|McGing's 2012 All-Ireland Irish Dancing Championship Senior Figure Team|
with Terry Gillan, TCRG/ADCRG and Mary McGing Duckworth, TCRG
Photo courtesy McGing School of Irish Dance
With multiple local, regional, national and international championships, it would be easy to think McGing Irish Dancers of Cincinnati, Ohio is solely a competitive school, and nothing could be further from the truth. I had the opportunity to learn what makes this Mid-America Region Irish dancing school so special in an interview with founder Mary McGing Duckworth, TCRG during McGing’s own brand of March Madness. We share her inspiring outlook and teaching philosophy here as we kick off Feis America’s Irish Dance School Spotlight here on Irish Central.
More than 35 years ago, Mary McGing started out with a mere 28 Irish dance students. Since then, McGing Irish Dancers has established a rich history in the city of Cincinnati and is widely-recognized around the world as the only American school with the coveted Triple Crown (male, female and team) of World Irish Dancing Champions: Drew Lovejoy (2010), Deirdre Robinett (2009) and the Junior Girls Figure Team (2009). To add to its impressive record, solo competitor Drew Lovejoy and the Senior Girls Figure Team just returned from Dublin with 2012 All-Ireland Irish Dancing Championship titles.
Don’t let the gold on its wall of fame distract you from what McGing’s Irish Dancers value most. The school website is filled with photos and video clips of performances and Ceili events, declaring the dancers’ greatest pride is in their McGing family and local ties to Cincinnati's hospitals, charities and schools.
with special thanks to Madeline Duckworth
FEIS AMERICA: McGing has more community appearances and McGing family events than many other Irish dance schools. Just since January, you’ve had a Father/Daughter dance and the 32nd annual ceili! Tell us about why this is an important part of the McGing experience and how you make it happen.
McGing: “We also have a Mother/Daughter event that we call Dance for the Cure. This is a day in the spring that we go out in teams and raise money for breast cancer research. The moms drive and the girls dance. This will be our 5th year hosting this day that we all just love. Our recital each year is the first week in December and we call it Christmas in Killarney. We dress the dancers up in all kinds of festive Christmas costumes. We also host the Cincinnati Feis that is on June 10th this year at Xavier University. This is the 29th year for our feis! We have wonderful families at our school who are dedicated to their children and offer so much of their time towards all our events each year. We always say we are nothing without our volunteers.”
FEIS AMERICA: Congratulations on the All-Ireland Irish Dancing Championships! I counted 18 McGing dancers registered for solo competitions; was anyone else there just for the Senior Figure competition? McGing: “Yes we had 4 girls go to the All-Irelands just to dance the team. This team asked me at class back in September if they could compete at the All-Irelands. Actually they each taped a letter to their shirt so that when they took off their jackets the sixteen of them said ’All Irelands 2012?’ Apparently I was the last to know as the girls had already asked their parents who were all on board. So we got to work!”
FEIS AMERICA: You have said, “McGing dancers have a reputation of exuberating grace and power at the same time. These qualities propel them to be champions in local, regional, national and world Irish dance competitions.” Your school philosophy focuses on the individual dance student’s experience, whatever their goals may be. How do you help dancers create their own experience at McGing?
McGing: “We are lucky enough to have teachers who want to pass on their love of Irish dance. Awards and titles have never been our focus but when they happen along the way we are always thrilled. Every student at McGing learns exactly the same and then they decide what path they would like to follow. For some it is to wear a pretty dress for others it is to dance at grandma’s birthday party and, for about a third of our school, it’s all about competition. At McGing we celebrate every dancer regardless of what path they choose and that is why we offer so many different experiences to our dancers.”
FEIS AMERICA: What was the premise behind “Making History”, the 2012 winning performance by McGing’s Senior Figure team which reclaimed McGing’s 2008 All-Ireland title. Also, are these Senior Figure dancers the same Junior Figure dancers who won the World Irish Dancing Championship Junior Figure event in 2009?
McGing: “Actually the dance was inspired by a quote on a t-shirt that says, “It has been said that women who behave rarely make history”. How true is that! And in Irish history, it’s really true. The team that won in Ireland was packed with seasoned competitors.”
FEIS AMERICA: McGing Irish Dancers won’t be able to compete at Worlds in Belfast this year due an association conflict with an adjudicator. I imagine you are looking ahead to the North American National Irish Dancing Championships in July now. Will having the venue in Chicago this year present extra challenges from the highly-competitive Mid-America region?
McGing: “Now that St Patrick’s Day season is over, we are looking towards competition and the North American Championships is our next major. Our school is looking forward to seeing all our friends in July. As one of the Co-chairs of Nationals with Julie Showalter, Tim O’Hare and John Timm, I can tell you we are thrilled to be hosting everyone in Chicago. We are hoping for fabulous competitions and a week of making memories with all our Irish dance family.”
FEIS AMERICA: What is the greatest change you have seen in Irish dance since you founded McGing 35 years ago? What does the future hold for the McGing School of Irish Dance?
McGing: “What I love about Irish dance is that it is progressive. Yes we have the beautiful tradition of Ceili but that is just one part of what we do. Step dancing is this creative art form that allows teachers to be original which makes the dancing not only exciting but always evolving. Figure choreography and drama do the same only with teams of dancers. Few people have a job that is as exciting as mine. Teaching children to Irish dance is just the best job in the world!”
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