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Mactír Irish dance owner loves freedom of running her own business

Posted on 18 December 2017 by calvin

Mactír Academy advanced dancers perform their opening number at the 2017 Irish Fair of Minnesota. Left to Right: Bella Johnson, Julia Amerongen, Mallorie Moe, Zoe Sullivan, Aislin James, Lillian Pettigrew, Kendal Ellingson, Caoimhe Woodburn, Hannah Martinez, Abby Moe, and Maddy Lemay. (Photo submitted)

Dancers learn life skills—time management, teamwork, critical thinking, communication—while learning routines

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
For Mactír Academy of Irish Dance studio owner Emily Wolff, opening her own business has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.

“To have the opportunity to do something I love every day feels like a dream come true,” remarked Wolff, who runs the dance studio at 2241 E. 38th St.

“My advice to other small business owners is to always push yourself out of your comfort zone, try new things, and keep trying them. Your business needs will always evolve, and you have to be ready to adapt when that happens!”

She also encourages new business owners to have a long-term vision for the business at the start. “Build your business mission and philosophy from day one, and then let that drive how your business grows and evolves,” stated Wolff. “When you are in times of major growth or change, go back to that mission and philosophy to help push you forward.”

Photo right: Mactír Academy of Irish Dance studio owner Emily Wolff lives just four blocks from the studio in Corcoran. (Photo submitted)

For Wolff, the most significant challenges she faces center on the business side of things. “While I can run the accounting side of things, and track costume inventory, it’s certainly not my favorite thing to do,” she remarked. “However, it’s all well worth it to have the freedom to run my business the way I choose to run it. When you are the owner and director of the school, you set the tone for how your dancers and families make an impact in the community.”

She also loves the hands-on nature of what she does.

“I never opened a dance school so I could sit in my office all day,” said Wolff. “Teaching classes six days a week and working with people of all ages is just the type of environment where I thrive. I love that I can showcase both my creativity and my leadership, skills!”

SENA good fit for school
Mactír Academy opened in the spring of 2013 in the “Eat Street” area in the Old Arizona Building along Nicollet. The school moved to its current location in the Standish-Ericsson neighborhood in June of 2015.

While it was a pure coincidence that the dance studio ended up in the SENA neighborhood, it has been a great fit for the Mactír community. Wolff had set out to find a larger space and knew she wanted the school to remain in Minneapolis as it is the only performance and competitive school that is based Minneapolis.

“Our dance families absolutely love the neighborhood, and we have built fast connections with the elementary schools in the area, with many of our dancers attending schools in the neighborhood,” remarked Wolff.

Over 125 students take classes for all ages and abilities. The youngest dancers, the “Wolf Pups,” start as young as three years old. From there Mactír offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced level classes to children and teenagers. Dancers attend classes anywhere from 1-4 times per week depending on their age and level. Mactír offers both competitive classes and team performance classes, based on the time of year.

There is also a thriving adult program at Mactír. Three levels of adult classes are offered, and beginner adults can start throughout the year with the six-week skills classes on Mondays.

Learning life skills
As a child, Wolff grew up two doors down from the editor of “The Irish Gazette,” Jim Brooks. He had a daughter about her age, and the two were friends. When Irish Dancing became popular again in the early 1990s with the start of Riverdance, a school opened in St. Paul.

“I was four years old, and my parents really didn’t have a strong Irish heritage, but they thought it would be something fun for me to do with my friends,” noted Wolff. “Our classes were held in bar basements and church gyms, but we were having so much fun.”

Photo left: Some Mactír Academy’s beginner and intermediate dancers greet the MC before a St. Patrick’s Day show at Hale Elementary. Left to Right: Amelia Schmidt, Silje Wicker, Connor Luby, and Berit Wicker. (Photo submitted)

The school she started at has long since closed, but she kept right on dancing. Now she’s been dancing and teaching for 25 years.

“I love that Irish Dance is about so much more than dance,” observed Wolff. “Yes, it keeps me fit, and my mind working in unique ways, but it’s the life skills that I have learned that are the most valuable to me, and something that I try and instill in my dancers now. From time management, to communication, to teamwork, to critical thinking, Irish dance has so many more benefits than people realize.”

Wolff also loves the social aspect of Irish Dance.

“Irish dance is such a unique sport. It can be done in so many different environments,” she pointed out. “I have performed and competed all over the country from a nursing home in Alexandria, Minn., to dancing at the largest Irish Festival in the world with International musicians. Irish Dancers can dance in the most informal settings, and the most elegant of affairs and still fit right in.”

Striving for excellence
According to Wolff, Mactír Academy strives to be the premiere team-based competition school in Minnesota, where dancers and families choose their own journey. That may be going to a couple of feiseanna (competitions) a year, performing with local and international bands, or competing in the Irish Dance World Championships.

“Our dancers are taught to always strive for excellence in and out of the dance studio and take those skills with them wherever life takes them,” stated Wolff.

The school’s next big performance season will be in March. “St. Patrick’s Day is our busiest day of the year!” said Wolff. “You can catch us at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul on Mar. 17 and 18, and also in the Minneapolis Parade on Mar. 17.”

For more, browse www.mactiririshdance.com, email emily@mactiririshdance.com or call 651-261-8575.

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