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Pittsburgh Irish Dance Academy Headed to World Championship

Dormont's Shovlin Academy of Irish Dance will compete in the 2013 World Irish Dance Championship in Boston on Friday.

Six minutes.

It’s enough time for one dance, and it’s all the time one Dormont troupe will have to impress judges at the 2013 World Irish Dance Championship this weekend.

The team from Shovlin Academy of Irish Dance is one of 14 groups competing in their category Friday, and instructor Liz Shovlin Grinko said her dancers—ranging in age from 10 to 18—are ready.

“The kids are excited about the experience,” she said. “They’ve had a lot of fun, and like in anything, they support each other as a team.”

The experience is one many dancers never get to take part in, and the world stage will be quite different from their home studio on the lower level of Dormont Municipal Center.

In the world of Irish dance, this competition is the highest level, Shovlin said. Past winners include Michael Flatley, of Riverdance fame. It’s the biggest competition in the sport, featuring some of the world’s most talented dancers.

Shovlin said the academy’s dancers qualified for the World Championship—a first for the dance studio—after performing well at the regional competition in Grand Rapids, MI, over Thanksgiving weekend.

It was exciting news for the studio, Shovlin said, but it’s also exciting for communities throughout the area that are represented by the young dancers.

The studio’s dancers are from numerous South Hills communities, including Dormont and Brookline, as well as Mt. Lebanon, Baldwin, Upper St. Clair, Scott Township, Peters Township and Bethel Park.

She said there also are dancers in the company from Forest Hills and Shadyside, and one who comes in from Steubenville, Ohio.

“This is the highest level of competition,” she said. “These are some fabulous dancers. They really work.”

The championship began in 1970 and is normally held in Ireland or Scotland, but made its U.S. debut in Philadelphia in 2008. This year, the competition is in Boston.

“Being in Boston rather than Ireland this year, we had to go,” Shovlin said. “We’ve been fundraising, and we’re on our way. It’s exciting. We don’t know what will happen. This could be a long shot, but this could be our time.”

The academy’s 12 dancers will compete in a special category Friday, in which they will dance a narrative number that tells the story of Irish workers in London during the 1950s, forming social dance clubs and keeping their culture alive.

Shovlin’s sister and fellow instructor Sheila, who also spearheaded the creation of the dance academy in 1999, choreographed the six-minute dance.

“Dancing is a big part of the Irish culture, so this is what we’re depicting,” Shovlin said. “The story is short but we get to the point pretty quick.”

Shovlin said she doesn’t quite know what to expect at the championship. The odds of walking away with a win could be good because the academy will be competing in a group number, and there tend to be less group competitors than solo competitors.

On the other hand, she said, there’s a reason for that. It’s much harder to qualify as a group because the group technique must be so precise.

And they’ll have one shot to impress.

“Right now, I’m more nervous about just getting everyone there,” Shovlin said. “I’ll be nervous about the dance on Friday afternoon.”

The following students will be competing as a group in the 2013 World Irish Dance Championship: Caroline Byrne; Morgan Collavo; Megan Hixon; Delaney McMahon; Reilly O’Connor; Kayleigh O’Hara; Lauren Shovlin; Marley Shovlin; Shea Shovlin; Maggie Smith; Stephanie Stoessel; Brogan Victor; Teresa Grinko.

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