Step it up, Atlanta, with Irish dance classes

Lots of kids take ballet and tap, but have you ever considered enrolling your child in Irish step dance?

Dating back hundreds, or even thousands, of years, you can pretty much identify Irish dance when you see (or hear) it.

Wearing either soft-shoe ghillies or hard-shoe clogs, Irish dancers perform complex, rhythmic steps and dance formations either in unison as a group or individually. As confidence and accuracy develops, dancers can take part in many local, regional and national opportunities to dance competitively.

Schools offer a variety styles of Irish dance, from the Cumann Rince Naisiunta, focuses on traditional footwork and form, to the flashier style of An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha. If you're not sure which version suits your child (or even you) best, visit a few schools before making a decision and see them firsthand.

Whether you want to tap into your Irish heritage, or simply find a fun new way to get fit, Irish step dancing classes around Atlanta might have you rally hopping your way into a talent you never knew existed.

Burke Connolly Academy of Irish Dance. 349 D 14th St., Atlanta, Ga. 30318. 770-500-0301. As members of the Irish Dancing Commission An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha, Burke Connolly strives to encourage dancers to make new friends, achieve their personal best and have fun. Dancers 5 and older can choose to compete or take part in local and regional performances.

Tir Na Tralee Irish Dancers. The Sawnee School of Ballet, 433 Canton Road, Suite 312, Cumming, Ga. 30040. 770-887-0756. Part of The Irish National Dance Association and founded by Mary Hayes Ernst, Tir Na Tralee holds classes for dancers 6 and older at the Sawnee School of Ballet in Cumming. Dancers can study and train in the CRN curriculum to take part in the regional and national Cumann Rince Naisiunta competitions, or just take classes for performance, fun and fitness.

Mulligan School of Irish Dance. 4355 Shallowford Industrial Park Road, Marietta, Ga. 30066. 678-591-6975. The Mulligan School offers classes from beginner to championship for both children and adults. With a focus on personal development, Mulligan dancers will have the opportunity to take part in regular performance and competitive dancing.

Rowena Ryan Irish Dance Academy. 308 D Bob Industrial Blvd., Peachtree City, Ga. 30269. 770-617-5301. The Rowena Ryan Irish Dance Academy offers weekly classes for both competitive and non-competitive students, as well as monthly workshops by world champion instructors.

Drake School of Irish Dance. 4790 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Suite 101, Norcross, Ga. 30071. 404-524-6986. Founded in 1990 by Irish native Karl Drake, the highly competitive Drake School of Irish Dance offers classes for children and adults. Drake dancers compete every year in the North American Irish Dance Championships.

Looking for a summer camp for your performance-loving child? Check out these six metro Atlanta summer camps for kids who love the spotlight.