By Sue Loudon
When Father Brian Frain isn’t teaching education and Catholic studies at Rockhurt University, he’s dancing an Irish jig every Saturday afternoon at O’Riada Manning Academy of Irish Dance.
“I’ve been dancing since I was five years old,” says Father Frain.
Frain took lessons from his aunts who started an Irish dancing school in Philadelphia after the family arrived from Ireland. Having become a successful dance competitor, Frain opened his own Irish dance studio in Philadelphia before deciding to join the Jesuit priesthood. Now he shares his legacy each weekend by teaching young dancers enrolled at the academy.
Students at O’Riada-Manning Academy will be participating in all the local St. Patrick’s Day parades this year, according to Hannah Hawk, Administrator at O’Riada-Manning Academy of Irish Dance, 6001 Johnson Drive, Mission, Ks.
“We not only have students participating in local St. Patricks Day Parades but one of our students will be competing in an international competition in Belfast, Ireland over Easter break,” she says. Rishi Palit, a student in the Blue Valley School District, has been studying with O’Riada-Manning Academy for 10 years. Palit proves that you do not have to have Irish blood coursing through your veins to be a competitive Irish dancer. Palit is of Indian descent.
“You absolutely do not have to be Irish to be a part of the Academy,” emphasizes Hawk.
Father Frain agrees. “Too many Irish in one place is never a good thing,” he jokes.
Beginners may start as young as five years old. Girls wear a black skirt and white blouse and boys black pants and white shirt. At the second level girls wear a black velvet skirt and green Celtic top.
“It is at the higher levels when the fancy dresses decorated with Irish knots are worn. The really decorated dresses can cost over a thousand dollars,” said Manning.
Frain emphasizes that getting children involved in Irish dance is good for the child. “It’s good for their development, coordination, and balance,” says Manning. It also gets children away from a computer screen and create camaraderie.
Different groups of dancers will be in different parades, with the youngest ones doing some of the shorter parades. The O’Riada-Manning Academy will get busy starting March 12th in both the Downtown Overland Park parade, March 13 in the Martin City parade and March 17 in the Downtown Kansas City parade and March 19 for the Brookside parade.
O’Riada-Manning Academy was founded by Christine O’Riada, an Irish native, over 25 years ago. She sold the building and school to Joseph Manning in 2010.