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In Utah, ballroom is king, but more are turning to Irish dance as their athletic and creative outlet.
Amy Stanfield, a lifelong dancer with Irish roots who is the owner and director of the Acadamh Rince studio in Sandy, recognizes it's a growing activity in the Beehive State, so her studio is focused on competitions.
"The main goal is to dance in Ireland," Stanfield said.
Stanfield's studio offers rigorous courses for individuals and groups ranging from 3-year-olds to adults. But Irish dance is still a growing pastime in the Beehive State.
"It's been hard to build up interest in this type of dance," Stanfield admitted. "Irish dance hasn't really been on the radar."
She's hoping to show more of Utah what her dancers can do and help raise some money to send her students to competitions on March 11 at 7 p.m. when the dancers of Acadamh Rince (pronounced Akaduv Rinka) will perform at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in downtown Salt Lake City. Tickets through ArtTix are $8 and $13.
"The show is a collection of some of the dances we've worked on, some we compete with. The second half of the show is a story about the history of Ireland," Stanfield said.
All of the proceeds will go to funding competitions. Because Irish dance is less popular in the West, travel to competitions is pricey.
"We're trying to raise money to promote more Irish dance events in Utah," Stanfield said.
But the former-champion-turned-teacher has trained a new champion, 12-year-old Alexis Farnsworth.
Alexis has been dancing since she was 4. She started out as a gymnast and tap dancer, but soon switched over to Irish dance after she and her mom watched a Riverdance performance. Since her switch, Alexis has twice participated in the national championships and this year will compete in the world championships. She has been studying under Stanfield since she was 6 years old.
"Amy pushes you when you need to be pushed, but is nice to you at the same time," Alexis said.
Two of Stanfield's other students, Shannon Becker and Rachel Jepsen, ages 15 and 16, had similar comments about their coach.
"I really like her because she's so encouraging and able to help us improve more than any teacher I've had," Rachel said.
Irish dance is a traditional dance form native to Ireland that has evolved over the centuries and been both influenced and redefined by the nation's tumultuous history.
"The tradition and the athleticism of the genre sets it apart," Stanfield said.
She describes Irish dance as "more traditional. There's a meaning behind the movements. … Some of the dances have ancient stories that are passed down through the generations."