California's Premier Irish Dance Company



Claddagh Dance Company is under the direction of Máire O’Connell, S.D.C.R.G. We are proud to have a world-class staff of three full-time, certificated teachers and 12 assistants. Our teachers represent a wide range of talents including choreography specialists, musicians, and former champions.

Máire O'Connell, SDCRG

Máire O'Connell, SDCRG began the Claddagh School of Irish Dancing in 1985 in Ventura, CA. She moved to Ventura from Galway, Ireland in 1978.  Ms. O'Connell has been dancing most of her life and is accredited to teach and adjudicate, and has recently been certified as an examiner by by the Irish Dancing Commission of Dublin.  She is active in the Irish-American community and participates in a wide variety of community events.  She held the position of president of the Irish American Club of Ventura County.  Máire is also a 1995 honoree of the City of Los Angeles for her participation in the Irish community of Southern California.  She encourages her students to get involved in many community projects and benefit shows. 

Gaelic is Máire’s first language and she is a graduate of University College, Galway, where she earned the credentials B.A., H.D.E., and LL.B.  She is also fluent in Spanish, which serves to further the artistic and cultural exchange within Southern California.  

Máire has 2 sons, Ross and Dara, who have both danced throughout the years, and continue to offer support to Claddagh.

Kelly Sullivan, ADCRG

Kelly has grown up with Claddagh!  An Open Champion, Kelly was 3rd in 9 Western Regionals, danced on title winning teams and competed in the World Championships.

Kelly began assisting in the studios as a teen, and after completing school became a full-time assistant.  In 2001, Kelly sat for the TCRG exam and was awarded her license on the first attempt.  Kelly then accepted a TCRG position in a new school opening in Germany.  While in Germany, Kelly’s dancers placed in the European Championships.  After teaching for 2 years, Kelly returned to Claddagh where her friends and family are. 

Kelly passed her ADCRG examination in 2012 and now teaches in the Ventura studio.

RaChelle Taccone, ADCRG

RaChelle has danced as long as she has walked!  In addition to being a championship Irish dancer, RaChelle is a champion Scottish dancer, and has performed and competed in jazz, hip-hop and ballet.

 RaChelle, an engineering graduate from Loyola Marymount University (with honors), successfully passed her TCRG license in 2003 and teaches classes in Simi Valley and San Luis Obispo.  She was successful in her ADCRG examination in February 2012.

Katie Darlington, ADCRG

Katie became a TCRG in 2006.  She was one of the first dancers to join the Claddagh studio, and was Western Regional champion nine times. She also holds multiple North American and World medals and was on numerous winning Regional and National teams.  She was recently successful in her ADCRG examination in January 2013.

Katie is a graduate of UC Irvine and teaches at our Lake Forest and Signal Hill studios.

 Annie Darlington, TCRG

Born and raised in Camarillo, California, Annie first became a part of the Claddagh School at the age of 2½ when her older sister began taking lessons.  She loved watching the older dancers and soon began taking classes at age 3.  She excelled quickly, and went on to have a very successful solo and team career.

From a very young age, Annie loved choreographing, always jumping at the (rare) opportunity to have input in her dances.  After heading to college to pursue dance, Annie took over as lead choreographer for Claddagh’s figure choreographies in 2005.

Annie continued to compete on Claddagh teams throughout college and beyond, finally winning a World title in 2009.  She eventually hung up her competition shoes in 2011 upon earning her T.C.R.G.   

Annie is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.   She is a regular teacher at Claddagh’s newest location in Signal Hill, and also serves as co-choreographer with Melanie Sanderson. 


Melanie Sanderson, TCRG

Melanie followed in her sisters’ footsteps and began Irish dancing by the age of 4.
By age 11, she was training with the Claddagh School under the direction of Máire
O’Connell. There she became a North American champion, six time Regional champion, and a multiple All Ireland and World Championship medalist. She was also a member of many winning teams at the regional, national, and world level.

In 2005, Melanie began assistant teaching at the Ventura studio, and continued to
teach while attending the University of California, Davis, where she received her
B.S. in Exercise Biology.

With a knack for rhythm and movement, Melanie began choreographing steps for the school’s championship level dancers by age 18. In 2011, she retired from competition upon receiving her T.C.R.G. and now serves as the school’s co-choreographer alongside Annie Darlington.



 Rhistyn Mueller, TCRG

Rhistyn has been dancing with Claddagh since the age of 5. An open champion, Rhistyn has Regional, North American, All Ireland, and World titles in team dancing. Rhistyn had also placed top eight in the North American Championships and top three in Regional Championships in her solo dancing before passing her TCRG exam in January of 2013. She graduated from University of San Diego with a Bachelors Degree in Political Science and Sociology in 2013 and current attends Loyola Law School with plans to receive her Juris Doctor in early 2017. Rhistyn currently teaches out of our Simi Valley studio.