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International Festival: Irish dancers, Rince na Chroi, step out on Saturday

Up to 20 dancers are expected to show their considerable Irish stepdancing skills this Saturday.

Irish Dance members of Rince Na Chroi will entertain the audience at the International Festival on Saturday.
Irish Dance members of Rince Na Chroi will entertain the audience at the International Festival on Saturday.
(Special to The Globe)
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WORTHINGTON — With bouncing curls, flouncing skirts and white ankle socks contrasting sharply with black dancing shoes, it’s hard to ignore the flair and fashion on display when Rince na Chroi takes the stage.

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“We’re really excited to come to Worthington’s International Festival,” said Rince na Chroi founder/owner/director Katie Stephens Spangler, “and we’re grateful for the opportunity to perform for this audience.”

Saturday’s appearance by the St. Paul-based Irish dance troupe Rince na Chroi (pronounced “rinka-na cree,” Gaelic for “dance of the heart”) won’t be its first in Worthington.

The half-Irish, full-hearted Spangler has in past years brought dancers, ranging from three-year-olds to adults, to the community’s signature July celebration of diversity.

Spangler says up to 20 of her 200+ dancers are expected to show their considerable Irish stepdancing skills this Saturday. After all, performances are what they prepare for and love.

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“In a typical year, we have about 100 public performances,” said Spangler. “We are a dance school that focuses 100% on performance and teamwork; our dancers don’t compete, but we like to get out and about as much as we can.”

All the events scheduled for the International Festival, from Thursday, July 7, to Saturday, July 9.

Other than the “hard couple of years” wrought by COVID cancellations, Spangler says her troupe travels mainly throughout Minnesota but also across the Midwest. Festivals like Worthington’s are familiar fare.

“Often we attend events featuring other types of folk and ethnic dance groups, and it’s really fun to see what dance looks like from other cultures,” said Spangler.

“It’s a good experience for our dancers to both do what they do and see how other cultures celebrate dance as well.”

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A Milwaukee native and lifelong dance enthusiast, Spangler started Rince na Chroi in St. Paul in February 2003 with just a dozen dancers. Now, with nearly 20 years of Irish step dancing instruction under her belt, she is a confident professional who joins with her 10-person staff in teaching more than 200 students annually.

“New dancers start with us each fall, and typically by winter they’re performing for the first time,” Spangler said. “Our most seasoned dancers have worked weekly for eight to 12 years to achieve the level of dancing they’re at.”

In Irish step dancing, one of two different shoe types is worn depending on the style of dance being performed.

“The soft shoes are more like a ballet-type shoe, and the hard shoes are similar to tap shoes but with fiberglass on the tips and heels,” Spangler explained.

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And that hair! Those costumes! It’s all part of creating a genuine expression of Irish step dance.

“We pride ourselves on the dancers looking nice (with curly Irish dance wigs) and having lovely traditional costumes,” said Spangler. “We’re happy to share what we love doing with people who are interested in watching.”

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