Surrey dancers bound for international event

Cloverdale Irish dance school qualifies six for worlds in Glasgow

By Gary McLaughlin

It was a great week in late November for Surrey’s Steel School of Irish Dance based out of Cloverdale. The school qualified a record number of individual dancers for the 2016 World Irish Dance Championships coming up this March in Glasgow, Scotland. All the dancers earned their spots by great showings at the Western Canadian Oireachtas (the Irish word for championships) in Kelowna.

Although the Steel School is based out of Cloverdale these last eight years, they have operated in Surrey since 1984. The school has had considerable success in qualifying not only world entrants, but in also qualifying a great number of dancers – over 150 at last count – to the North American Irish Dance Championships, held annually in different venues in both Canada and the U.S. By any measure, the Steel School of Irish Dance is one of the most successful in all of B.C.

Steel School owner and head dance teacher Jacquelyn Hardychuk calls this group of six qualifiers by far one of the hardest working groups ever to pass through the school.

“Their determination to succeed is evidenced by the countless hours a week they dedicate to training,” she says. “They have to be because the calibre of dance at the worlds is comparable to that of elite Olympic athletes. Only about one per cent of all Irish dancers make it to this level, so to have the opportunity to be amongst the world’s best is a huge achievement.”

The dancers – five of whom attend Surrey public schools and one from Richmond – are: Mikaela Barton, 17 (Sullivan Heights Secondary); Calleigh McLaughlin, 16, (Clayton Heights Secondary); Sabine Alexander, 13 (McMath Secondary, Richmond); Lauren Olsen, 13, (Earl Marriot Secondary), Belle Heritage, 12 (Mountainview Montessori), and Charli Olson, 10, (Laronde Elementary).

Clayton Heights’ McLaughlin is one of those dancers really looking forward to this ultimate dance experience.

“Qualifying for the worlds was easily one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life so far,” McLaughlin says.

“It truly felt amazing to know that all the years of really hard work does pay off. Preparing for the worlds will be challenging and will take complete commitment and, of course, dedication. But this is something we are used to and it is both a thrill and a real honour for all of us to represent Canada at the worlds.” these young dancers/athletes do dedicate enormous amounts of time to get the spectacular results they do. Practicing many hours a week both in the studio and at home, the girls also work with cross-trainers, physiotherapists and sports psychologists.

And then there are the numerous feisanna (Irish dance competitions) that are attended throughout the year in locations all up and down the Pacific Coast. Seattle and Vancouver, Washington; Portland and Seaside, Oregon; Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta as well as a host of local Lower Mainland sites are but a few of the destinations that see them pack up their dresses and go dancing.


Clayton Heights Secondary’s Calleigh McLaughlin and Mikaela Barton display the magnificence of the costumes at this level of performance.

It is a busy, full-time passion and, needless to say, dance can also be an expensive endeavour.

Just ask any dance mom! But it’s a labour of love for all involved – dancers, teachers and parents – and now the trip to the worlds becomes the big focus, as does the task of funding it all.

The girls have already started the challenging but necessary task of fundraising to help offset the high cost of the big trip. Numerous fundraisers and activities have already begun and you may see the six dancing at local pubs or venues in the next couple of months. They perform for groups and audiences both big and small and welcome all inquiries about their availability for your event or function!

All sponsoring individuals or groups will receive their company names on the team jackets, shout outs on our social media pages, referrals of the dance community to your business or organization as well as a signed team picture and thank you certificate for your business’s or organization’s wall.

Also, if you would like to see these young ladies in action and many other up and coming Irish dancers, the Steel School is hosting their annual Winter Performance at Surrey’s Bell Centre on Saturday, February 13, at 7 p.m.

If you are interested in helping these amazing young world qualifiers out, maybe attending the Winter Performance or want to inquire about enrolling your daughter or son in Irish Dance, go to: or Steel School Facebook page. You can also call Jacqueline Hardychuck at 778-228-5012.


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