Many may not know about this unincorporated community near Franklinton in southern Granville County, or that it is home to a North American Irish Dance champion.
Over the summer, Wilton resident Nolan Menanno kept his torso, head and arms stationary, while using his legs and toes to win a championship belt in Montreal, Canada.
The 10-year-old, who’s a fifth grader at Envision Science Academy in Raleigh, beat out about nearly 30 international competitors to win the North American Irish Dance Championships for boys 10 and under.
Now he is preparing to return to Montreal in April and dance in the world championship.
Nolan’s dancing traces back to his sister, Mariah Menanno, 15, a junior at Research Triangle High School.
Mariah started dancing when she was 3 after she had seen two Irish dancers wearing purple and green on a trip to Pennsylvania.
From that night on, she said, “ ‘I want to dance like the purple and green girls,’ said Mariah and Nolan’s mom Amy Menanno.
Nolan started taking dance lessons when he was 4, so he would have something to do while his sister was in dance class.
Now, Nolan and Mariah practice more than six hours a week.
“I just like how fun it is,” Nolan said.
Nolan, who participates in about a dozen competitions each year, qualified to compete in Montreal at a regional event in Washington, D.C., in December. Mariah, who faces more competition as a girl, placed third in her class at the regional competition.
While awaiting the results in Montreal, Nolan kept crunching his hands, he said. He was disappointed in the outcome of last year’s competition, where he placed seventh.
Nolan realized how well he had done after the fifth, fourth, third and second place winners were announced.
“I was just like, kind of like, in shock,” Nolan said.
Nolan has amazing rhythm and ability to make good sounds with his feet while holding the rest of his body steady, said Lisa Clark, his dance instructor and lead instructor at the Rince na h’Eireann School of Irish Dance in Raleigh.
Nolan’s dancing naturally draws attention, she said.
“He just has a style that makes you want to watch him,” she said.
Nolan’s name has been inscribed on the wide championship belt that he gets to keep for a year.
“I put it in my room,” he said. “So I get to see it every day.”
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