By Josh Hertzog   Published Aug 17, 2005 at 5:26 AM

{image1} It's almost time for Irish Fest, and you still can't dance the jig? Have no fear dance enthusiasts, because the Kinsella Academy of Irish Dance is ready for you, providing lessons that'll give you the skills to compete in, or just to enjoy, a growing hobby in Milwaukee.

Started in the summer of 2004, Kinsella Academy was a dream come true for Marquette students Ryan Alba and Brigid O'Sullivan. Dancing since the age 5, Alba and O'Sullivan have been successful in competitions as soloists at regional, national and world levels. Being young entrepreneurs at 21, they thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to ditch the pubs and open up their own academy.

"We have a lot of Irish dance in our blood," O'Sullivan says. This statement is far from a stretch as O'Sullivan's father used to Irish dance and her mother knows a few steps as well.

"We named the academy Kinsella after Ryan's mother," O'Sullivan adds. "She was our first instructor when we were 5; she taught us the basics that we carry with us today."

And now those basics are being passed onto curious and motivated Milwaukeeans, with their first Irish Fest performance scheduled for this year and past performances ranging from dancing for President George W. Bush to dancing at Disney World.

Not only do Alba and O'Sullivan teach Irish dance, but they are also accomplished musicians that perform with their students. O'Sullivan plays the fiddle and Alba plays the bodhran (Irish drum). They offer music lessons, and incorporating these instruments into their performances offers a one-of-a-kind experience.

And there's more to the story than just learning to move your feet.

"We teach self-discipline and self-respect," O'Sullivan says. Life lessons can be learned as you break a sweat moving your feet like you never thought you could.

Kinsella Academy has 120 dancers in its membership, each eager and talented from the work they've put in. You don't have to be a pro to become one. Anyone can master the dance, so watch out Michael Flatley; young "lords of the dance" are blossoming at the academy every day.

"I'm really surprised how quickly they're learning," O'Sullivan says. "It's amazing, and the relationships we've built with them are very close."

Their finest example is student Maggie Dunn of Whitefish Bay, who qualified for the World Championship of Irish Dance in Ireland and placed fifth out of 111 competitors. The academy is proud to move Irish dancers up to the next level, says O'Sullivan.

For beginners, the first month at Kinsella Academy is free, allowing dancers a chance to get to know O'Sullivan and Alba and their teaching style. After that, it's your choice, but the 120 students speak for themselves.

Interested? The Kinsella Academy of Irish Dance is located at 3410 W. Forest Home Ave. For more information, call (414) 384-7632. The Kinsella Web site is