Hibernian hoofers learn moves at Irish dance school

May 9, 2023

For Irish dancers, there’s no busier time than March.  

Over the course of two weeks, the Kanaley School of Irish Dance on Cranberry Highway had 27 St. Patrick’s Day performances. 

Students of the school, which opened just before St. Patrick’s Day, don't do many recitals. Instead, performances at fundraisers, festivals, parades and bars fill out the dancers’ schedules. 

“We do performances at nursing homes, we go to elementary schools,” said founder Colleen Kanaley Dow. “The kids are very involved in the community.” 

The Kanaley School recently relocated to East Wareham from Dow’s home in Sandwich. The school teaches traditional Irish dances, such as reels and jigs, and features dancers wearing colorful Irish dresses and wigs.

Dancers at the school compete nationally and internationally with other teams, while also performing throughout the South Coast and Cape Cod. 

Colleen Mahoney, 15, loves how Irish dance allows her to perform throughout the world. 

Mahoney, and 14-year-old Annabelle Chown, performed at a competition in Killarney in March. The dancers are currently gearing up for the North American Irish Dance Championships in Nashville in July.

“I love the music, I love the footwork and the rhythm that goes along with it,” Chown said. “I just love everything about it.”

Brianna Prindle, 15, was a ballet dancer for five years, but didn’t stick with it. She began learning Irish dance after her dad saw a sign for the Kanaley School on the side of the road. 

“With Irish dance, there’s crazy expensive dresses and wigs,” she said. “It’s super cultural. It’s not something that you see often. It’s something cool that you can show your friends.”

Mahoney, Chown and Prindle said their favorite performances were with the Cape Symphony last year and in this year’s South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Irish dance has been a part of Dow’s life since she was 8 years old, taking lessons in a church basement in Sandwich. Dow said her family came to the United States from Tipperary in the 1920s, and helped build the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge in Buzzards Bay.

“Wareham has great Irish-American roots, whether or not you’re Irish,” Dow said. 

In addition to the upcoming championship, the dancers will perform at the Race Amity Festival in Mashpee this June.

In the fall, the school will introduce a ballet class and an acrobatics class.