Local Young Women Find Joy in Irish Step Dancing

Reena Gallivan, Sarah Becker and Maggie McCarty are ready to step it up.

For 15 years, dancers at Rince na Chroi have enthralled members across the Twin Cities with their passion for Irish dancing. The performance-based school, founded by Katie Stephens Spangler, focuses on spreading this appreciation through the community.

Spangler grew up in Milwaukee, starting Irish dancing at age 7. Chasing her passion to St. Thomas University, she taught at another local Irish dance school while wrapping up her college education. Following graduation, she created Rince na Chroi, an Irish name meaning “dance of the heart.”

“Irish dance has been part of my life for 30 years,” Spangler says. “It’s really an art form; it takes a lot of discipline, and it takes a lot of hard work.”

This resonates with 13-year-old Maggie McCarty, a Mahtomedi native who began dancing at the school six years ago. “You really get to work on your skills and know other people, and I fell in love with that,” she says.

The technical dance background instilled in the girls is showcased, particularly in the month of March, through their talented performances. While most Irish dance schools focus on a competitive component, Rince na Chroi emphasizes teamwork and performances. The dancers perform all over: in schools, nursing homes, restaurants and, for the first time this year, at a Timberwolves game.

“It’s such a fun environment. Everyone is super accepting,” says Sarah Becker, a Mahtomedi resident attending the University of St. Thomas.

 “We just have so much fun when we’re on stage together,” Reena Gallivan, a 14-year-old from Vadnais Heights who began Irish dancing at 3, says. “I feel you can connect better with your friends and learn more things,” she says. “I love that.”