, Newburyport, MA

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March 22, 2013

Where feet take flight

Ian Reilly, 11, heading to Irish Dance World Championships Monday

As the school day progresses, Ian Reilly tends to be reminded by his teacher to stop tapping his feet.

But, the Newburyport 11-year-old can’t help himself sometimes. It’s a force of habit. Ian, a fifth grader at Immaculate Conception School, is an Irish step dancer after all.

Introduced to the sport as a first grader when he watched several of his classmates give a performance on St. Patrick’s Day, Ian went home that afternoon and told his father, Paul, that he wanted to do the same. His parents enrolled him in a class at The Bracken School of Irish Dance in Salisbury. Soon, he was addicted.

“Once you get started, you’re hooked for life,” Ian said.

In the five years since, Ian has traveled to various venues across Massachusetts, as well as Connecticut and Rhode Island, to participate in close to 15 Irish step dancing competitions or “feises.” He’s earned nearly 20 medals and trophies.

On Monday, he will once again show off his impressive footwork and skill set, but this time it will be on a bigger stage than usual. Ian will compete against more than 70 other boys in his age group at the World Championships of Irish Dance in Boston.

The prominent event draws more than 20,000 visitors to a host city, including competitors. The championship, which runs for a week, has only been held once before in the United States since it began more than 40 years ago.

Ian qualified for the championship by placing among the top five in his division at the New England Oireachtas, or regionals, last November. It was his first time earning a qualifying spot for the Worlds.

Since there were fewer boys than girls at the regionals, the top five males also qualified for the North American Irish Dance Championships in Anaheim, California this summer.

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