A 42-block hike from Midtown to the Upper East Side doesn’t get any shorter just because there’s a spring in your step, but the Emerald Isle Step Dancers plan to jig all the way during New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Founded in 1980, the Emerald Isle Step Dancers have performed in big St. Paddy’s Day parades, but most of them agree that an invitation to dance in New York City is their call up to the big leagues.
Jennifer Woss, owner, operator and chief choreographer at the Emerald Isle Step Dancers School on Kennedy Boulevard said the group’s Big Apple debut is an honor.
“I’m excited” Woss said. “We’ve done Savannah, Ga. We’ve done Philadelphia. We do Scranton and Jim Thorpe every year, but never something like this.”
The parade, scheduled for Saturday, March 16, begins at 44th Street and travels just over two miles on 5th Avenue to 86th Street. It starts at 11 a.m. and continues until about 5 p.m. with over 200,000 participants, including performers from around the world.
Letitia Warunek, 20, started dancing 12 years ago with her mother, Pat and her younger sister, Miranda. She said the three of them will dance in the New York parade.
“I can’t imagine dancing without my mom or my sister,” Warunek said.
Warunek, an instructor at the school, does not feel intimidated by more renowned dance groups and is not worried about the New York performance. Mostly, she hopes the group will have endurance to get through the parade.
Gabrielle Gattuso, one of Woss’ first students and now an instructor, said the group spends more time preparing for performances, not competitions, so dancers have a chance to hone their craft, rather than to get caught up in the pageantry.
The dancers at Emerald Isle train with a strong sense of community.
Gattuso has made some of her best friends at the school and spends much of her free time with a fellow instructor, Sarah Remakus, whom she met at the school about 13 years ago.
Warunek said, with students traveling from Dallas, Wilkes-Barre, Mountain Top and beyond to dance every week, friendships formed that would not have happened if not for the school.
Pat Warunekloves sharing dance with her girls, something she knows many mothers might never get to do with their daughters. Woss’ own daughter, 8-year-old Emily, has been dancing since she was 2 years old and dances in the younger classes.
Warunek said Irish dancing should be a family affair and many dancers at the Emerald Isle school take classes as a family or are the siblings of dancers who have moved on.
Annie Bagnell, one of the younger dancers, started dancing at age 3 at the insistence of her father, a native of Ireland.
She continues not only because he wants her to, but because she loves it.