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Irish dance friendships: down under meets upstate NY

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Dancers (left to right) Ceili Moore, Kevinah Dargan, Hannah Mong before prom.

Ceili Moore's prom night was typical for a lot of reasons: she donned a beautiful gown, danced with her friends, partied at a post-prom event and posed for loads of photos with other dolled-up gals.

What was different about her experience at this all-American coming-of-age high school dance is that Ceili flew in from Australia to attend.

That's not the only reason she traveled from the other side of the planet to be in the states. Ceili, the current Australian national Irish dancing champion in her age group, is stateside for the North American Irish Dance Championships, which are currently underway in Chicago.

She came over to the U.S. a week early to spend some precious time with her dear friends Kevinah and Fiona Dargan, both of whom are 2011 North American champions who dance for Rince Na Tiarna in Buffalo, N.Y.

Ceili Moore, Fiona and Kevinah Dargan, Eryn Lynch at Niagara Falls.

Kevinah, a soon-to-be college freshman, made arrangements to bring her Aussie friend along to prom and her graduation from Williamsville South High School. The Dargans and Ceili also attended a Buffalo Bisons baseball game, visited nearby Niagara Falls, ate classic American foods (Buffalo wings and mozzarella sticks, for example) and went go-karting.

And though their nationalities, accents, cultures, dance styles and life stories are different, Ceili and the Dargan sisters insist that the bond created through Irish dancing is stronger than most other friendships.

Even Tracy Marks Dargan, Kevinah and Fiona's mother, is close friends with Ceili's mom, Fiona Moore. Both moms are also former Irish dancers, and Fiona Moore is the first Australian dancer to win the World Irish Dancing Championships. The two talk almost daily, Tracy Marks Dargan said. Like their daughters, they maintain contact through Facebook, Skype and free phone applications.

Kevinah graduates from high school.

"I feel like Irish dancers all have that bond," Kevinah said. "Sometimes I feel closer to dance friends than my friends from school who I see every single day."

Fiona described the Irish dance part of her life as almost a second world, a reality that exists outside of everyday living.

"You might make a million mistakes in the real world, but in the Irish dance world, it's all erased," Fiona said.

Ceili, who dances for Scoil Rince Aisling in Australia, agreed with that sentiment, adding, "All of us give up so much for dancing. We are all in the same boat."

And while Kevinah and Ceili will both compete in the same age group (under 18, but different splits), they don't see each other as competition. In fact, they want to see each other win.

"We all know each of us work so hard," Ceili said. "It can go so many different ways."

Kevinah and Fiona Dargan, and Ceili Moore before prom.

Since all of the girls are national champions in their respective countries and age groups, there's potential for fierce rivalry. But, they explained, in this circle, it's about dancing the best you can and leaving the scoring up to the judges -- and they don't always score according to spectators' expectations.

"With other sports, when someone is better, that is your enemy," Kevinah said. But in her experience hanging with other top dancers, it's more about having friends who push you to be a stronger dancer. "You keep yourself in inspiring company."

For more information on the competitions, visit the official 2012 North American Irish Dancing Championships Facebook page, and stay tuned here on IrishCentral's Irish Dance page for updates, photos and results.

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