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Kelli Devlin (13) and Emme Toombs from Broesler School of Dance, New York Photo by: Aoife Finneran

That winning feeling - dedicated Irish dancers reap rewards at World Championships

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Kelli Devlin (13) and Emme Toombs from Broesler School of Dance, New York Photo by: Aoife Finneran

PHOTOS - Irish Dance World Championships photo gallery - Day 3

Stunning dancer Sydney Foley-Klyczek believed she had a lot to prove when she arrived in Dublin for this year’s World Irish Dance Championships. The 12-year-old from Buffalo New York had several demons to banish, as her previous World Championship experience didn’t quite go exactly as she hoped.

Sydney, a pupil of the renowned Rince Na Tiarna School of Dance in New York, explained: “I had a bad World Championships in Philadelphia two years ago. Someone bumped into me and put me off and then I had to restart my hornpipe because the girl I was dancing with fell and broke her wrist, so that put me off. I finished 21st so I’d like to get higher this time”.

Thankfully, Sydney’s hopes were realised late last night when she finished a very impressive eighth in the Girls Under 13 category. There to cheer her on was her teacher Mary Kay Heneghan, who set up Rince Na Tiarna in Buffalo 25 years ago.

Mary Kay, whose parents are from Mayo and Clare, told the Irish Voice: “I have eight students at the World Championships this week. It’s so exciting to be here, because this is the best of the best. And it’s great that it’s in Dublin this year, because we’ve been in other places in Ireland, but now we get a chance to see Dublin”.

Poughkeepsie native Kelli Devlin is counting her own lucky stars that she too is in Dublin to take part in the World Championships this week. Her proud mum Yvonne explained that her daughters only began dancing several years ago when she accidentally went to the wrong pharmacy which was situated beside a dance school.

She revealed: “My husband’s family came from Donegal and my family were Moylans from Galway. I remember years ago we went to the wrong pharmacy by mistake and the kids saw a poster for Irish dance classes on the building beside it. I said to them; “you girls are Irish, do you want to try that?”
She added; “If I’d only known, it was going to end up costing me thousands and thousands of dollars!”

While kitting out Irish dancers is a very expensive business, artistic Yvonne makes Kelli’s headpieces and does all the jewelling on her costumes.

However, she never guessed that Kelli, who was just four when she started dancing, would go on to become a very successful Irish dancer. She came 9th at her first World Championships two years ago, and this week she was back on the stage to finish in 29th place.

Kelli revealed the huge extent of the commitment needed to compete at World Championship level.
“I do four classes a week and they’re five hours each. Once a week I have to travel two hours each way to get to class. I also practice in Vassar College sometimes”.

Kelli’s best friend Emme Toombs knows all about the long hours too. From her home in Maryland, she travels four hours every Saturday to dance classes in Westwood, New Jersey.

But her perseverance pays off, as she told the Irish Voice: “I’ve won the Southern Regional Oireachtas”. She added to her success this week when she finished 33rd at the World Championships.

Meanwhile, Siobhan O’Neill from Georgetown, Massachusetts is hoping that her performance in the Girls 14 – 15 competition will see her improve on last year’s 17th placing. Siobhan, whose father comes from County Laois, explained: “I always have a goal, and this year I want to do better than 17th. I have to give up a lot to practice so much, but it’s worth it”.

Her mum Lisa revealed: “Siobhan’s dad is from County Laois, so I thought we’d celebrate her heritage by introducing her to Irish dance when she was three. My husband is probably sorry now because it costs so much money!”

PHOTOS - Irish Dance World Championships photo gallery - Day 3

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