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Traditions, Fellowship, Fun The Focus At Kelly-Oster School Of Irish Dance

Dancers from the Kelly-Oster School of Irish Dance surround school owner Karyn Oster (center) prior to a recent performance. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Young girls learn the ropes at Kelly-Oster School of Irish Dance. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Kelly-Oster School dancers at a performance. Photo Credit: Kelly Oster School of Irish Dance
Dancers from the Kelly-Oster School during a recent rehearsal. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman
Dancers from the school after a recent performance. Photo Credit: Contributed
Karyn Oster (center) with some of the school's dancers. Photo Credit: Kelly Oster School of Irish Dance

BALDWIN PLACE, N.Y. - Kelly-Oster School of Irish Dance owner Karyn Oster considers herself lucky to have grown up in the Irish Dance community.

"I feel blessed to have grown up in the world of Irish Dance," Oster told Daily Voice during a recent interview. "And I'm always excited about bringing that to other families."

That's what Oster tries to do at Kelly-Oster School of Irish Dance.

The school was started in 1982 by her mother, Kerry Kelly-Oster, and Oster originally danced at the school with her sisters, even traveling far and wide.

"We were dancing all over the world, even at places like Radio City and Carnegie Hall," Oster recalled. "It was amazing. As an eight-year-old, I thought it was the most exciting thing ever... people clapping. I knew right then I wanted to do this the rest of my life... dance, choreograph, teach."

The success of Riverdance and Michael Flatley in the 90s resulted in a dance revival,  and by 2002 Oster had finished college, earned her Irish Dance Teaching Certificate, was ready to follow in her mom's footsteps and started teaching with her.

The school expanded to four satellite locations in 2002, and by 2011 Oster was ready to settle into her current Baldwin Place location. The school also has a studio in Dutchess County in Hopewell Junction.

The school currently has over 200 students, from ages two to adult. Performance and competition dancers range from ages four to 18.

Oster said she loves watching the young dancers grow.

"It's really been a roller coaster," she said of seeing the past 15 years fly by. "You get close with the kids, they grow up, then you start over again. Some of them go all the way to worlds (world championships). But then they graduate and you start again.

"It's so much fun to watch them," she added. "It's not about getting first place. They benefit from what Irish Dance can give you. The Claddagh Ring - our logo - means friendship, love, and loyalty. It's about being together, supporting each other. Making lifelong friends."

The school's most successful team was one that placed third at the 2013 Irish Dance World Championships in Boston. "That was really amazing, and completely beyond our expectations," Oster said.

With March being their busiest month, Oster said the dancers (split into around 10 groups) have nearly 100 performances this month alone, with almost 30 on St. Patrick's Day.

"They'll be at just about every local Irish pub in Putnam, northern Westchester and even in Pawling," Oster said.

Oster loves carrying on her family tradition. "My grandmother and my mother and all of the grandchildren and great grandchildren are a part of it," she said. "For us, it's about family heritage, a tradition we carry on. We're very proud Irish and we love to carry it on."

Oster stressed that dancers don't need to be Irish to attend and learn. "It's not just Irish kids, it's become more of a sport, a performing art," she said. "We do lots of local competitions. A lot of kids love the competition part, it's a big outlet to perform and compete.

"It's exciting," she added. "It's such a joy to see the next generation learning, and carrying on that tradition."

The school always welcomes new students and is located at 267 Tomahawk Street in Baldwin Place.

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