The Duffy School of Irish Dance


Musings of an Irish Dance Teacher

Local Irish Dance School Hosts Workshop With Professional Dancer

Gaithersburg, MD: During the month of October, The Duffy School of Irish Dance will be hosting Professional Irish Dancer Colin Barkell for two weekends of intensive workshops at their Gaithersburg studio.  Barkell will work with students to improve their skills as Irish dancers, as well as share his wisdom and experience gleaned from his time as both a competitive and professional dancer.  Workshops include SRO Intensives (for dancers attending the regional championships), Power and Presence (for all advanced dancers) and Just the Boys (for all male dancers in The Duffy School of Irish Dance).

“We are excited to bring Colin in to work with our dancers.  A fresh perspective can make a huge difference in a dancer’s ability and mindset, and we know that Colin is an excellent example for our dancers,” says Erin Duffy Martorano, TCRG, Owner/Director of The Duffy School of Irish Dance.

Colin’s athletic style of Irish dancing has taken him around the world as both a principle and troupe dancer. Some highlights from his career include:

  • Danced lead role in Rhythm of the Dance
  • Danced lead role in Celtic Fyre
  • Danced in the first national tour of Rockin’ Road to Dublin
  • Performed at the White House for President Obama
  • Named Irish Dance Magazine’s “Most Inspirational” Irish Dancer of 2016.
  • Earned multiple regional championship titles
  • Placed 4th at the North American Championships
  • Placed 8th at the World Championships
  • Choreographed for the boys’ and men's programs at multiple Irish dance schools throughout the country.

The Duffy School of Irish Dance, located in Gaithersburg and Frederick, MD, is owned and operated by Erin Duffy Martorano, TCRG.  Teaching staff also includes Erin’s sister, Casey Duffy Graham, TCRG, and Caitlin Kriner, TCRG.  Students at The Duffy School of Irish dance range from age 3 through adults, and classes range from preschool to championship level.  Duffy dancers have many opportunities to compete and perform throughout Maryland, and elite dancers have opportunities to complete worldwide.

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Erin Martorano
Diversity in Irish Dance

I received a phone call a few weeks ago from a woman who was inquiring about dance classes for her granddaughter.  I don't know where she found my phone number, but it was clear from the very beginning that she didn't know we only teach Irish dance.  When I explained that very important detail, she replied, "Well, we're African-American, so that's not for us."  I tried to explain that we have students of many different ethnicities, but there was no convincing her to give it a try.

This is an issue I've come up against many times in my years of running The Duffy School.  As soon as the word "Irish" leaves my lips, visions of white-skinned, red-haired, freckled little girls leap to mind.  We certainly do have more than our fair share of redheads, but we also have many students who are not Irish (and not girls, but that's a different topic entirely).  Those dancers were interested enough in the style of dance that the culture to which it is tied did not deter them from giving it a try.

I am very proud of my Irish roots, regardless of the fact that I am several generations removed from those in my family who first came to America.  But I will admit that sometimes, secretly, there is a small part of me that wishes I could remove the word "Irish" from what we do.  I don't wish this out of shame or a desire to deceive.  I wish this because I truly believe that Irish dance is an amazing sport, and I want to share the art and athleticism of what we do with everyone. 

When a dancer walks through our door, all we care about is that they are there to dance.  We believe in the power of dance to shape young people into caring, resilient, confident human beings.  The type of dance that we do just happens to be Irish dance, because that's what we grew up doing, and what we are good at, and what we love.  The music, undoubtedly Irish, has strong beats and lively rhythms that make people want to move and clap along.  The dancers are strong and powerful, sharp and neat, graceful and beautiful.

It is my hope that we can continue to make progress in sharing what we do, and help people to give Irish dance a second look.  Yes, we are Irish, but you don't have to be.  Yes, we are white, but you don't have to be.  We welcome you as you are, and hope to learn from each other in this crazy world we all live in.

x Miss Erin

Erin Martorano
Summer Fun with the Duffy School

The school year is coming to a close, and we are busy planning for lots of summer fun!

This Saturday, June 10th, we'll have our end of year ceili at the Katie Fitzgerald Center in Darnestown, MD.  Not only will our dancers be performing but we invite you to join in the fun and learn a group ceili dance or two while listening to a live ceili band.  We’re planning a silent auction packed with great items, kid's auction, a 50/50 raffle, and more!   More information available here.

