Good friends and competitors in Men 19-21
2012 World Irish Dancing Championships
Photo: Michael Mullane

Brendan Mullane. Michael Putman. Tyler Schwartz. If you know anything at all about competitive Irish dancing at the Open Champion level in North America, these names are almost as familiar as Michael Flatley. Just back after the 2012 World Irish Dancing Championships, the gifted men claimed the 2nd, 3rd and 4th placements in the Mens 19-21 competition, to the delight of the Mid-America region and all of North America!

Top Ten Men 19-21
2012 World Irish Dancing Championships
Photo: Michael Mullane

What is not known to many outside mid-America and the intimate world of international competitors is just how deeply-rooted the friendship is among these three young men. Now young adults, they have been more than rivals for better than ten years. It is to their credit that, as boys, they recognized that they had more in common than their passion and skill at Irish dancing. So at the 2011 Mid-America Regional Irish Dancing Championships, when Putman won, Mullane came in 2nd and Schwartz took 3rd, they celebrated as the Top Three.

From three different Irish dance schools all in the greater Chicago, Illinois area, Mullane, Putman and Schwartz found themselves among a small minority at feiseanna while female competitors numbered in the hundreds and thousands. As a result, boy dancers and their families tend to bond rather quickly and find themselves rooting for all, not one. In the grade-level competitions, girls and boys are usually combined and compete against one another in age-level events. Even at the Preliminary and Open Champion levels, boys' age groups are often combined. So while Mullane and Putman are a year younger than Schwartz, 2012 is not the first time the three have competed against each other.

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Mullane, who placed 3rd at the 2012 All Ireland Irish Dancing Championships and 4th at Worlds, dances and teaches at Mullane-Healy-Godley Academy of Irish Dance. He remembers, "When we were younger we would always compete [at feiseanna] and no matter what the places ended up we were all still friends, [we] never hated each other."

Putman ties rival Mullane's shoes before practicing... now that's trust!
Photo: Kevinah Dargan

Putman interviewed with Feis America while visiting his great buddy Brendan Mullane at school. He says, "I consider Tyler one of my good friends but Brendan is by far one of the best. We never got along because we were always rivals, but when we grew up we both realized how well we get along and now we hang out at every opportunity. We talk about everything normal friends talk about which means our friendship goes past dance."

Their individual competitive records are all impressive. Putman, from Dennehy School of Irish Dance has topped the podium - TWICE - as 2009 World Irish Dancing Champion and 2010 All-Ireland Irish Dancing Champion. Competing for the first time in the Men 19-21 event at the 2012 World Irish Dancing Championship, Putman says, "I got third which I'm thrilled with considering how talented the competition was!"

Schwartz, who dances and teaches at the Trinity Academy of Irish Dance, placed 2nd at both the 2011 and 2012 All-Ireland Irish Dancing Championships, and placed 2nd and 3rd at the 2012 and 2011 World Irish Dancing Championships, respectively. As both Mullane and Putman moved up to the Men's 19-21 age group this year, it is the first year that the three friends have competed in the same event at the Worlds level.

Schwartz says, "We're all focused competitors trying to win the competition, but at the end of the day we're all really good friends. Some of these guys I've known for many years now, so it makes the competitions that much more fun!"

Brendan Mullane, 4th and Tyler Schwartz, 2nd
Men 19-21
Photo: Michael Mullane

Mullane says that the friendship among the competitors reduces the pressure at major competitions. "It's just amazing how this competition has people from all of the world and the three of us - Tyler, Mike and I - [who] have been great friends since were ten all placed in the Top Five! I think that competing against each other growing up really helps us at these major competitions."

All three are now focused on the North American National Irish Dancing Championships which will take place in early July in their backyard, Chicago.  Can anyone predict where these three will be in five years?  You may rest assured that, whatever comes their way, they will stay lifelong friends!

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