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NEW IPSWICH

Kickin’ it, Irish style

New Ipswich woman passes on her passion for Irish dance to the next generation

  • Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich practices toework at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass. where she will be taking on teaching duties instructing beginners in traditional Irish dancing  this fall. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich practices toework at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass. where she will be taking on teaching duties instructing beginners in traditional Irish dancing this fall.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Meghan McLatchy of New Ipswich will be taking on teaching duties at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby this fall. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich practices toework at Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass. where she will be taking on teaching duties instructing beginners in traditional Irish dancing  this fall. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Tatiana O'Hanlon, 13, of Ashby, Mass., and Meghan McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich, practice their Irish dancing during a class at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., where McLatchy works as an instructor. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

Meghan McLatchy’s feet fly across the floor in a quick succession of steps. Her feet are clad in Ghillies, a soft ballet-type shoe used by traditional dancers, and her hard shoes are waiting in the wings as she runs her students through routines of jigs and reels at the Flying Irish Dance Studio in Ashby, Mass., during an evening class on Tuesday night.

McLatchy, 24, of New Ipswich got her first exposure to Irish dance when she was young, through the popular “Lord of the Dance.” Her mother gave her a video of the musical and dance production, led by dancer Michael Flatley, she said in an interview at the Flying Irish studio on Tuesday. By the time she had worn out the tape and was attempting to imitate the steps in the family living room, her parents decided it was time to enroll her in a real Irish step dancing class. In 1998, she became the first student at the Flying Irish Studio in Ashby. Now, 16 years later, she’s a teacher there, passing on a love of traditional dance to a new generation.

It wasn’t a straight shot for McLatchy, though. For eight years, she was fully involved in dancing and competing. But when she was 16 years old, other activities and school started to encroach on her interest in Irish dance, and eventually it fell to the wayside. But her interest in the dance never completely waned, and a year ago, she was watching a reality series called “The Big Jig,” which follows dancers in the world competition, and it was the “Lord of the Dance” video all over again, said McLatchy.

“I was watching and said, ‘Gosh, I really miss that,’” McLatchy remembered. So she decided to sign up for classes at her old studio once again. It’s not easy to get back into a highly physical dance style after eight years away, though.

“It’s harder doing Irish Dance as an adult. Irish dance requires a lot of stamina and staying high on your toes is more difficult than it used to be,” she said. “Physically, it took me months to get back into shape. And even now, there’s things that I can’t do that I could before.”

There were a few mental stumbling blocks as well, she added — such as the fact that after her long time away from the competitive scene, she’d mostly forgotten about the fact that she has stage fright, she said with a laugh. Dancing in class is always fun, and there’s a really supportive environment, and dancing for informal shows at venues like local nursing homes weddings and festivals is great, said McLatchy. But when she’s on stage performing for judges, it’s a different story.

“Competition is extremely nerve-wracking,” she said. “I still nearly get sick every time. I still get nervous before I dance. Maybe I’ll never outgrow that.”

Nerves didn’t prevent her from netting a fourth place finish at the Prizewinner level at the North American Irish Dance Federation’s National competition in New Jersey last month, though. McLatchy wasn’t expecting to place, and said she was so shocked and smiling so hard that she didn’t even notice the official attempting to give her the prize plaque she’d won. The validation just pushed her to overcome her nerves, and shoot for a top three finish next year, she said. Plus, knowing the effects of nerves intimately herself, has prepared her to help younger students, now that she’s begun to take on teaching duties at the Flying Irish Studio.

This spring, McLatchy was in charge of a six-week dance program, and taught a two-week camp in preparation for nationals.

“It was a challenge to find what teaching style worked for each individual, but it was a ton of fun and rewarding to see the dancers improve. I was really proud when one of ‘my’ girls placed fifth,” she said.

And starting in September, she’ll officially be taking over Saturday beginners classes for three to six year olds.

“I’m thrilled to have Meghan back,” said Mary-Sarah O’Hanlon, the owner of Flying Irish Dance Studio and McLatchy’s Irish dance instructor. “She’s great with the kids and at coming up with fun, enthusiastic and creative ways to execute drills to teach them the basics. She’s got a very good eye towards seeing what the kids are doing. When she gives a correction or compliment, it’s always something that needs to be said.”

Teaching is a different experience than just being a dancer, McLatchy said. It’s sharpened her eye and made her more aware not only of her student’s mistakes, but her own as well, and has made her a better dancer. She and O’Hanlon have been working to select music, choose dances and choreograph steps for the coming fall classes.

“When I was young, Irish dancing wasn’t too popular a thing,” said McLatchy. “It was different. But I’ve made lifelong friends here, and now I get to watch a younger generation form those same friendships.”

For more information about Flying Irish classes or to enroll, visit www.irishstepdancing.com or call 978-386-2325. The studio will also offer a chance to try Irish Dance for free at its open houses on Tuesday, Aug. 20 and 27. Trial lessons for dancers above the age of seven will run from 5:30 to 6 p.m. From 6 to 7:30 p.m., those interested can observe a class in progress.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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