By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Mar 13, 2006 at 5:28 AM

{image1} Usually, strutting around in festive shades of green on St. Patrick's Day is considered enough to earn participation points. Earn a few more by checking out the McMenamin Irish Dance Academy.

Founded in 2005 by instructor Aine McMenamin-Johnson, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in dance education and more than 21 years of dance experience, the academy focuses on teaching Irish step dance but offers many other unique benefits to students.

"We provide a holistic approach to caring for the body," McMenamin-Johnson says.

According to her, that's what sets the dance academy apart from all others. "Many aren't doing that, and it's too bad."

McMenamin Irish Dance Academy was established to participate in national and international sports competition, as well as public performances throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

But beginners needn't worry. No auditions are required, just a want-to-learn attitude of Irish dance and culture.

And the Irish dancing taught comes straight from a world-renowned dancer.

McMenamin-Johnson started Irish dancing in 1983 at age 4. Over the next two decades, she competed in seven World Irish Dance Championships as a soloist and five times in team competition. She earned a second-place ranking at the 2000 Belfast World Championships.

And that's not all. McMenamin-Johnson is credited with starting the UWM Irish dance program in conjunction with UWM's Celtic studies program and the UWM Peck School of the Arts. She currently teaches World Movement Traditions: Irish Step Dance at UWM.

Her passion for dance came from her family. "My great-grandfather was from Ireland, and my aunt was a dancer, so those two were big influences on me."

McMenamin-Johnson also happened to catch a performance by the Trinity Dancers at Grand Avenue at an early age, which sparked her interest. "I thought to myself, I could do that. So, 21 years later I got my own place."

Registration is now taking place for new classes starting in April and September of 2006. Ages 4 and up are welcome to the academy.

The McMenamin Irish Dance Academy is in Shorewood at 1409 E. Pinedale Ct. For a class schedule or more information, contact Aine McMenamin-Johnson at (414) 967-7038 or The Web site is