The Drake School of Irish Dance set a personal record by qualifying 12 students to the World Irish Dancing Championships.
On most weeknights, the pounding of hard shoes on the wooden floors at the Drake School of Irish Dance on Clark Road is deafening.
About 20 students line up and create a thunderous roar for what is known as a hornpipe set dance.
The traditional Irish, Scottish and English dance requires dancers to wear shoes with hard soles similar to ballet pointe shoes but with flexible arches. The pounding of the shoes produces audible evidence of whether the dancers are keeping time with the music.
Soon, the school will send 12 of its students to the the World Irish Dance Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, a weeklong competition that starts March 20.
It’s a record for the dance school, which sent four students last year.
Students travel from as far north as Orlando and as far south as Fort Myers to take classes at Sarasota’s Drake School.
The students at the Drake School of Irish Dance are all 21 and younger, but they carry on a tradition that goes back to the 16th century and possibly further.
For some students, the art is a family tradition that has been carried on by previous generations of Irish dancers.
Sarasota resident Carley Honish, 12, is the youngest member of the group that she will compete. She is among the students for whom Irish dance runs in the family.
Her mother, Rhona Bohan, is originally from County Cork, Ireland and also danced when she was Carley’s age.
Carley has been dancing since she was 5 and currently trains four nights a week.
“I’m going with all of my friends, and we’re going to see family before the competition, so I’m excited about that,” Honish said. “You have to be focused enough though to start competing. You have to care about it enough.”
“I just love to see her dancing and that she loves it so much and that she’s very proud to be Irish,” Bohan said. “She doesn’t want to do anything but dance. She lives and breathes it.”
For student Kelsey Micko, 21, it will be the fifth trip to the World Championships and her first since she underwent reconstructive surgery on her ankle.
“To qualify and to feel strong enough to go is incredible,” Micko said. “It was kind of a shock. I went to regionals as my first competition back after surgery.”
Micko’s other injuries from dancing have included torn ligaments and broken ankles.
But they’ve been minor detours for Micko, who began dancing at age 5 after an Irish dance teacher spotted her dancing in line at Burger King.
“I think there’s something beautiful and captivating about this sport that once you’re into it, you’re hooked,” Micko said. “It takes such hard work and dedication. You really have to be all in it.”