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The North America Feis Commission (NAFC) held its annual Irish dancing competition for the Robert G. Gabor Perpetual Junior Trophy on May 21, 2011. The trophy has been awarded since 1971 and honors the late Robert G. Gabor, a charter member and the founding chairman of the North American Feis Commission.
Open Champion-level dancers who have placed first in an NAFC-sanctioned competition during the preceding twelve months may enter. The 2011 host of this event was Ville-Marie, Inc., whose President, Patrick Short is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the North American Feis Commission. Short emceed the event and shared some of the competition’s history with the spectators and competitors.
“The Junior Cup was first presented in 1971 and was called the United States Junior Cup at that time. When Irish dancing became more popular and dancers crossed freely between Canada and the United States the various organizations adopted the North American title for events. It was at that time that the Junior Cup was re-named for a great stalwart of the dancing scene; Syracuse’s Mr. Robert Gabor.”
A panel of five certified adjudicators – Marie Moore (NJ), Margaret Cleary (CA), Stephen McAteer (Toronto), Gauthier McCafferty (Ontario) and Maureen Collins (NJ) - from An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha observed three rounds of competition for each entrant. Among them, McAteer himself was the winner of the 1989 competition and a two-time World Champion. Many other former NAFC trophy champions have gone on to be internationally-renowned performers, teachers and adjudicators.
In 1976, Tim O’Hare the 1975 World Champion, won the competition; O’Hare, TCRG/ADCRG, founded the Tim O’Hare School of Irish Dance in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio was also an adjudicator at the Montreal Feis. The 1981 winner, Brian Grant went on to become the first North American to win three World championships and is now an ADCRG. Jean Butler, the original lead performer with Michael Flatley in Riverdance won in 1986, and Kathy Irvine, TCRG, with Butler-Fearon-O’Connor School of Irish Dance in Canada and California, also a two-time World champion, won in 1996.
Accomplished feis musicians Tony Nother from London, Ontario and Theresa Shaffer from Massachusetts accompanied the eighteen competitors ranging in age from 13 to 17 years. Oldam danced a hornpipe, reel and a contemporary set (Planxty Davis at speed 69) to score the highest total of the three rounds. She dances under the instruction of Amy Suede ADCRG with the Peter Smith School in New York.
“When they first called my name for winning the Junior Trophy I was surprised,” says Sarah Oldam, 15, of Clinton, New Jersey. “But after looking at all the people that have previously won the award I felt very honored. It was an exciting day for me!”
Oldam won her competition at the 2010 North American National Irish Dancing Championships and placed second at both the 2011 All Ireland Irish Dancing Championships and the World Irish Dancing Championships. She received a commemorative piece of Tipperary Crystal and a subscription to Feis America Magazine in addition to the Robert G. Gabor Junior Perpetual Trophy.
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