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March 22, 2013

Where feet take flight

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


“It was pretty exciting,” Ian said.

Hearing the announcement that he would be going to the World Championships, Ian said he was ready to pack his bags for a far-away destination, such as Ireland. But then his teacher, Thomas Bracken, told him where the event was being held this year.

“I was like, ‘oh, you’re kidding me,’” Ian said, with a grin.

When he takes his spot at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, dressed in black pants and the shiny green and blue vest that he designed himself, Ian will perform three required dances.

In one of the numbers, he will wear his shoes with a hard heel, which make the telltale tapping sound that many associate with step dancing. This dance will show judges his athleticism and crisp moves. In another set, Ian will wear his pair of soft shoes, which will allow judges to see his agility. Each participant is also required to perform a contemporary set dance alone, which has been choreographed by his teacher.

At the feises, there are different levels for each age group ­— from beginner through open champion — and dancers must earn first place in each of the required dances to move up to the next level, said Paul Reilly. Ian will compete at the preliminary champion level.

For Reilly, who admits he wasn’t very familiar with Irish dance prior to Ian developing an interest, the past five years have been an introduction to a whole other world.

“I just learned with Ian,” said Reilly, an English teacher at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers.

Watching dancers for the first time move through a routine with intense skill and strength, Reilly was mesmerized.

“It looked so athletic,” he said.

The first time he saw Ian perform, he was also stunned, Reilly said. “I was really surprised and moved; I didn’t know he could do as much as he could.”

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