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Theresa "Tessie" Burke, ADCRG, Founder

Following in the footsteps of her Irish-born father, Thomas Scott, who in 1942 opened the first Irish Step Dance school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mrs. Burke began her own charter school in Cleveland in 1958 after studying in Dublin, Ireland with Master Teachers.  In 1966, she opened a second school in Youngstown, Ohio, and at the invitation of the Board of Directors of the Irish Centre of Pittsburgh, began accepting students for classes at the Irish Centre in 1971. 


Theresa "Tessie" Burke was the first American-born woman to become certified as a step dancing teacher by the Irish Dance Commission in Dublin.  For nearly 60 years, Tessie has taught several thousand students and has judged hundreds of local, regional, national, and World competitions.  She was the only judge to award a first place to Michael Flatley in his first qualification for the World Championship in Ireland!  Tessie has selflessly dedicated her life to preserving the Irish heritage through Irish Dance.


Tessie was inducted into the North American Irish Dance Teacher hall of Fame in November 2005.  In 2008, she celebrated her 50th year of teaching.  Her dedication was recognized by An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, when she was awarded the Gradam Rince Award of Distinction at the 2009 World Irish Dancing Championships in Philadelphia, & again at the 2013 World Irish Dancing Championships, in Boston, MA.  At the 2015 Mid America Oireachtas, The Irish Dance Teachers Association of Mid America presented Tessie with an award “In Proud Recognition of 50 Years of Outstanding Contributions to Irish Dance”.

Laura Conroy Rust, TCRG

Laura has been actively involved in traditional Irish step dancing since the age 5.  She achieved the Championship level of competitive dancing, including several World Championship qualifications, under the direction of Theresa Burke. Laura began teaching with Tessie in 1998.  Laura is a registered teacher (TCRG) through the Irish Dance Commission (An Coimisiun le Rince Gaelacha) in Ireland (having received a 100% on the music text and 98% on the grueling written exam!), and is a member of the Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America and the Irish Dance Teachers Association of Mid-America. As an active member of the Irish dance community, Laura attends many major dance competitions throughout the United States and abroad.  Laura’s passion is everything and anything about the unique tradition of Irish dance, and she is honored to be in the position to pass this wonderful gift on to new generations of dancers.


Laura lives in Scott Township with her husband, Pat, and their son, Cullen.

Mary Conroy Adams, TCRG

Mary is a registered teacher (TCRG) through An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha, Dublin, Ireland (CLRG), The Irish Dance Teacher’s Association of Mid America (IDTAMA), and The Irish Dance Teacher’s Association of North America (IDTANA).  Mary danced competitively for 14 years, having received numerous awards at the regional and national levels, and qualified for the World Championships 6 times.  

Mary began teaching with her mentor, the world-renowned Theresa Burke, ADCRG, in 1992.  In 2006 the Pittsburgh location was renamed the “Burke Conroy School of Irish Dance” in recognition of Mary, and her sister Laura’s, dedication to teaching, and their personal commitment to preserving the legacy founded by Theresa Burke.  Mary has also instructed Irish dance at The Calliope School of Folk Music - Pittsburgh’s Folk Music Society, The Oglebay Institute’s School of Dance (Wheeling, WV), and many workshops for performing arts institutions throughout the tri-state area, including Regional Dance America’s Northeast Festival. 

In addition to teaching, Mary has performed throughout the eastern United States, including at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and was a founding member of the traditional performing group “Road to the Isles”, and trio “The Wind that Shakes the Barley”- an educational outreach program that teaches elementary school children the music and dance traditions of Ireland and Scotland.  She has performed with famed Irish groups “The Chieftans”, “Cherish the Ladies”, “Gaelic Storm”, and was a dancer in the Irish-mob movie, The Road to Perdition, a DreamWorks production starring Paul Newman and Tom Hanks, choreographed by Trinity Academy Director, Mark Howard. 

In February 2012, Mary was recognized by The Irish Echo, the USA’s most widely read Irish-American Newspaper, as one of the country’s Top “40 Under 40”.


Mary is a graduate of Duquesne University, and lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, Jay, and their daughter, Ellen. 

Katie Grennan, TCRG

Katie Grennan (TCRG) recently joined the teaching staff at the Burke Conroy School of Irish Dance upon her return to Pittsburgh in the fall of 2015 to pursue a Masters in Arts Management at Carnegie Mellon University. She is also an accomplished Irish musician and plays for all levels of dancers at feiseanna around the country. 

As an 8 year old child, Katie caught the Irish dance bug during her very first lesson at the Burke School of Irish Dance. She quickly climbed the competitive ranks and qualified for her first world championship in Ireland at the young age of 12 and subsequently every year thereafter throughout her dance career. Some of her highest achievements included 8th at the North American Championships and 3rd at the Midwest Oireachtas.  Katie also appeared with well-known artists touring through Pittsburgh such The Chieftains, Cherish the Ladies, and Eileen Ivers, Marvin Hamlisch and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Katie attended college at the University of Notre Dame, where she double majored in Accounting and Psychology. As a member of the Notre Dame Irish Dance club, she performed in front of thousands at a multitude of events including the annual “The Shirt” unveiling, football pep rallies, men’s and woman’s basketball games, and an array of private events. During her senior year, she co-trained and organized the first ever Ceili Club group to compete in the All-Ireland Championship in Killarney. The group took unanimous first place, which sparked a wonderful annual tradition for campus organization.

Upon college graduation, She moved to Chicago, where she resided for five years. During her time in the Windy City, she worked as a lead instructor at the Trinity Academy of Irish Dance and enjoyed playing traditional Irish music alongside many of the city’s finest musicians, including  Liz Carroll, John Williams, Maurice Lennon, Dennis Cahill, Jimmy Moore, Kathleen Keane, and Paddy Homan. Katie has been the featured musician in many professional touring productions, most recently the Trinity Irish Dance Company, Michael Londra’s Celtic Fire, and Hammerstep (featured on America’s Got Talent in 2013), which have brought her to many venues across the United States, Europe and Asia. She was recently featured in the November 2015 issue of Irish American News and the August 2014 issue of the Irish Dancing Magazine. In 2015, she released her first solo album in 2015 entitled “Between Worlds”, designed for dancers to practice to and for listeners to enjoy. The album is available on iTunes and CD Baby. Please visit for more information.


To purchase or download CD, click album cover. 


Between Worlds by Katie Grennan

Katie Grennan's solo CD of Irish dance and listening music.

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