Good News: Requests to perform come pouring in at Hogan Academy of Irish Dance

Good News: Requests to perform come pouring in at Hogan Academy of Irish Dance

Believe it or not, the pandemic has been a good thing for the Arlington Heights-based Hogan Academy of Irish Dance.

With last year's COVID-19 mitigations in place, the school filmed a virtual show of their performers doing traditional dances and shared it with area schools, nursing homes and other groups.

One year later, the school has been inundated with offers to perform in person.

At last count, they had 35 shows lined up leading up to St. Patrick's Day.

"It's the most performances we've had," says Caitlin Hogan Hubick, the Arlington Heights native who started the school five years ago. "It's crazy."

Young Hogan dancers wait to perform at Peggy Kinnane's Irish Pub in Arlington Heights. Courtesy of Hogan Academy of Irish Dance

Hogan dancers performed multiple shows every weekend in March at Peggy Kinnane's Irish Pub in Arlington Heights, as well as in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Palatine, at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, and the Irish American Heritage Center, both in Chicago; and at local schools such as St. Raymond in Mount Prospect and Our Lady of the Wayside and Westgate Elementary in Arlington Heights.

On St. Patrick's Day itself, Hogan dancers will start their day at St. Raymond's in Mount Prospect, before doing a pair of shows at Peggy Kinnane's, as well as at Hey Nonny and Rolling Green Country Club, all in Arlington Heights.

"The unique tradition of Irish dancing fits so well with our business," says Stacey Grodek, co-owner of Peggy Kinnane's. "It brings so many families together from the community to watch their children, friends and neighbors show off their amazing Irish dance skills."

Hogan Academy of Irish Dance will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year. What began with 10 students in two classes has grown to 100 students, spread out in multiple classes, from as young as 2-year-olds through high school teens.

Hogan dancers perform at Hey Nonny in Arlington Heights. From left are Emily and Odette Matula of Crystal Lake, Annie McNeill of Lake Zurich and Mae McMahon of Arlington Heights. Courtesy of Captured by Kim Photography

Hubick grew up performing and competing with Trinity Academy of Irish Dance, based in Chicago. She also taught classes at the school before and after she attended Marquette University, where she earned a degree in exercise physiology.

Still, she opened her own school, she says, with the idea of building an Irish dance community in the Northwest suburbs.

"I wanted to create a family," Hubick says, "and that's what this feels like to me. I want to know the parents, know the kids and know what other activities they're interested in."

Hubick and another friend who came up through the ranks of Trinity, Colleen Sherrier, teach all of the classes. They train in dance studios at the Metropolis School of the Performing Arts and at Dance Xpress, both located in Arlington Heights.

"We call it our 360-degree approach," Hubick says. "Our focus is on dance technique and learning the steps, but we work on strength training as well. We have girls who participate in team dance and competitions, as well as community outreach."

Hogan dancers competed in the Midwest Regionals in November in Chicago, and they will compete in them again later this year in Indianapolis. Girls also will be competing in the National Championships in July in Montreal, which includes dancers from Canada, Mexico and the United States.

World championship qualifier Ella Bahna of Chicago, right, with Hogan Academy of Irish Dance founder Caitlin Hogan Hubick, left. Courtesy of Hogan Academy of Irish Dance

Next month, Hubick will send her first dancer to compete in the World Championships in Belfast. Ella Bahna, 16, of Chicago, commutes to Arlington Heights to train, and her hard work is paying off. On March 4, she performed with the band Gaelic Storm in DeKalb.

Despite the growing competition success, Hubick says, she wants her school to be a place where everyone is welcome, no matter what their ability.

From left are Colleen Sherrier of Arlington Heights, a teacher at Hogan Academy of Irish Dance; Emma Shein of Mount Prospect; and Caitlin Hogan Hubick, founder of the school. Courtesy of Hogan Academy of Irish Dance

"In a world where everyone is so specialized, I want to try and celebrate everyone," Hubick says, "whether they're successful in competition, or in their first show on stage, or coming back to class having mastered a new step."

They talk a lot about goals, she adds, and balance - not only in terms of dance technique, but in being able to handle Irish dance with other activities.

Bottom line, Hubick says, the school aims to build confidence with every step.

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