By Steve Overmyer

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – St. Patrick’s Day celebrations look a little different this year, but one group of locals wants to keep a tradition alive at nursing homes.

They’re the focus of this week’s Snapshot New York with Steve Overmyer.

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(credit: CBS2)

Dancers take their marks, preparing to unleash joy.

The USA Irish Dance Alliance is a nonprofit that brings together world champions of all ages for the delight in the dance.

“I get to express my culture and spread positivity to a lot of people,” said Regina Culhane of Uniondale.

Every St. Patrick’s Day, Irish dancers travel to nursing homes for special performances. This year, the joy of the Irish jig is virtual.

“I work with them on Zoom, teaching them choreography and getting them ready for a day like this,” said Kelly Fitzpatrick of the USA Irish Dance Alliance. “They’re feeding off each other and doing what they love together.”

For the past few months, these dancers have practiced their routine on Zoom. Overmyer was present when they danced together in person for the first time in more than a year.

“I feel like we all have all this joy bottled up, because we’ve been working so hard and now it’s finally all coming together and it’s such a good time,” said Fallon O’Brien.

(credit: CBS2)

It’s the same style of expressive dance that’s evolved since the Middle Ages. Dancers keep their arms close to their sides and their upper bodies rigid while the legs move at a frenetic pace. It’s a tradition that dates back centuries, where Irish dancers were relegated to tiny dance floors.

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“In turn, the choreography was focused on the footwork. In order to highlight the footwork fully, the arms and upper body would stay very stiff so that everyone would be looking at the feet,” Fitzpatrick said.

The speed of the music makes the elaborate footwork almost magical.

“Foot placement is key. Dancer must be high on their toes. They need to point down very hard like ballet dancers,” Fitzpatrick said. “So every single movement has a designated spot where you put your foot. That’s why its so intricate and fascinating – because you speed that up to these fast tempos of music and you’re like ‘Whoa! What was that?'”

A blazing cacophony of thunderous sound, and masterful footwork.

(credit: CBS2)

“Even though we come from different parts of the Tri-State Area, when we come together, we make the sound in unison. It really is bonding,” Culhane said.

The video they shot that day will be shared with nursing homes in the area.

While the kids couldn’t hear their reception, their gift is the confidence the dance gives them as they rejoice in unison.

“When I’m out there dancing, I’m telling myself that… ‘You’re doing such a good job,’ and ‘You are amazing,’ and ‘You should just keep dancing,'” Culhane said.

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Steve Overmyer