Celtic Cardio stresses fun over technique

A wise woman once said: "Find fitness with fun dancing. It makes you forget about the dreaded exercise." It was Paula Abdul, and if you're wondering why a quote from an 1980s pop star ended up in a column about Irish music, it's because Patricia McManus, a young Irish-American woman from New Jersey and currently living in Queens, is heeding Paula's advice and inviting others along for the ride with Celtic Cardio. With classes offered in Manhattan and Queens, Celtic Cardio is a fitness routine that combines the two best aspects of Irish dancing - burning calories and having fun.

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An award-winning Irish step-dancer, McManus spent more than 20 years deeply involved in the world of competitive Irish dance. "I had Irish danced since I was 4, did a lot of competitions, and I was completely in love with it," said McManus of her feis-filled childhood. But like many Irish Americans raised on step dancing, the demands of adult life caused her to "filter out of the scene" in her early 20s and she missed the demanding workouts that came along with competitive dancing. "I was never as fit in my life as I was when I was dancing," she said. So with the goal of keeping the exercise component of Irish dance without the time consuming and demanding competitive aspect, Celtic Cardio was born. The class is a 45-minute session that includes stretching, learning dance segments, and raising your heart rate while kicking up your heels to the sounds of Irish jigs and reels. While some Celtic Cardio students are "retired" competitive step dancers looking for a gateway back into the activity that they loved in their adolescent years, others join the class for an introduction to Irish dancing. McManus stresses that you don't need a dance background to drop in on her class, "I don't correct technique, we're just there to have fun and work out. You don't have to be Irish to try it either" she said with a smile in her voice. Celtic Cardio classes are offered at the Sunnyside Ballet Studio in Queens and Ripley Grier Studios in Manhattan. (For details and a full class schedule visit celticcardio.com.)

When she's not teaching Celtic Cardio classes, Patricia McManus spends her time teaching Irish step dancing to children and lends her talents to various New York City based Irish dance companies and bands. So next time you see her on stage and admire her strength and stamina, remember that you don't have to be a pro to soak up all of the psychical, social, and emotional benefits of a good Irish dance!

Here are my picks for some of the best Irish sounds around town this week: Foy Vance at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC on 1/30, the Sandy Seisiun concert series featuring Mary Courtney & Morning Star, Larry Kirwan, and more at An Beal Bocht Cafe in the Bronx on 2/1, and The Narrowbacks Super Bowl Party at Rory Dolan's in Yonkers on 2/3.