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Irish dancing a sister act for Brandon Trio

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image The Johanson girls, from left, Freya, Poppy and Ella and their fellow Brandon dance partner, Colleen Hickle (middle rear) at the Suncoast Feis earlier this year.

“They don’t walk anywhere, they dance..."


Freya Johanson tried tap and ballet but when it came to Irish dancing, she fell in love.

“It’s really cool because you can just express yourself when you are dancing and let go of all the things you are worried about and just dance,” said Johanson, 10. “Ballet is more graceful and I am not so much of a graceful dancer but in Irish dancing the steps are more vivid and complex.”

Freya’s love of dance runs in the family. She’s one of three award-winning Johanson sisters who enjoy Irish dancing. Ella, 12, and Poppy, 6, join their sister twice a week for classes at Sarasota’s Drake School of Irish Dance.

The two-hour roundtrip, twice a week is not easy but their mom, Jen Johanson, says it’s all worthwhile.

“[My husband] Erik and I are very proud of the girls,” said Johanson. “They do work very hard at school and homework can be a bit of a juggling act, but we make it work. I am not a dance mom who pushes her kids into it. If anything, I let the girls push me.”

The drive isn’t the only cost for the family. The striking gowns worn by female Irish dancers don’t come cheap with many costing north of $1,000. The guys get off relatively easily; they wear pants, white shirts and ties.

Having three Irish dancers in the family can get a little expensive paying for shoes, dresses and lessons but both the Brandon and St. Petersburg chapters of the New World Celts, an organization promoting Celtic culture, have been “amazingly supportive by offering the girls scholarships,” Jen Johanson said.

The Johanson girls were doing ballet and tap when the family lived in Germany, Erik Johanson was stationed there with the U.S. Air Force, when they were introduced to Irish dancing, catching a live performance. “From that day on they were hooked,” Jen Johanson said. “They had a passion for it straight away.”

Moving back to Brandon in 2010, the Johansons took classes in town for a year before that dance school disbanded. They continued to perform at New World Celt events until joining classes at the Drake School last year. Since then, the girls have competed in more than 10 Irish dance contests, raking in numerous medals.

Dancing is in their blood.

“They don’t walk anywhere, they dance. Irish dancing is one of those things that just gets you hooked.”

Freya’s dream is to one day take the stage as an Irish dancer.

“I want to be a Riverdance dancer one day,” she said, referring to the theatrical show consisting of traditional Irish step dancing.

The Johanson girls are set to dance at O’Brien’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, located at 701 W. Lumsden Road, Dec. 18, for customer appreciation night. They will also be tapping the floorboards at 7 p.m. New Year’s Eve at O’Brien’s.

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