Julia Mastrangelo of Ridgewood has all the makings of an Irish dancer.
She's got the moves. She's got the pin-straight red hair. She's got the zeal.
There's just one thing that sets her apart.
"My last name gives it away," said Mastrangelo, 16.
"Usually everyone's name is Irish. And then there's me."
She's Jewish-Italian -- only a quarter Irish.
But that's never mattered to Mastrangelo. She started when she was seven years old, after her mom saw dancers from the JIG Factory perform at the Ridgewood tree lighting.
"She originally thought I would do ballet," the teen recalled. "But when she saw the dancers that night she realized it was how I moved around the house.
"She thought I would be good at it."
She was. She is.
Mastrangelo is an open champion (that's the highest level in Irish dancing) and took fifth place at the World Irish Dancing Championships last year in Ireland.
Mastrangelo says her teacher, Susan Daly Stanek, has taught her everything she knows.
And her heritage has nothing to do with it.
In fact, some of her toughest competition are girls with even less Irish blood than she.
"It's becoming more and more true now," she said. "There are tons of different people at the competitions. It's not just Irish people that can do it."
Mastrangelo enjoys competing more than performing. She says she's easily motivated, practicing two or three times a week at the JIG Factory and in her free time, drilling moves in a makeshift studio in her basement.
"I've found a good balance," she said. "I don't care about winning -- I seem to do better each time I compete."
One day becoming best in the world would be incredible, Mastrangelo said.
But it's not her top priority.
"I just want to do better," she said. "I'll be happy with whatever."
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