It’s 5 p.m. on a Wednesday in early March as dancers enter the McDade-Cara School of Irish Dance in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. The girls, and one boy, wrap and tie their soft shoes and begin to file into the dance studio for warm-ups.
Their coach, Sheila Sweeney, waiting for them in the mirrored dance studio, motions for them to get into their lines. The dancers line up in their groups. “Ready? One, two, three,” Coach Sweeney says as she presses play on the iPod.
Step, tap, jump, jump. The dancers follow their lines across the floor, each mimicking the precise jump sequence of the dancer before them. They are warming up for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Philadelphia.
The dancers look forward to the parade each year. Many have been going to the parade since before they could walk, let alone dance.
“Something I just love about the parade is that it’s something that brings our whole family together, there’s just so much culture,” says dancer Regan Sweeney. “We DVR it every year,” adds her sister, Darcy Sweeney. “We love watching past parades and seeing how we’ve grown up doing the parade.”
Unfortunately for the sisters and the rest of the dancers at the school, this year’s parade has officially been cancelled. Among concerns that large social gatherings might accelerate the spread of COVID-19, city and parade officials came together with the community to postpone their 250th year celebration until March 14th, 2021.
Luckily for the dancers, step season continues through the year, so at least these extra rehearsals were not for nothing.