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Shining tribute to dance legend Donny Golden held in Mineola

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Out in Mineola, Long Island last Friday night was the kind of evening you only experience on the rarest of occasions.  The annual fundraiser for the Donny Golden School of Irish Dance became a celebration or more like a “love-fest” for the Brooklyn-born dancing master who turned 60 years young this month.

The Irish American Center in Mineola, one of the places where Golden has taught for more than four decades, was bursting with excitement and anticipation for his arrival shortly after 9:30 p.m. because many of his former students had returned to be on hand for the occasion. 

As he strode inside the hall and saw many familiar but unexpected faces lining the walls, his jaw dropped and the surprise was complete.  Like the excellent dancer and teacher he is, he took it all in stride and relished every moment.

It was quite a social reunion for many Golden dancers and their families and friends.  Veterans like Sheila Ryan came up from Louisiana, Sinead Lawlor from Dublin and Cara Butler from Toronto with her dancing hubby Jon Pilatzke.  His sister Eileen Golden was already out from her home in Donegal visiting for the occasion with their mother in Brooklyn. 

Joanie Madden helped plan the evening along with Bridget Harte Spillane and her Golden School Committee, and they did a fabulous job.

Already a social success beyond compare and with the McLean Avenue Band on stage, the joint was jumping.  But the night really belonged to Donny Golden and the Golden School of Dancers.

Perhaps more so than any year end school recital, thanks to the meticulous and artistic nature of the dancing master himself, the dancers put their best feet forward.

From the baby beginning dancers and up the age ranks to the senior performing corps the dancing was crisp, well-practiced and stylish.  No less impressive were the number of older dancers – quite a few who are still involved in dance as teachers themselves ---who showed the old master that they hadn’t forgotten his lessons long ago.

Golden was given a National Heritage Award in 1995 by President Bill Clinton for his cultural contributions. If I could fashion a special award for him, it would be for his steadfast approach to making the music and dance one joyous celebration of our Irish heritage, for the two art forms come together seamlessly under his tutelage. 

Madden, Annmarie Acosta and Buddy Connolly did their part from the stage, and the entire Golden dance ensemble did the same on the floor.  Long may the Golden touch continue to flourish.

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