While we were on summer hiatus we lost two great stalwarts of the Irish dancing scene with the passing of Jimmy Erwin in July and just last weekend Jerry Mulvihill, both of whom worked very hard turning out wonderful Irish stepdancers in New York for many years.
Erwin was a respected member of the American-born Irish dance teachers back in the fifties and sixties that formed the group Irish Dance Teachers of North America, the body that helped formalize and coordinate Irish dance instruction and competition here.
As a former student of Peter and Cyril McNiff he helped make the transition from the Ulster style of stepdancing from the Munster style, which was what Mulvhill practiced as he came from Kerry.
With the McNiff Dancers, Erwin made appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Arthur Godfrey shows in the early days of television along with many of the dance teachers who would teach generations of young Irish American dancers for years in the Metropolitan New York area.
Mulvihill also influenced a number of great dancers who became teachers as well with his emphasis on style and carriage (straight but loose and natural) and with a smile on your face showing the enjoyment in it.
The current Irish dancing master Donny Golden studied first with Mulvihill before switching to Erwin, who had a Brooklyn class near Golden’s home. Golden started teaching himself at age 19 and Riverdance star Jean Butler was one of his more prominent students and part of a great dancing lineage in New York which proudly claimed both Mulvihill and Erwin as important links.
God rest their souls and thanks for their individual efforts and legacies.
For fans of the Green Fields of America you might want to log onto www.rte.ie over the next couple of weeks to hear Peter Browne’s The Rolling Wave program to hear their first ever performance in Ireland at the Johnstons Festival in June. It will be at the show's archives site.
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