Iona University Irish Dance Team Wins First Place in National Championship

The Gaels competed in the inaugural National Collegiate Irish Dance Championships on April 15

Performing Arts News

New Rochelle, N.Y. - It’s winning season for the Iona University Irish Dance team. Just shy of its two-year anniversary on campus, the team reigned victorious at the inaugural National Collegiate Irish Dance Championships, finishing first in three categories and in the top ten of the remaining competitions. The event was hosted on Iona’s campus on April 15, 2023, and featured the top Irish Dance programs from colleges and universities across the country.

Starting with the 4-hand and 8-hand competitions (group dances performed to traditional Irish music), Rebecca Turley ’26, Tommy Byrnes ’26, Cara Costello ’25 and Brendan Broesler ’23 placed first out of 27 teams for the 4-hand event and third out of 11 teams in the 8-hand.

For the senior and graduate student solo championships, Caitlin Ward ’22, ’24MA, won first place. Ward was previously ranked as a Top 10 National Dancer and also competed at Worlds for seven years. Meanwhile, Broesler won second place of the senior and graduate student solo championships, becoming the national runner-up. Costello was also named the national champion of the sophomore solo championship, and Turley took home sixth place for the freshman solo championship. The team’s fun number, a group circus-themed performance, placed second at the competition.

Iona competed amongst colleges and universities that included the University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University, Northeastern University, Villanova University, University of Vermont, University of Connecticut, Penn State University, Fordham University, Sacred Heart University, and more.

“To see how far the program has come in two years is astounding,” said Kevin O'Sullivan, senior vice president for Enrollment and Student Affairs. “The success of this program would not be possible without the dedication and efforts of Kelly Beyrer, our director of performing arts, as well as Irish Dance Coach Rory Beglane. In addition to building a championship program, they spent countless hours behind the scenes preparing to host the National Championship on campus. Congratulations to Kelly, Rory, and our amazing students on their outstanding achievements.”

Founded in 2021, the Iona Irish Dance team currently consists of 15 members, all of whom came to Iona with previous experience and have since represented Iona at competitions, events and prestigious parades across the country. Most recently, the Irish Dance team led Iona University up Fifth Avenue during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. The Gaels also finished first in several categories at the 2021 Villanova Intercollegiate Irish Dance Festival.

Four Irish Stept dancers perform at the National Competition.
The Irish Dance team performing in a variety of fun costumes.
The Irish Step dance group pose for the camera and smile.

Founded in 1940, Iona University is a master's-granting private, Catholic, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Iona's 45-acre New Rochelle campus and 28-acre Bronxville campus are just 20 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. With a total enrollment of nearly 4,000 students and an alumni base of more than 50,000 around the world, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona is highly accredited, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona students enjoy small class sizes, engaged professors and a wide array of academic programs across the School of Arts & Science; LaPenta School of Business; NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences; and Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Iona is widely recognized in prestigious rankings, including The Princeton Review’s 2024 national list of “The Best 389 Colleges” and The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse’s “2024 Best Colleges in America,” which ranked Iona at #66 in the nation overall and #8 in the nation among Catholic schools. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is also accredited by AACSB International, a recognition awarded to just six percent of business schools worldwide. In addition, The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2023.” Iona also offers a fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility. In July 2021, Iona announced the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, which is now principally located on Iona’s Bronxville campus in collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian. Connecting to its Irish heritage, the University also recently announced it is expanding abroad with a new campus in County Mayo, Ireland. A school on the rise, Iona officially changed its status from College to University on July 1, 2022, reflecting the growth of its academic programs and the prestige of an Iona education.