A photo of a line of young Prairie Gael School of Irish Dance dance students at a performance.

Dance develops strength, flexibility, confidence and a connection to culture

By: Jackie Ledingham March, 2024

Caitlin Preston’s passion for teaching dance has instilled in her students the importance of developing strength, as well as flexibility in the body and mind.  

“I teach them the discipline to work on their craft not just when they are motivated, but to work it into their daily routine. Nobody wants to come to dance all the time, so it’s learning to practice anyway,” says Preston, director, Prairie Gael School of Irish Dance in Regina. 

 Preston became an instructor at the dance studio in 2011, and two years later she became Regina’s only certified traditional Irish step dance instructor after successfully challenging the Teagascóir Coimisiún Le Rinci Gaelacha (TCRG) – examination in Atlanta, and gaining her TCRG credentials through An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG) in Dublin. In 2015, she became a director of the studio. Recognizing there was a demand for the competitive end of Irish dance, she now teaches beginners all the way to International levels. Through her efforts, one of her students, Mariel Boucher, will be the first student in Regina ever to compete in the CLRG World Championships in Glasgow.  

One of the things her students gain through joining her dance studio is a connection to the Irish culture. She says, “They get a good bringing up in the Irish culture.” Also through competitions, known as feiseanna, which means festivals in Irish, they are exposed to the Irish community from all over the world. Through her classes they are learning the traditional dance forms and music, as well as, the different Irish language dance terms, such as Ceili, which can mean “a visit”, or “a gathering”.  

Besides learning about the Irish culture and to be disciplined, there are many other benefits and skills that are developed in her dancers that often lead to academic success and attending university. “Dance builds confidence. They learn to deal with frustration and challenges, as well as learning the difference between being uncomfortable and not actually being able to really do something. In competition, there’s learning to separate the results from your self-worth, as life doesn’t always work out the way we want it to.”  

She goes onto to say, dancers are some of the strongest athletes in the world. There are many physical gains that dance develops, she says, such as a connection to your body and an awareness of its needs, as well as balance and spacial awareness which helps with coordination just to name a few. Many of Preston’s dancers are athletes and have won multi-sport athletic awards.  

Preston says, since she started teaching, she has loved every moment of her experience and has formed deep bonds with her students. “I find teaching probably one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life. It pushes me to learn how to communicate better. It’s quite a thing to be able to teach children from the age of three until they graduate from high school.”  

Through goal-setting, individualized training programs, access to resources, ongoing support and guidance, Preston helps her students achieve those goals.  

Overall, she says, arts and cultural activities are important for children and youth to experience so they can find their passion. “I think any creative activity is awesome. It’s a great emotional outlet to forget your troubles for a couple of hours and have some fun. As well as, being able to create something and put it out in the world.”  

Preston has helped families access funding for dance lessons through Creative Kids and is also registered as a service provider for the charity.