MEET OUR INSTRUCTORS & STAFF
The Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance is fortunate to have the largest and most experienced teaching staff in the Washington, DC metro area. Our talented and qualified staff ensures that each student receives individual attention and instruction. The experience our instructors bring to the school — from competing at the regional, national and world championships to learning Irish dance as an adult — provides all of our students with a wide base of knowledge.
Sean Culkin, Founder/Owner/Director, TCRG
Sean began Irish dancing at the age of 6 with Peggy O’Neill, ADCRG. In 1995 he earned his TCRG and began teaching adults. He founded the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance in April 1997. In addition to being director, he is the main instructor for many classes. Sean has many connections to the Irish Community here in the DC area and has been an active Branch Officer of the of the Washington, DC branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCE). CCE is part of a global organization devoted to traditional Irish music and culture. Since the school’s inception, Sean has made it possible for his dancers to perform at The Kennedy Center, Strathmore, Wolftrap, BlackRock Center for the Arts, The White House, The Irish Embassy and many other esteemed venues. Sean has been on the Board of the Southern Region since 2004 and was the Director of the Southern Region for one term in 2009/2010. During his term as Regional Director, he acted as a liaison to CLRG (An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha) in Dublin, Ireland.
Denise Culkin, Owner/Manager
Denise Culkin, Sean’s wife, is very much involved in the running of the Culkin School. Although she relies on others to help carry out many of the administrative tasks needed to run the school, Denise is responsible for the over-all business and management structure. Denise was never an Irish dancer however, her educational background qualifies her to be the backbone of the business. After all of these years, she feels like she could get up on stage and dance a reel with no problems!
Caterina Earle, TCRG
Caterina studied Irish Dance under Peggy O’Neill, ADCRG. She began teaching at the Culkin School in 1995 and assists with the adult classes at Glen Echo. She was the first certified teacher who joined the school and a true advocate for a program for adult Irish dancers. She was instrumental in the growth and success of our current adult program.
Samantha Durbin Hopkins
Sam has been part of the Culkin School for 20 years. She started taking lessons when she was 6 years old and competing when she was 9 years old. Throughout her competitive career, Sam placed in the top 5 in the Southern Region, placed in the top 25 in North America, and qualified for the World Championships 8 times. She also competed on ceili teams at both the Regional and World level. Sam has been assisting with classes since she was in high school. Currently, she assists with many of our classes, primarily our level 4-7 and ceili team classes. She also choreographs material for our prizewinner and championship level dancers. She is currently sitting the Grade Exams working towards receiving the CLRG certification.
Tammy has been with the Culkin School with its inception and is a member of the National Championship adult ladies ceili team. A student of Peggy O’Neill as a child, Tammy brings years of experience to the Culkin School. She assists with a number of solo and figures classes and has been helpful in acquiring a “look” for our figures competitors by providing Mary Kay products for all of our team dancers. Currently, Tammy is sitting her Grade Exams in order to receive the CLRG Grade Exam Certificate.
Maire-Kate began dancing at the age of eight, first with Drumcliffe Irish Arts and then with Roisin Academy, both in Syracuse, NY, where she competed as a soloist, on ceili teams and on choreographed figure teams at the local, regional and national levels, with several placements as both a soloist and team member at the Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas. In addition to competing, Maire-Kate also danced in a myriad of live performances, including performing with the Irish band Lunasa. She retired from youth competitive Irish dance when she attended the University of Notre Dame, but continued dancing during her four years at Notre Dame by performing with the University of Notre Dame Irish Dance Team. She was selected as the only American on the UCD Irish Dance Crew during her semester abroad at University College Dublin. In 2019, she joined the Culkin School, where she competes as a championship Adult dancer. She has placed top 5 at multiple Southern Region Oireachtas and top 10 at the North American Championships, as well as winning several 1st place ceili regional championships with Culkin teams. Maire-Kate is an assistant teacher for the adult classes.
Maggie McNamara Stewart
Colleen Ross grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and learned to Irish dance at the O’Hare School of Irish Dance where she was instructed by Tim O’Hare, Michael O’Hare, and Megan Sanders-Paulowicz.
During her time as a competitive Irish dancer, Colleen consistently placed in the top 15 at the Mid-America Oireachtas and top 30 at the national championships. She also competed internationally at the All Ireland Championships, Great Britain Championships, and the World Championships. After moving to Washington, D.C., Colleen began assisting with classes at the Culkin School in 2018. She is currently sitting the Grade Exams, working towards receiving her TCRG certification.
Kate began Irish dancing at the age of seven with the Burke School in Youngstown, Ohio, and has qualified for the World Championships four times, competing in Belfast in 2006. She has also studied with the Cannon School in Cleveland and taught adult classes at John Carroll University. Kate joined the Culkin School in 2002 and competed as an Open Championship dancer for several years. She currently helps the school manage performances of all kinds. Kate is also the coordinator of CULKIN LIVE, a dance troupe consisting of current Culkin dancers and alumni. She works closely with the band Lilt and choreographs many of her pieces to their musical scores. It’s a wonderful way for Irish dancers to stay involved while they continue their studies and begin their careers.