McGrath Academy of Irish Dance Claims Four First Place Titles

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Provided by McGrath Academy of Irish Dance

Dancers from the McGrath Academy of Irish Dance won four first place awards– girls under ages 10, 12 and 15, as well as dance drama – at the Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America (IDTANA) Southern Region Oireachtas held in Houston earlier this month. 

The Oireachtas

The Oireachtas (pronounced Uh-rock-tus) is a regional championship where Irish dancers compete to qualify for national and world championships. The southern region, of which McGrath Academy of Irish Dance is a member, includes Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Mexico.

Nearly 2,000 dancers competed at the event. Of the 40 solo dancers and seven traditional set dancers who competed, 31 solo dancers and four traditional set dancers placed in the top half of their competitions. Thirty-one dancers qualified to compete at the national level and 12 qualified to compete at the world championships, which will be held in Greensboro, North Carolina. All four of McGrath’s eight-person ceili (pronounced kay-lee) teams who competed in Houston will compete at worlds as well.

“That’s an 85 percent recall rate for solo dancers,” said Lauren McGrath Dutton, ADCRG, TCRG. “But what’s even more impressive is that our relatively small school brought home four first-place perpetual trophies.”

Title Winners

Aisling Reynolds, daughter Mike and Christine Reynolds of Manassas, beat 81 dancers to bring home the girls under-10 first-place perpetual trophy. Jessie Welgos, daughter of Dave and Jennifer Welgos of Boyds, Maryland, fended off 113 competitors to reclaim her first-place title in the girls under-12 competition. Sophia Rankin, daughter of Chris Rankin and Jennifer Reed of Cabin John, Maryland, out-danced 146 dancers to claim her spot at the top of the podium in the girls under-15 competition.

“I am so proud of Aisling, Jessie and Soph for winning their titles,” said Dutton. “They all worked exceptionally hard this year. Aisling is a lovely dancer, who has established herself as the top dancer in our region. Jessie defended the title she won last year and was a standout among her competitors. Soph set her sights on the top spot, then spent hours and hours each week working at the studio to make her dream a reality. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Dance Drama

In addition to the three solo firsts, the McGrath dance drama team, composed of 20 dancers ranging in age from 8 to 18, won first place with their rendition of “Banshee in the Bedroom,” a story and drama choreographed by John Lawrence Morgan, TCRG. The story was inspired by a range of traditional Irish folklore, as well as the poetry of  W.B. Yeats and some contemporary musicals.

Dance drama is only performed at major Irish dance competitions. Teams portray an Irish historical or traditional story or event. Performers are not allowed to speak, although a narrator is permitted to read the story before the six-minute performance.

“I couldn’t be more delighted with the results we obtained at the recent regional championships, which clearly cements McGrath Academy of Irish Dance as one of the leading providers of Irish dancing in the southern region, with four regional titles,” said Morgan. “This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of both teachers, dancers and parents. It has been a fantastic 12 months for the school and we are excited to display our talent on the world stage in Greensboro in 2019.”

Ceili Competitions

This year, McGrath re-entered the ceili competitions. Typically, competitions are eight-hand (person) dances, where judges score not only on skill and movement, but also on adherence to traditional steps.

“Ceili dancing dates back to the origins of Irish dancing and was meant as a way to meet and get to know new people,” said Ariel Raguso, TCRG. “Today it is still bringing dancers closer together because there is so much focus spent on the team and not just one dancer. I couldn’t be more proud of how the teams performed and worked together to achieve such high ranks on their first time out!”

The Oireachtas also features a traditional set dance competition. The choreography of these dances is “set;” teachers cannot change choreography. Lindsey Johnson won the under-12 competition and Ella Gould won the under-14 age bracket.

Dancers competing in upcoming championships

A dozen McGrath dancers qualified to compete in the world championship in Greensboro, North Carolina in April:

  • Audrey Brown
  • Charlotte Cain
  • Liam Darnell
  • Julia Foster
  • Paddy Gareau
  • Molly Mostow
  • Sophia Rankin
  • Aisling Reynolds
  • Reilly Savage
  • Alexander Vann
  • Jessie Welgos
  • Clare Wolstenholme

Another 19 dancers qualified to compete at the North American competition in Vancouver this summer:

  • Maya Abdrashitova
  • Libby Augusti
  • Berith Austin
  • Victoria Dunlap
  • Julia Dunn
  • Camyrn Flaherty
  • Morgan Flaherty
  • Lily Garretson
  • Mary Kathleen Gareau
  • Nicolette Gareau
  • Val Hodge
  • Molly Murphy
  • Brigid Nalls
  • Karen Nalls
  • Mara Riordan
  • Sophia Savage
  • Camille Shepherd
  • Anna Weaver
  • Catherine Wraback



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