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Draper Journal

World-renowned Irish violinist featured at Irish dance concert

Jan 28, 2019 04:20PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Irish dancers of all ages come on stage during the finale of the Scariff School’s Christmas dance concert. They are accompanied by Irish violinist Máiréad Nesbitt. (Photo Courtesy Richard Lynch/

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

The Scariff School of Irish Dance celebrated a night of Celtic dance on Dec. 14 in Draper. The school, which has branches in Sandy, North Salt Lake, Logan, Lehi and Daybreak, is directed by Stephen Scariff. The evening showcased Irish dancers of all ages, and featured Scariff’s friend Máiréad Nesbitt on violin.

Nesbitt, whose first name is pronounced like “parade” with an “m,” is best known from her time as a violinist with the group Celtic Woman. She came over from Ireland for the performance and accompanied several of the dances on her violin. 

“Mr. Scariff is one of my very best friends, and we worked in the Lord of the Dance show together,” said Nesbitt during a meet-and-greet session after the show. 

How Scariff ended up in Utah “is a long story.” “My brother taught here for seven years, and then he left to go back to Ireland and I took over the school,” Scariff said. 

The performance, “A Celtic Winter’s Night,” featured a full program with dancers of all ages. The dancers were mostly female, but there were several men and young men as well, including Dallen Smith. Smith is one of four dancers from the school who will compete in the 2019 World Championship Qualifiers in April.

Stacy Lynch has been dancing with the Scariff School for 13 years, and sometimes gets a funny reaction when she tells people what she does. “They usually say, ‘Wait, you do that?’ Irish dancing isn’t super popular in Utah. But if you know the world and you compete, you know a lot of the dancers in other states,” Lynch said.

Lynch’s favorite dance of the night was “Distant Thunder,” which is performed a capella. “I love that number. It’s from the show ‘Riverdance.’ It showcases the power and variety of Irish dance when we use the hard shoes and make our own rhythms. When you don’t have the music you have to try harder to be all together,” Lynch said. 

Lynch attends rehearsals three times a week, learning new dances and polishing some of the staple performance numbers. “One thing I like about Irish dance is that it continues on. In other disciplines dancers may peak at age 20. We have dancers at our school who are 6 all the way to people in their 50s,” said Lynch. 

Nesbitt, who also played for the school’s 2017 holiday performance and is booked for 2019, was gracious about joining the school for the evening’s performance. “It was my honor to be here in Utah with the students of Scariff School. This is my second time here, and I absolutely love coming here. It’s getting to be a tradition now for me,” Nesbitt said. 

“I love all the kids and of course my best friend Stephen,” Nesbitt continued. “We all know he’s an amazing dancer, he’s an incredible dancer. But he’s also an incredible teacher. It’s really my honor to be here.” 

The school also advertised the classes offered during their 2019 season to those in attendance. With its ties to the professional Irish dance world and the opportunity to dance with one of the most recognized violinists in the world, Scariff School may be one of the best-kept secrets in Utah for those who love Irish culture.