A persistent mother who saw Kristina “Tina” Edlinger (now Shelley, BFA ’99) perform an Irish dance at BYU’s Christmas Around the World insisted that Tina teach her daughter, and that marked the beginning of what eventually became a teaching career.

“I was an 18-year-old freshman without a car. But this mom didn’t give up,” she explains. “She would pick me up, and I taught her child in the foyer of a church. I just rolled with the punches and teaching escalated until I had a regular dance space, more students and my own company, the Shelley School of Dance. Because I had grown up in a certified program with the Deely Dance Company in Northern California, I wanted to be certified, so I studied and took a rigorous written exam. I also traveled to Los Angeles where I performed and was judged by a panel from Ireland.”

Shelley began dancing at age six, and never stopped. Although she has studied and loved such dance forms as ballet, jazz, tap and hip hop, she considers Irish dance the most vital dance she has experienced. “There is something so vibrant about the dance and rhythms that hits you right in the center of your heart. It is especially satisfying to me as a teacher, because I help children with their rhythm and confidence, which brings a lot of joy to my life.”

For Shelley, Irish dance is all in the family. Her four children—a boy and three girls—all perform Irish dance, and her oldest child, 15-year-old Evie, has hit the highest ranking. Irish dance has four levels, and talented, disciplined and highly motivated students typically reach the top rung in four or five years.

Shelley’s own past includes competing at nationals and qualifying for world championships.  Brigham Young University recruited her with a folk dance scholarship, and as a freshman she began teaching Irish dance for the university’s folk dance program. She also performed on stage both for the International Folk Dance Ensemble and Young Ambassadors. After graduation from the music/dance/theater program she served part-time on the dance faculty and developed an Irish dance curriculum that is still featured.

In 2009, when Shelley added judging to her credentials she began traveling extensively in the cause of excellence among Irish dancing.

“This is dance that touches everyone,” she adds. “It is so enriching for the soul.”

Kristina Shelley
BFA 1999