Crystal Carper remembers watching the Irish music and dance show Riverdance on television 21 years ago, when she was 9.

“I thought it was the neatest thing I ever saw. From that day, I was begging to take Irish dance lessons,” she recalled.

But the school nearest her Rothsville home was in Delaware, a one-hour, 40-minute drive one way that her parents deemed too far.

So she waited until an Irish dance school opened closer to her home. Three years later, she got her wish when a school opened in Harrisburg, a more manageable destination.

“My parents still weren’t thrilled, but after talking about an hour and 40 minutes, 50 minutes sure seemed a lot better,” said Carper.

That memory stayed with Carper.

She decided to make Irish dance classes more accessible locally by opening Hooley School of Irish Dance in Neffsville in 2009.

And Carper kept on that path. The next year, she doubled the school’s space by moving it to Akron.

Now, the 150-student school is on the verge of nearly doubling its space again by moving to Brownstown.

Carper and her husband Matt are embarking on a $750,000 project to build a new school on the former site of the Brownstown Restaurant — a site that’s been vacant for 10 years.

As a project of that magnitude suggests, Carper is confident that Irish dance will keep rising in popularity.

“Some people do it because they have Irish heritage,” said Carper. “But more and more, we’re finding people do it to get exercise, meet great people and work toward goals.”

The Carpers’ venture will relocate the school from a leased 2,400-square-foot space at 240 N. Seventh St., Akron, to 4,200 square feet at 1 S. State St. (Route 772), Brownstown.

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