In her pursuit to become a better dancer, Valerie Peulausk is introducing local kids to a whole new culture and reason to kick up their heels.
Peulausk is a 15-year-old homeschool sophomore who began studying Irish dance in 2007. While she trains to dance competitively she also uses her skills to teach children at the West Rome Boys and Girls Club about this unique activity.
Irish dancing is a group of traditional dance forms originating in Ireland. Peulausk dances competitively. Her solo dances are characterized by a controlled upper body, straight arms and quick, precise movements of the feet. Solo dances can either be in “soft shoe” (shoes called Ghillies) or “hard shoe” in which shoes have a fiberglass toe and heel.
“Think of Riverdance,” Valerie said. “That’s what I tell people if they’re not familiar with Irish dance. Most people have seen or heard of Riverdance and they can visualize that.”
Valerie said she began Irish dancing because it was something unique and seemed fun. But that has turned into a successful competitive career. She travels throughout the Southeast and Midwest to competitions. She has racked up wins in Soft-shoe competitions and is just one soft-shoe win away from reaching the Preliminary Championship level.
The cost of competitive dancing can be astronomical, with the solo dresses costing as much as several thousand dollars. Then there’s the cost of Atlanta classes, private lessons, and traveling to competitions.
It’s a labor of love for Valerie and her mom Janice. Valerie loves dancing so much that as part of her high school community service, she decided to volunteer at the West Rome Boys and Girls Club teaching children the unique dance.
Currently, Valerie teaches weekly classes to four or five students in a small room at the Boys and Girls Club.
“It was totally foreign to them when they began,” Valerie said. “But I explained a little bit of the culture and history and I showed them the dances and they have taken to it really well.”
Valerie’s volunteer class at the Boys and Girls Club has developed into a dance team called Celtic Flame. She plans to continue this class by teaching children at the Club throughout her high school years.
She has another class and dance team called Celtic Fire which also meets once a week for anyone age 9-12 can pay to learn Irish dance.
“I’m hoping that the kids in the volunteer class can get a broad range of dance knowledge and routines,” she said. “And maybe one day they’ll be ready to go on a show like ‘America’s Got Talent.’
At the moment, however, the kids are having fun and preparing for a local performance at the Pot Luck O’ The Irish Saint Patrick’s Day party hosted by Rome’s Ceilidh Celtic Ensemble.
But the kids need more than Valerie’s dance skills. They need the right shoes and costumes. They even need a new floor on which to practice their high-stepping routines. If local individuals or businesses would like to contribute to the cost of these expenses, call Janice Hadaway at 706-378-7458.
For those who would like to see Valerie and her students in action, the team will be performing at the Pot Luck O’ The Irish Saint Patrick’s Day party which takes place March 16 at Georgia Highlands College’s Heritage Hall on Glen Milner Boulevard. Festivities begin at 6 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Those attending are asked to bring a dish to share. To make reservations, call Janet Baltzer at 706-234-6317 or email email@example.com.