winning the Gold in Orlando as an adult, and being awarded the commemorative medal of the Great Potato Famine Memorial.
Proud also to be teaching alongside her mother, Green is kept busy with classes in St. Augustine, Jullington Creek, Jacksonville Beach and Port Orange, as well as hosting a feis every November at the Renaissance Hotel, at World Golf Village.
For both Barnard and Green, however, it is ensuring that the Irish dancing classes continue to grow in size that presents their greatest challenge.
“It is difficult to keep the interest alive; children have so many activities nowadays,” says Barnard. “Our school is not competition driven — I want the children to dance for the love of the dance and to keep the beautiful heritage alive.
“It is fun to go to a feis, and it’s great to win a medal, but I truly enjoy seeing the children dance, especially the ones who just beam, with no thought to winning a medal,” she said.
For more information on the Glas Tara School of Irish Dancing go to: www.Glastara.com.

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