Kate O'Brien, owner of Emerald Isle Dance Academy, already had a history of training world-class Irish dancers when she expanded to Egg Harbor Township in November 2012. At this year's North American Irish Dance Federation National Championships, it was just more of the same.

Several of O'Brien's students placed in the competition, which was held at Richard Stockton College on July 20-21, and the studio's two instructors took first in their categories, earning bids to the World Irish Dance Association World Championships in Dusseldorf, Germany, in April 2014.

"I was thrilled with how they did," O'Brien said. "I was really impressed with their level of dancing."

Irish dancing is different from most American forms of dance in that, instead of incorporating the whole body into the movements, it is done almost exclusively from the waist down, with the dancer's arms held stiffly at her side.

The style uses a lot of kicking, leaping and tapping motions.

O'Brien, who already operated in four studios in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Central Jersey, decided to expand into Atlantic County last year after one of her top students, Mays Landing's Melly Timmreck, expressed interest in becoming a dance teacher.

Emerald Isle offers classes at the AtlantiCare Life Center in Egg Harbor Township on Thursdays. Classes are taught by Timmreck and Abigail McHugh, who lives in Barrington, Camden County.

Emerald Isle also has a studio in Ventnor.

Both teachers already had strong national resumes before the July championship, but the event gave them a new highlight, not because of their own success, but because of the success of their first crop of students.

"We were ecstatic, crying, jumping up and down, and it pushed us harder to both compete our best the next day (of the competiton)," Timmreck said.

Timmreck had trained at other studios for several years before she joined Emerald Isle in spring 2012 in preparation for the WIDA World Championship. She had lost some of her passion for the art, but O'Brien helped her rediscover it.

Not only is O'Brien unmatched in teaching technique, but she also builds a team culture among all her studios, Melly's mom, Pat, said - and that extends to the Egg Harbor Township studio as well.

"All the kids are like one huge, big family," Timmreck said. "There's no animosity, there's no griping, there's no nothing."

Emerald Isle Dance Academy offers classes on Mondays in Ventnor, Thursdays in Egg Harbor Township and will offer classes on Fridays in Cape May starting in September. For more information about Emerald Isle Academy, visit facebook.com/ EmeraldIsleAcademyOfIrishDance or email kate@emeraldisle

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