McGrath Academy of Irish Dance Hosts Hundreds of Dancers; Raises Funds for Haymarket Recovering Service Members Retreat

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Provided by Marianne Weaver

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Nearly 1,000 dancers from as far north as New England and as far west as Texas will descend upon C.D. Hylton High School, Woodbridge, Va., Sunday, April 17, to compete in the third annual McGrath Feis, sponsored by the McGrath Academy of Irish Dance and Claddagh Irish Dance Association (CIDA).

The word “Feis” (pronounced “fesh”) comes from the Gaelic word meaning “festival.” Though many Feisanna (plural for feis) include language, writing and soda bread competitions, the focus is on Irish dancing. Dressed in school uniforms and elaborately designed solo costumes, dancers compete in both solo and team competitions vying for medals, trophies and sought-after sashes.

“Feiseanna are always wonderful opportunities for Irish dancers to display their knowledge, talent and ability,” said Lauren McGrath Dutton, ADCRG, TCRG, owner of McGrath Academy of Irish Dance. “It keeps dancers focused on continuing to improve their technical abilities in order to accomplish a win. Essentially, it promotes hard work and dedication and rewards those dancers that work hard both in and out of the classroom. My dancers especially LOVE to win! It puts a big smile on their faces!”

Dancers ranging in age from 4 to adult compete in various skill levels – beginner, advanced beginner, novice, prizewinner, preliminary champion and open champion – performing traditional Irish dances in both soft and hard shoes.

This year, dancers of all ages and levels will compete in the “charity treble reel.” The treble reel allows each dancer to showcase his or her own personal style with a specially choreographed set of steps. Proceeds from this dance registration will be donated to Serve Our Willing Warriors, a 37-acre retreat in Haymarket, Va., that provides “a home away from home” for outpatient warriors and their families residing at the nearby military hospitals.

“When the McGrath feis was founded three years ago, CIDA members unanimously agreed that we wanted to increase awareness of the sacrifices made by service members and their families for the freedoms that we are allowed, and we wanted to contribute to an organization that supports our wounded service members,” said Dee Bills, CIDA member. “Many of our soldiers return with injuries that they will have to manage for the rest of their lives and their recovery can take months to years with long hospital stays. SOWW is a new organization to the Northern Virginia region and we wanted to increase community awareness of this wonderful retreat.”

CIDA member and Army veteran Eileen Imorde added, “McGrath has many active and retired military families and this seems like a great way to ‘give back’ to our community in a way that touches home for many at McGrath.”

McGrath Academy of Irish Dance, based in Manassas, Va., was founded in January 2004. Classes are also offered in Lorton, Va., Purcellville, Va., Ashburn, Va., and Frederick, Md. Lauren McGrath Dutton, ADCRG, TCRG, is second-generation TCRG and 2003 world championship dancer. Ariel Raguso, TCRG, is a 2013 world championship dancer. For more information, go to

CIDA is a nonprofit group that promotes Irish dance and culture and supports the dancers of McGrath Irish Dance Academy. For more information, go to

Operating as a nonprofit 501 (c) (3), SOWW was founded in 2013 for the purpose of establishing a retreat near Bull Run Mountain in Haymarket, Va., for recovering service members to have a respite from the clinical hospital environment. For more information, go to


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