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John Lonergan Clinches 5th All-Ireland Irish Dancing Championship INTERVIEW

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Men 18-19 All Ireland Irish Dancing Champion for 2012
John Lonergan from Kiely-Walsh
photo courtesy Lonergan family

Just twenty-four hours before John Lonergan went on stage in Dublin to successfully defend his All-Ireland Irish Dancing Championship title, Feis America had the chance to catch up with him and wish him luck.  Lonergan clinched his fifth consecutive All-Ireland Championship in Men 18-19 Saturday and now seeks to defend his four-year World Irish Dancing Championship title in Belfast in April.

FEIS AMERICA: We know you are John Lonergan, four-time World and as of Saturday, FIVE-time All-Ireland Champion Irish dancer with eight Munster regional titles to boot! How is it possible to be on tour in Germany with Magic of the Dance and still get time to practice and condition for another international major competition?

LONERGAN: In my opinion it's all about time management, and your want to succeed. Don’t get me wrong it is extremely hard to do it all together, but it's something I have wanted to do for years, tour with a show and compete, and I don’t feel ready to give up my competition days yet. Therefore I HAVE to make the time to practice. Its like anything, where theres a will, theres a way, and if your determined enough, you can do anything you put your mind to. At first I found it hard, but once I settled in to the show and adapted to the lifestyle of traveling a lot etc, I then found it a lot easier to practice and to go over my dances the way I normally would at home. I have a certain routine now, and I just follow that everyday to the best that I can. After all, someone can only do their best, and that’s what im trying to do!

FEIS AMERICA: The All-Irelands isn’t just ‘another’ major, you had a title to defend! Before Saturday's successful defense of your title at the All-Ireland Dancing Championships, you had held the top spot on that podium for the last four years and then gone on to clinch the same spot at the World Irish Dancing Championships.

Niamh Taylor, Ladies 18-19 2012 All-Ireland Irish Dancing Champion
with John Lonergan
photo courtesy Lonergan family
LONERGAN: That is very true, this time of the year is definitely one of the most stressful times as I have to try and retain my title. It’s a lot of pressure to be under but it is something that I have had to get used to. When I was younger I couldn’t handle it and used to always crack and never dance my best, but with experience and the help from my teachers, parents and friends, I have learnt how to deal with it, and be able to dance my best without having to worry.

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FEIS AMERICA:  From all the great photos, you obviously have many, many friends that you have made over the years.  What is it about your personality that makes you an inspiration for so many Irish dancers? Who are your mentors in Irish dance?

LONERGAN: Well to be honest I don’t know if I am an inspiration to many dancers, but I think the one aspect people really appreciate from me, is that I am a very down to earth person. I talk to everyone, and regardless of how many titles I have won or haven’t won, I will always be that type of person. At the end of the day a title is a title and it shouldn’t change who you are outside of competition. I always say to myself “treat other people the way you want to be treated”, and I think that really does help. I was reared to be genuine and nice to everyone and that’s the way I always will be and don’t plan on changing that!
My mentors in Irish dancing are Maria Kiely-Walsh and Miah Walsh. My school is called the Kiely-Walsh Academy of Irish Dancing and is based in various small towns in the city and county of Cork in Southern Ireland. Over the years, the school has won multiple Munster, All-Ireland & World titles for ceili & figured dancing. It is an amazing school with such lovely people in it, and I really couldn’t have asked for nicer teachers and fellow class pupils!
John Lonergan, Greg Molony and Ian Gott
photo courtesy Lonergan family
FEIS AMERICA: What do you think about An Jig Gig and Prodijig, the televised dance competition and competitive Irish dancing group that are all the rage in the last year or so?

LONERGAN: I think these shows are actually a great way for publicizing irish dancing and showing that it's not all about the “1, 2, 3’s” as many people think it is! I have been on the Jig Gig last year and it was an amazing experience. I got to experience the work behind the scenes that’s put it, and how hard it is to shoot one show. It was such a tiring day, but a day that I will never forget as I gained knowledge of working in a business like that!

I think Prodijig is by far one of the best Irish dancing groups to perform EVER on a tv series. I think them getting through to the final in Got to Dance says enough, as the standard on that show is always amazing. I know a few of the dancers in it, and I am genuinely SO happy for them that everything they’ve worked for over the years is paying off and everyone can see how Irish dancing is evolving and becoming more popular as the days go by. I wish them the very best of luck with everything and I'm sure they will do the Irish dancing world very proud, as they have done so already with their previous two performances.

FEIS AMERICA: So John, what’s your future hold?

LONERGAN: As for my future, I'm not fully sure what it holds.  I want to compete for another few years as I still feel I'm very young to be retiring. So that first of all, and then I want to keep doing shows also. The experience I have gained from Magic of the Dance alone has been incredible and it has been a brilliant show to start off with, everyone is so lovely and they welcomed me into the troupe as if I was there for years. I am entirely grateful to them. Basically that is it, competing and shows, and hopefully when I am old enough and have finished competing I would love to take my TCRG exam. I have always wanted it, and love teaching dancing on a whole anyway, so I think it would only be right for me to take it and pass on the knowledge and experience that I have gained over the years to younger dancers and hope that they enjoy it as much as I do.

FEIS AMERICA: Well we know we will see you Belfast at the World Irish Dancing Championships in April!  Good luck and come back to tell us all about Magic of the Dance when you come up for air!

Check back here on Irish Central's Irish Dance page often for blog posts, interviews, photos, videos, results and more!

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