10 April 2006

World-class dancers descend on Belfast


by Damian McCarney

West Belfast Irish dancers will this week be competing against the cream of international talent as the World Irish Dancing Championships descend upon the Waterfront Hall.

More than 4,000 competitors and thousands more supporters have turned the city into the world’s Irish dancing capital.

As the Under-11 competition got the 36th Championship underway yesterday, the Andersonstown News spoke to a number of West Belfast hopefuls who were nervously awaiting their turn to impress.

Jackie Kennedy, teacher in the Kennedy School of Irish Dancing based in the Glen Community Centre, has over 40 dancers competing throughout the coming week.

“We have four céilí teams, one figure-dancing team performing a dance based on the story of the Titanic, one dance drama, and 25 solo competitors.

“We are very optimistic because we have enjoyed success in the past but the competition is very stiff so we wouldn’t want to guarantee anything.

“We have a world champion with Michael McHugh from Ballymurphy.

“He won the under-11 Championship two years ago and has also won the All-Ireland five times,” said Jackie.

Jackie believes that Irish dancing, and competing in the World Championships, provides an excellent experience for her young students.

“It is phenomenal for the children because it provides them with after-school opportunities that otherwise they wouldn’t have in West Belfast.

“It gives them a very serious commitment and teaches them about dedication, responsibility and discipline and is at the same time fantastic for their fitness,” said Jackie.

Like her classmates at the Kennedy School of Dancing, 10-year-old Lauren Bohill was waiting to find out what the judging panel thought.

“I am tired and a wee bit nervous.

“I’m looking forward to finding out the results but the dance went well,” said Lauren.

Lauren was well able to control her nerves, however, because despite her tender years, she has already enjoyed considerable dancing success.

“I have competed in loads of competitions before, and I came third in the Ulster Championships in November, and last year I came ninth in the All-Ireland Championships,” said the Blacks Road girl.

Mary McEvoy-Morgan from the Springfield Road, a former Ulster champion, was awaiting her results happy in the knowledge that she had given it her all.

“I did my best, and it went alright. I got a recall and I’m waiting for the results but I’m not nervous waiting for them – I don’t really get nervous.”

Dunmurry dancer Hannah McMahon, who qualified for the competition automatically as a former world medallist, was also happy with her performance.

“It went alright, and I danced the best I can,” she beamed.
“I enjoy dancing but sometimes it is a bit tough.
“The competition is very high as all the dancers are very good.”
Hannah also made a few new friends from other countries during the first day of competition.
“Backstage I’ll talk to anyone who is next to me.
“Today I was chatting to two Americans, and they were very nice and polite.”
Conal Dooey travels from his home in Dunloy to West Belfast to attend the Kennedy School of Irish Dancing twice a week.

Thankfully his dedication paid off as he danced very well in front of a packed Waterfront Hall.

“I got a recall but I haven’t got my results yet.

“I don’t know how it will go, but I was happy with the way that I danced.
“I am nervous waiting for the results and I was a little nervous before dancing, as that was the most people I have ever danced in front of,” said the 10-year-old.

The 36th Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne (World Irish Dancing Championship) continues in the Waterfront Hall until Sunday, April 16.

Journalist:: Damien McCarney

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