WORTHINGTON – With bouncy curls, ruffled skirts and white ankle socks contrasting sharply with the black dancing shoes, it’s hard to ignore the flair and fashion on display when Rince na Chroi takes the stage.
“We are so excited to come to the Worthington International Festival,” said Rince na Chroi Founder/Owner/Director Katie Stephens Spangler, “and we are grateful to have the opportunity to perform in front of this audience.”
Saturday’s appearance by St. Paul-based Irish dance troupe Rince na Chroi (pronounced “rinka-na cree”, Gaelic for “heart dance”) will not be their first in Worthington.
For the past few years, the big-hearted half-Irish Spangler has brought dancers, ranging from three-year-olds to adults, to the Community’s Diversity Celebration in July.
Spangler says up to 20 of his more than 200 dancers are expected to show off their considerable Irish dancing skills this Saturday. After all, performances are what they prepare for and love.
“In a typical year, we have about 100 public performances,” Spangler said. “We are a dance school that is 100% focused on performance and teamwork; our dancers don’t compete, but we like to go out as much as we can.
Besides the “difficult two years” brought about by COVID cancellations, Spangler says his troupe travels mostly in Minnesota but also the Midwest. Festivals like Worthington are commonplace.
“A lot of times we see events featuring other types of folk and ethnic dance groups, and it’s really fun to see what the dance is like from other cultures,” Spangler said.
“It’s a good experience for our dancers to do what they do and see how other cultures also celebrate dance.”
A Milwaukee native and lifelong dance enthusiast, Spangler launched Rince na Chroi in St. Paul in February 2003 with just a dozen dancers. Now, with nearly 20 years of teaching Irish dancing under her belt, she is a confident professional who joins her staff of 10 to teach over 200 students each year.
“New dancers start with us every fall, and usually in the winter they’re performing for the first time,” Spangler said. “Our most seasoned dancers have worked every week for eight to 12 years to reach the level of dancing they are at.”
In Irish dancing, one of two different types of footwear is worn depending on the style of dancing being performed.
“Soft shoes are more like ballet-type shoes, and hard shoes are similar to tap shoes but with fiberglass on the toes and heels,” Spangler explained.
And that hair! These disguises! It’s all part of creating a true expression of Irish jigging.
“We’re proud that the dancers look good (in curly Irish dancing wigs) and have beautiful traditional costumes,” Spangler said. “We’re happy to share what we love to do with people interested in watching.”