Next Saturday, June 17th, you can catch the Duffy dancers performing at Kentlands Under the Lights.  This well-attended event promises an enjoyable evening under the stars for the entire community, including food, wine, live music and family entertainment.  Check out the Kentlands Town Crier article for more information!

If that's not enough, join us for a Frederick Keys game at Nymeo Field of Harry Grove Stadium on June 28th!  We'll be doing a pre-game performance at 6:15pm before the Keys take on the Wilmington Blue Rocks.  Duffy dancers and families will get discounted tickets, but anyone else can purchase tickets here.

One last performance before we head to New Orleans for the National Championships - SummerFest at Bohrer Park!  Catch our Duffy Dancers at 5:30pm, and stay for live music by Nation, indoor & outdoor activities, inflatables & games, a classic car show, and beer tasting.  Cap the night off with the fireworks spectacular and the SummerGlo After Party!

We'd also love to see you at the studio - we have summer sessions available for new beginners to try Irish dance before signing up for a full year.  We'd love to see you there!

x Miss Erin

Erin Martorano
A Week at the Worlds

Over the week of Spring Break, three Duffy dancers traveled to Dublin for the CLRG World Championships. During those 8 days, the top 1% of Irish dancers all over the world convened upon the Citywest Hotel to vie for a spot on the podium. 

The competitions are large - these girls compete against 150-200 other dancers in their age category. Their time on stage is short - 51 seconds for a reel and 1 minute 24 seconds for a hornpipe. Months and months of practice and preparation for 2 minutes 15 seconds on stage, in the hopes that they'll be placed in the top 50 and called back for one more dance. 

We are so proud of our dancers, and the fact that they qualified at all is impressive. While none of our dancers placed in the top 50, they brought home so much more than a medal.

They learned what it means to have a big goal, and what it takes to work for that goal. They learned to persevere through pain, stress, and schoolwork. They learned to prioritize and manage their time. They learned to speak up for themselves when they felt something needed to change. They learned how important the small stuff can be.

Even though they are back home and setting their sights on the National Championships in July, they are still learning. They are learning from their mistakes. They are learning to use their experience in Dublin as fuel for their fire. And they are very happy to be learning some new material after doing the same steps for the last year!

Miss Erin and Miss Casey have also learned from the experience. Watching the top dancers in the world compete is an important part of growing as a teacher. They are also happy to be home to share what they have learned with the entire Duffy School, so that some of those dancers may one day dance on the Worlds stage.

x Miss Erin

Erin Martorano
Getting to Know The Duffy School

Welcome! We at the Duffy School have been busy making great changes to every aspect of our school over the last year, and this new website is just one example! We'd like to take a moment to tell you about our journey.

Miss Erin opened The Duffy School of Irish Dance in 2007 with the support of her family, which included her younger sister Miss Casey. The first classes were held in a small basement studio in the home of one of our first students. From those basement classes with 5 small, eager students, the school began to grow, and we made our first move to a Knights of Columbus Hall.  That hall served us well as we grew in number, and in 2011 we moved into a studio of our very own.

These places helped shape the school we have become. Those basement classes were so important to us because we were welcomed into a stranger's home, entrusted with their children, and given the opportunity to prove ourselves as competent and caring instructors.

When we moved to the KofC hall, we were grateful to have a larger space for our dancers, who were growing not only in number, but also in size. The Knights were kind and helpful, supporting our budding school as we learned to run a small business.

After several years, we began searching for a place to call our own. What a huge, scary undertaking it was! Up to that point, we hadn't taken many risks in our business, but we were ready to take that big step. With the help and support of both our biological and dance families, we were able to navigate the process, and in April 2011 The Duffy School of Irish Dance Studio opened for business in Gaithersburg, MD.

We made upgrades to the studio as funds allowed, and we now have a sprung floor to keep dancers safe, mirrors to help with form, and a growing selection of fitness equipment. Miss Caitlin has joined our team, bringing with her a new perspective and great enthusiasm. We have partnered with Prime Performance to strengthen our dancers and help prevent injury, and we've brought on an office assistant to help us get more done so we can better serve our dancers and their parents.

There are many more changes to come, but we are proud to be who we are and are grateful for the people and places that have helped us on our journey thus far.

x Miss Erin

About UsErin Martorano