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Local Irish dancers step it up during western states competition

Thursday, December 20, 20121517 views

You might say the five young women from a dance studio in Sandy were leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

Recently, five local dance students travelled to participate in the Western Regional Irish Dance Championships held in Seattle, Wash.  All of their hard work paid off when they qualified to compete at the World Irish Dance Championships held in Boston in March.

During the competition, Alexis Farnsworth, 12, beat out 109 other dancers in her age group to win the title of Oiereachtas Champion. She and Paige Crandell, Shannon Becker, Kaylie Dudschus and Kolby Rensburger placed among 1,800 other dancers to earn a place at the upcoming world competition.

Amy Webber-Stanfield, their dance teacher, said she’s very proud of Alexis and the other girls’ achievement.

“It’s a really big deal, [and] it’s an accomplishment for our studio,” she said.

Forty-three dancers from the Sandy dance studio travelled to the competition. Of those, 27 dancers and teams placed at the competition.

The World Irish Dance Championships event is held only once every four years. Webber-Stanfield said the competition is comparable to the Olympics of Irish dance competitions.

The event is usually held in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This year is only the second time the competition has been held in the United States.

Webber-Stanfield is passionate about Irish culture and dance. So much so that when she moved to Sandy with her parents and five siblings almost 10 years ago, the family would drive to California twice a month to take dance lessons.

The Webber family was so involved in Irish dance lessons and competitions that parents David and Cecilia opened a school to teach traditional Irish and Scottish dancing forms locally in 2004.

“At the time, there wasn’t anything like it out here,” Webber-Stanfield said.

Now, the school has 75 students taught by certified teachers in a building at 266 West Cottage Avenue (about 9000 South). Webber-Stanfield and her siblings operate the school, named Utah Acadamh Rince (Irish for “dance academy”), and Cecilia still makes costumes for the dancers.

Webber-Stanfield, 25, is a teacher at the school and in charge of the daily operations. She was an award-winning Irish dancer each year she competed from the age of 19 through 21.

The Utah Acadamh Rince dancers will compete at the world and national dance competitions this spring.

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