Trinity Academy of Irish Dance focuses on developing male dancers.

Peter Dziak with the boys of Trinity (above)

In the Irish dance world, as in the larger dance world, women tend to outnumber men. But with the Men of Trinity program, Trinity Academy of Irish Dance is encouraging boys to step into class and even more important, continue dancing into their teens.

With three-time World Irish Dance Champion Peter Dziak as inspiration (and assistant instructor), Men of Trinity offers boys from as young as 3 up to young adult a special twice-monthly class that reinforces their regular technique classes and fosters camaraderie both inside and outside the studio.

The four pillars of the program are bonding, competition, performance and teamwork, says Dziak, who followed his brother into dance classes at 4 years old and was highly influenced by male role models.

Trinity prides itself on creating an environment that welcomes male dancers, says Mark Howard, who founded Trinity Academy of Irish Dance in 1981. The organization has 15 locations in the Chicago area, serving roughly 1,000 students. Out of that, 80 boys (90 percent of total male enrollment) take part in the program at the school’s Elmhurst, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, locations. Howard’s wife Natalie was Dziak’s coach for most of his competition career and heads the new program. Dziak, now 17, also credits former Trinity student Joe Smith with mentoring and inspiring him to become a teacher. Smith will organize the program’s activities outside of the studio.

Dziak with founder Mark Howard

In the bimonthly boys-only classes, Dziak emphasizes the natural athleticism of Irish dance but keeps it playful. “I tell them if we dance hard, then we can play hard,” he says. “So we work hard at dancing for the majority of the time, then we get to play soccer or wall ball or tag football.”

Those games can teach concepts the guys can use in dance, whether it’s learning how to coordinate their bodies in space in soccer, building awareness of the position of other players in football or practicing the snap of a wrist in tennis. And while he encourages healthy competition, which naturally appeals to the youngsters, Dziak sees the class as promoting a sense of teamwork as well.

“Mark has taught me, through Irish dance, life skills that I continue to use now, and that’s what I want to teach,” says Dziak, who notes that the competitive phase of an Irish dancer’s career is often finished by the time they go to college. “These kids are building relationships, learning how to listen, to take in information and work with it and communicate, all these crucial skills that will help them throughout their lives.” DT

For more: trinityirishdance.com

Mary Ellen Hunt, a former dancer, now a teacher, writes about dance and the arts for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Photos by Kim Rudden, courtesy of Trinity Academy of Irish Dance

The Feldenkrais Method is a somatic technique created by Moshe Feldenkrais in the 1950s. The method has two parts: hands-on sessions with a Feldenkrais teacher (Functional Integration) or group classes comprised of verbal cues (Awareness Through Movement).

Mary Armentrout, a dance teacher, choreographer and Feldenkrais practitioner, shares three ways that this somatic practice can bolster your students' training.

Keep reading... Show less
Your Studio

Oversexualizing young kids has been a hot topic among dance teachers in recent years. It's arguably the most controversial topic teachers and studio owners are faced with. Deciding which choreography, music or costumes are appropriate—or not—isn't always black and white and can be easily overlooked. Is showing the midriff too much for minis? Is this choreography too provocative? Is this popular song too suggestive for a competition piece? The questions can seem endless with no clear objective answers. Until now.

Keep reading... Show less
To make dancers stronger and less injury-prone, Burns Wilson suggest adding floor barre or conditioning classes. Photo courtesy of Burns Wilson

With a career spanning 30-plus years in the dance field, Anneliese Burns Wilson has cultivated a unique perspective on health and injury prevention for dancers. From teaching ballet to teaching anatomy, she then founded ABC for Dance, which publishes dance-teaching materials. Now through research for her next book, which will focus on training the female adolescent dancer, she's delving even deeper into topics many dance teachers have overlooked.

Keep reading... Show less
Erdmann (left) on set for "Hairspray Live" (courtesy of Erdmann)

When Wicked ensemble member Kelli Erdman was training at Westlake Dance Center in Seattle, Washington, her teacher Kirsten Cooper taught her that focussed transitions would be pivotal to her success as a dancer. Now as a professional, she applies this advice to her daily performances, asserting that she will never let the details of her dancing get blurry.

Keep reading... Show less
Khobdeh dancing Taylor's Speaking In Tongues. Photo courtesy of PTDC

For Parisa Khobdeh, music does more than set the tone for a piece—it's enabled her to connect with movement. And once she joined Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2003, Taylor's body of work deepened this connection. "His choreography showed me the music, the architecture and the space," she says. "I now see the music."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Buzz

We haven't been able to stop watching Lil' Mushroom since she popped and locked her way into Ellen's heart last week. We know you've got a long night of teaching ahead, and this is the dance inspiration you need to get you through. Check it out and tell us what you think about her killer moves over on our Facebook page! (She starts blowing minds at about 2:16.)

Keep reading... Show less
How-To

Because the chassé is often neglected during the execution of this traveling step, Judy Rice asks her students to do a minimum of a six-inch chassé before transitioning into the pas de bourrée. She encourages dancers to pay close attention to their shoulders and hips in effacé, too. "Kids tend to open it up. They look like they're fencing," she says. "You don't want that." Both shoulders and hip bones should be facing the corner.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored