Irish Dancers Moonlight As College Students

This is not Ireland. But southern hospitality and sunny March weather have made three Irish dancers feel right at home. "I mean look at this weather," Dearbhla Lennon said as she sat around a picnic table. "It's freezing in Ireland at this moment."

We caught up with Dearbhla Lennon, Josephine Brennan and Louise Connolly when they were on their way to a management class at Gulf Coast Community College's Jeff Davis campus. They enrolled at the college to stay busy when they're not on stage.

The stars of Michael Flatley's "Lord of the Dance " were proud to show off the A+ grades they got on recent homework assignments. Their performance in class is as important to these ladies as their leading roles in the Michael Flatley production.

According to Josephine Brennan, "It's an opportunity to attend an American college and just get a whole different feel and different culture. And it's just a great experience. And we couldn't pass up on it."

Two days a week, the Irish dancers carry book bags into a Gulfport classroom. Eight times a week, they perform in the Beau Rivage showroom. Occasionally, the ladies study in their dressing rooms. "Having the show so late in the evening," Louise Connolly said, "it's easy to come to school in the morning and do bits and pieces in between."

All three women have been touring with "Lord of the Dance" for at least three years. This is the first time they've been in one city long enough to take a college class when they're not on stage. Consequently, Dearbhla Lennon feels the coast has become a "home away from home."

Over Easter, the Irish dancers will return to Ireland to see family and friends. The Lord of the Dance troupe returns to Beau Rivage in mid-April to continue its nightly peformances. Dancers have been told the show will run through at least the early part of June.

by Brad Kessie