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Dancing keeps traditions alive

As the grandmother of an Irish Dancer and a 40-year resident of Lake Oswego, I would like to acknowledge the achievement of the An Daire School of Irish Dance, which has recently won recognition for the outstanding abilities of its students. I wish these accomplished young dancers the best of luck in the upcoming World Championship competition in Ireland.

Having said that, I want to make a correction to the statement (in a story on March 20 in the Lake Oswego Review) that An Daire is the only school whose dancers have won the regional competition or to compete in the World Championships. In November of 2006, 20 dancers from the Portland Irish Dance Academy - located here in Lake Oswego, and the pride and joy of local instructor Gabrielle Maher - won the Dance-Drama competition at the Western Regional Oireachtas held that year at the Portland Convention Center. The drama that they performed was a traditional Irish folk tale called 'Aidan of the Underworld.' The team of 20 dancers consisted of young people from all over the Portland metropolitan area, and included several who live in Lake Oswego. Knowing that their success regionally made them eligible to compete at 'Worlds,' the team worked endless hours for months, practicing and performing to raise money to travel to Europe to take part.

In March of 2007, the team of 20 traveled to Glasgow, Scotland, accompanied by parents and instructors, to compete in the World Championships at the Royal Opera House. The Portland Irish Dance Academy placed fifth overall in this international event, receiving medals and a special acknowledgement from Michael Flatley - star of 'Riverdance' and 'The Lord of the Dance' - himself the recipient of a special award that evening, who came backstage to congratulate the dancers, pointing out how proud he was of the only American team participating in the Drama competition. Three of the teams that placed ahead of ours were from Ireland and England, with the winning performers coming from Glasgow. Ten teams from various other countries took part as well.

I feel that Oregon is fortunate to have a number of great dance schools where this amazing style of dance is taught to young people. The Portland Irish Dance Academy, for one, has exceptional dancers and an exceptional teacher for the past 19 years in Gabrielle Maher, a native of Dublin, who has been passing on to her students not only her appreciation of Irish Dance, but her knowledge of Irish music, folklore, and customs as well. This past December, Gay organized and implemented the first annual 'A Celtic Christmas,' an evening which included the music and theatrical stylings of entertainer Tom May and The Real Shindig Band, as well as performances by dancers ranging in age from 5 to 20, illustrating the amazing 'Riverdance' type of choreography.

In addition to the above, three of Gay's students recently auditioned for Riverdance. The results of these auditions will be announced in June. Also, five of Gay's young dancers qualified for the All-Ireland Championships to be held in Dublin in May.

I wish to commend all of our young dancers and the dedicated teachers who do so much to keep alive the culture and traditions of our many homelands, which could so easily be lost in the business of modern daily life.

Madeline Madigan Dir is a resident of Lake Oswego.