Taking a bow
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Niall de Burca
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Dancing in the seats
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HOHENFELS, Germany -- With tales of giants, leprechauns and fairy fiddlers, Niall de Burca brought the rich tradition of Irish storytelling to the students of Hohenfels Elementary School with a series of interactive performances that literally had children dancing in the aisles, March 27.

"This was the sixth-graders' favorite performer by far," said teacher Sarah Utter.

De Burca performed three shows with varying content for the different age groups. But from kindergarten through sixth grade, the students were equally mesmerized.

"I am hyper with happiness, because he was amazing," claimed sixth-grader Maya Diaz.

De Burca got the children into the act, having them mimic many of his gestures and phrases throughout each story. His boundless energy, multiple voices and hysterical facial expressions had his audience howling.

"You can see I'm enjoying myself, and I think if you enjoy yourself, others respond to that," De Burca said.

"To me, storytelling is pretty straight forward. It is 'share the joy, honor the ancestors,'" he added.

De Burca certainly honors his ancestors, telling stories of ancient Ireland with a new energy and a perspective. He also honors his more recent ancestors, as he continues a storytelling tradition that he said was passed on to him from his parents.

"I'm a traditional storyteller," De Burca said. "That's a 20th century way of doing something that's very old. I just do it in my style, which as you can see is pretty free-flowing."

"Not only were the stories fun and exciting, but there were powerful life lessons imbedded within the humor," said second-grade teacher Kathryn Iacampo.

De Burca tours internationally, and also holds workshops in countries as diverse as Poland, Argentina, Italy and The Netherlands. He said coming to Hohenfels was fascinating for him as the diversity of the base was like a vignette of American culture.

"For me, someone from Ireland -- a little misty island on the sea -- to be able to come in to this base and share stories, to get an insight into the U.S. culture, was a real privilege," he said.

The HES PTA (Parent Teacher Association) sponsored the performance with funds raised through various activities such as Bingo dinners, b ook fairs and school pictures.

"The teachers, parents and guardians who supported our PTA fundraising efforts by way of donating their time, talent or even attendance have helped to ensure an otherwise good school year to turn out great," said Kelly Smith, HES PTA president.

"Hearing all the children laugh, seeing them dancing in their seats, and knowing they were genuinely happy made every volunteer hour spent worth it," she said.