Dearborn Irish dancer headed to Belfast competition

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Dearborn resident Hannah Newell (second from left) a 14-year-old freshman at Divine Child High School, practices at the O’Hare School for Irish Dance in Plymouth on Thursday for a fundraiser performance at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at Genitti’s Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurant in Northville. Proceeds will help her and nine other qualifying Irish dancers from her studio travel March 31 to April 8 to the 42nd World Irish Dancing Championships 2012 in Belfast, Ireland. Also practicing are Therese Muise (left), 14, of Superior Township; Elizabeth Muise, 16, of Superior Township; Alicia Wang, 10, of Northville; Eileen Doyle, 16, of Sharon Township; and Margaret Muise, 11, of Superior Township.

Sunday Times Newspapers

DEARBORN – While the motto “If you believe it you can achieve it” has inspired 14-year-old Hannah Newell of Dearborn to qualify for the 2012 World Irish Dance Championships in Belfast, an upcoming fundraiser will help pay her way there.

Newell, who has danced at the O’Hare School of Irish Dance in Plymouth since she was 5, credits her success to owner Tim O’Hare and dance teachers Megan Paulowicz and Breda McGowan.

“All of the these teachers have put in so much hard work and effort to make all of the dancers the best they can be,” Newell said. “They have surely helped me to be my best.”

To achieve that goal, she attends classes every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, and will add additional practice days to her schedule as a competition approaches.

Newell performs three solo competition dances: a soft shoe reel and a hard shoe hornpipe, which feature percussive steps, and a set dance, which is a fast-paced folk dance. She also does a ceili dance, an eight-hand reel with other dancers, which will not be entered in the world competition.

Newell said she gets nervous before major competitions because she has such high expectations for herself, and realizes that her competitors are also highly motivated.

“Once you get on stage, the adrenaline kicks in and I always end up having a blast,” Newell said. “It is hard work in the beginning but in the end it all pays off.

Her hard work has taken her to Ireland twice before for competitions, as well as to Glasgow, Scotland.

“I love going (to Ireland) because I always have new cousins to meet!” Newell said, adding that her paternal grandmother immigrated to the United States from Ireland when she was in her twenties.

“I come from a very Irish Catholic family and I am so thankful to have such a big family to help and support me in everything I do, especially in Irish dance,” she said said.

In additional to providing emotional support, her family funds her dancing, purchasing hand-made dance dresses from Ireland, which can cost from $1,000 to $3,000, and $100 to $400 for school dresses.

“Some people only get a few months out of their dress because of random growth spurts,” Newell said. “The dress I have right now I have gotten about a year and a half out of it and it is getting a little tight now.”

In addition to costumes, she wears a soft black shoe with crisscrossed laces for light shoe dances and a hard black shoe that resembles a tap shoe but is louder.

Her dance shoes have accompanied her to competitions throughout the United States as well as local community performances, which peak around St. Patrick’s Day and the group’s annual March recital, scheduled for March 4 at Mercy High School in Farmington Hills.

She said that the hard work and focus pays off in the end.

“When I qualified for (The) World (Irish Dancing Championships) the first time… when they called my name I was so shocked and happy,” Newell said. “I ran up on stage with tears and could not control myself because I was so excited… those moments make all the hard work pay off.”

Newell added that she has made friendships through Irish dance that will last a lifetime.

“I love Irish dance so much because of the wonderful school, teachers and friends that I have met because of this amazing sport,” Newell said. “I am so grateful that I have participated in this sport … and will hopefully pass it down to my children some day.”

Newell, along with nine other soloist qualifiers from the O’Hare School of Irish Dance, will perform at a fundraiser dinner at 7 p.m. Friday, at Genitti’s Hole-in-the-Wall Italian Restaurant at 108 E. Main St. in Northville.

Tickets are $40, and are available from Jenny Newell, at (313) 268-1121 or, or Maureen Oatman at (248) 214-8647 or