The daughter of two Irish immigrants, Karen Folan, 10, is a member of the Lavin-Cassidy School of Irish Dancing in Chicago. Her team recently won the under-11 ceili title at the 2012 All-Ireland Championships in Dublin.
Tell us about your All-Ireland victory.
“We practiced long and hard for the All-Ireland championship. This was always a goal I had set for myself. Both of my parents are from Ireland. My mom Caroline Garrity is from Bekan, Co. Mayo and my father, Festus Folan, is from Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo. Our under-11 ceili team consists of Niamh Byrne, Alyssa Hoban, Kaylee Loperena, Olivia and Anna McMahon (twins), Caroline Docherty, and Flynn Hartigan. We have already won the North American Nationals hosted in Disney World in 2010, and we have been together as a team for over three years.
“As a result of our big win last weekend in Dublin, we will be competing at the world finals hosted in Boston in 2013. This will be our biggest challenge to date but I know if we work hard enough, it is within our reach!”How did you get involved in Irish dancing?
“My mom and dad signed me up for lessons when I started kindergarten. The timing was perfect since Lavin-Cassidy opened up their state-of-the-art studio at the same time right across from my grammar school. My mom lived in New Jersey for 10 years prior to moving to Illinois, and did not know anything about Lavin-Cassidy. She was skeptical at first but soon realized how lucky she was to have such a brilliant dancing school so close to home. There are families who travel 45-minutes each way several days a week so their child/children can take dancing lessons from Lavin-Cassidy.”
What is your favorite thing about being involved in Irish dancing?
“I have made friends for life and I love the travel and excitement. We go places that we never would -- we get great deals on hotels in addition to other perks. I have two brothers, Festus, 11, and Tommy, 8. There are no girls on my block so these seven girls are like sisters to me.”
What was it like being in Dublin for the championships?
“It made me realize that I was missing an Irish accent! The majority of the competitors had a brogue! This was very different for me since I never competed in Ireland before.
“No U.S. team has ever taken the under-11 ceili title before so we knew we had to work harder than ever. We danced our hearts out in Dublin. We could smell victory after the first round, but we knew we were competing against the best dancers in Ireland. We were crying tears of joy when we realized that we had topped out all the other teams! I will never forget that moment as long as I live.
“My uncle George and my nana Evelyn Garrity from Pearl River in New York flew in especially. My other grandma (Margaret Folan) and several of my aunts and uncles came up to Dublin to see me -- Uncle Austin, Uncle Padraig, Aunt Flossie, Aunt Mags, and Aunt Barbara.”