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Just dance!

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By Special to the Monitor

If you love to dance but missed starting ballet when you were 6, or if your feet itch every time you hear a fiddle play, you are in luck: Belisama Irish Dance has expanded its Los Alamos classes to two days a week. Classes will now be held on Tuesdays and Fridays at the New Mexico Dance Theater studio at 149 Central Park Square.

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Belisama Irish Dance features dancers from Los Alamos and Santa Fe.  The majority of the company members and parent volunteers are from Los Alamos and White Rock. Instructor Adrienne Bellis said, “Everyone is so committed here, parents and dancers alike.  I am truly blessed to have such a great group.”

Belisama has always held classes on the Hill, but this is the first year space has been available for more than one day, and Belisama is greatly indebted to New Mexico Dance Theater for this opportunity, Bellis said.

Irish dance classes are unique in several respects. Steps are taught as part of dances rather than as separate skills to be practiced in isolation. Children of all ages learn together, with more experienced dancers helping novice students so all dancers learn at their own pace. No previous dance experience is needed, and beginners are welcome at any time. There is no wait to “move up” as a dancer advances – students join the more advanced group as soon as they are ready. Adults are welcome to attend classes with children, or if they prefer they can attend the adult-only classes.

Choreography is another unique element of Belisama classes. All intermediate and advanced students study staging and choreography as well as dance technique and the results are often spectacular. Company members take a jazz/modern class specifically for Irish dancers, and they are free to incorporate modern dance or any other style into their compositions.

The Rhythm of Fire show, held annually around St. Patrick’s Day, features several pieces of first-rate choreography by local young people. The 2009 Rhythm of Fire show featured Los Alamos student Katie Rasmussen’s Bollywood-Irish blend “Delhi to Dublin,” which will be performed again on Oct. 11 as a guest performance at the Indian Classical Dance recital.

Dancers’ skills are honed and tested in frequent workshops, competitions and performances.

In the past few months, students have attended workshops with Riverdance members Ronan McCormack, Michael Patrick Gallagher and Sean-Nos dancer Kieran Jordan.

They also competed in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. Although not all students enjoy competing, those who do compete experience great success. Belisama has six national champions, including Los Alamos dancers Deena Rice, Vicky Hypes and Caitlyn LeClaire. For students who prefer performing, there are many local opportunities.

Upcoming events include the Renaissance Fair at El Rancho de las Golondrinas on Sept.19-20 and Celts for Hungry in Albuquerque on Sept. 26.

Boys and girls are encouraged to participate in Belisama. Information about Belisama can be found on the Web at www.BelisamaIrishDance.com.

Bellis is the director and founder of Belisama Irish Dance.

Bellis first studied Irish dance in California with the Claddagh School of Irish Dancing and is a National Champion as a member of an adult eight-hand ceili team.

Belisama Irish Dance School is home to 50 dancers from Santa Fe, Los Alamos, White Rock and Rio Rancho ranging in age from 6 to 60.

The Belisama Irish Dance Company features 12 local dancers, several of who have performed with international entertainers such as Trinity Irish Dance Company, Natalie MacMaster, Eileen Ivers, Lunasa and Gaelic Storm.