Name: Katie Flannery
Tie to Kane County: Resides in St. Charles
What makes her intriguing: Flannery, a world-renowned Irish dancer who performed with Riverdance, recently opened Flannery School of Irish Dance in St. Charles
Words to live by: “You can achieve anything you want to, when you 1) Work your very hardest. 2) Have a ton of fun. 3) Never give up!” — Katie Flannery
Katie Flannery moved to St. Charles from Kentucky when she was in high school. After graduation, she left again.
But now she’s back, and she’s opened her own Irish dance studio in St. Charles with the hope of growing her business and training future world champion dancers.
“My parents were looking at houses here to retire in,” the 30-year-old says of St. Charles. “We came back to visit, and I fell in love with it again. It’s a charming little town, and it’s a great family area. [I thought], ‘This would be a great place to have the dance school.’”
Flannery, who started dancing at age 9, quickly found her place amongst the best Irish dancers in the world. Among other prestigious awards, she placed first at the All-Ireland Championships — the Irish National Championships; was a three-time Over Seas Champion at the World Championships — an award given to the best dancer who lives outside of Ireland; and placed fifth at the Irish Dancing World Championships.
After high school, she immediately began touring. First it was tours of North America with Celtic Fusion from 2000 to 2002. Then, she fulfilled a lifelong dream and toured North America with Riverdance from 2003 to 2005 as a dancer and singer.
Only after she left Riverdance and finished performing as the lead dancer with various symphony orchestras in the U.S. did Flannery finally have time to go back to college — Loyola University — to earn a degree in business so she could open her own studio.
Along the way, she found a great partner — Shane Kelly, a former Riverdance performer and friend.
“I always knew I wanted to have my own dance school,” Flannery says. “Ever since I was little, it was something I wanted to do. I had taught private [lessons] since I was 16. Shane also knew he wanted to have a dance school at a young age, too, so it kind of worked out perfect for us.”
Even though she just opened Flannery School of Irish Dance in April, Flannery already has a competing dancer in 7-year-old Haley Bruns of South Elgin.
The youngster has placed in the top four of her age group — including a handful of first-place finishes against an average of nearly 20 other dancers — in all five competitions she’s been in, says her mother, Gwen.
“The fact that Katie and Shane … were former Riverdance … I feel that we’re in really good hands,” she says. “Each dancer gets great attention, and [Haley’s] just really learned so much … . It’s really neat because not a lot of people do Irish dancing. Almost all the other people we talk to, they’re all intrigued by it because not that many people do that … .
“I just can’t say enough good things about them,” Bruns continues. “[Katie’s] a phenomenal person. She really seems to care about the girls in the class. I’m a big advocate of hers.”
Haley Bruns’ success is just the beginning, Flannery says.
“I definitely want other kids to have that experience I had and just have the accomplishments,” she says. “If they can accomplish their goals, I think that’s really significant, whatever their goals are.”