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Irish Dancing, It's More Than Saint Patrick's Day Entertainment

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Saint Patrick's Day wouldn't be complete without the dancers. With those signature rhythms, turned out toes, and fancy footwork, Irish step dancing stands out.

"My mouth dropped when I saw it," says Kalina Yadlosky, a student at Johnston School of Irish Dance in Vestal. 

Yadlosky was only 5 years old when she saw the traditional dance performed for the first time. She fell in love.

"I was like, 'mom, I have to do this,'" remembers Yadlosky.

18-year-old Kalina Yadlosky (far left) has been Irish dancing for 13 years.

Mom signed her up and she's been putting in countless hours both in the studio and at home for 13 years. 

"There's a lot of hard work and determination that goes into this," says Abby Cook, a teacher at Johnston. 

Johnston School of Irish Dance teacher Abby Cook (right) walks students through a step.

With Saint Patrick's Day only a few days away, dancers are in the studio four to five days a week, and that's not even the half of it. The other 364 days of the year, dancers square off at competitions called "feis," and at the end of this month, more than 30 countries will be represented at World Championships in Glasgow. It really is a competitive sport.

Dancers have been in the studio 5 days a week to prepare for Saint Patrick's Day performances.

"It's more athletic than a lot of people would think," says Cook.

Dancers go through conditioning and strength training at least once, if not twice, a week, and that's just in the studio, not counting what they do at home. Many dancers say they set aside time every day to do drills or run through steps. 

It's all about building up endurance and muscles. Stomach muscles help keep the arms back and to the side, while leg muscles help with that fast, yet controlled, footwork.

"Irish dancers have huge calves, everybody says that and that's where they come from for sure," says Cook.

All of this work, to make sure when they hit the stage, it looks effortless.