Jig not up at Festival

Claddagh Dance Company performs at O.C. Market Place for the second annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival.

March 16, 2008|By Michael Miller

COSTA MESA — Unlike the girls in his troupe, Jacob Folsom doesn’t have to wear a wig when he dances. But that doesn’t mean the Newport Beach resident forgets about his hair before a show.

Jacob, 9, is one of the few boys in the Claddagh Dance Company, an Irish-themed school that operates eight studios in Southern California.

When the troupe goes on stage, the girls wear tightly curled wigs to give off that old-fashioned look — and Jacob, who sports a long mane of hair, firms his with gel to keep it from tossing up and down.


“If they have long hair like me, they have to put gel on it,” he said about the half-dozen boys in his Lake Forest studio. “If you jump, the judges will think you need to cut your hair. They’ll write in their comments, ‘Needs to get a haircut.’ ”

There were no such judges Saturday morning at the Orange County Market Place, where the Claddagh troupe put on a series of shows as part of the Second Annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival.

The festival, which began Saturday and continues today, features Irish dancers, music, magic and even a Celtic-attired stilt walker.

About two dozen Claddagh students performed on a small stage at the north end of the Market Place Saturday, with pillars of green balloons on each side and tiny St. Patrick’s Day flags hanging overhead. The two boys in the show wore purple vests, long white sleeves and black slacks, while the girls sported white dresses featuring a design taken from the traditional Irish wedding ring.

The troupe did some of its dances to recorded Celtic music, but many featured no accompaniment, as the dancers put on hard shoes and tapped out a steady rhythm with their feet in unison. Sarah Cutkomp, 12, of Rancho Santa Margarita said she practiced as much as 12 hours a week to get the coordination right.

“It takes a while to get it down, but once you learn, it’s pretty easy,” she said.

Katie Darlington, the instructor of the Lake Forest studio, said the performances Saturday offered the kids a break from the pressure of competitions. Later this week, she plans to fly with a large group of Claddagh students to a world championship in Belfast.

“The kids love shows,” said Darlington, a Costa Mesa resident. “You get to have fun and be a little bit goofy and smile.”

MICHAEL MILLER may be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

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