Chapter One: Beginnings 1942 to 1963

Although a significant percent of the Arizona population was of Irish descent just prior to statehood in 1912 and thereafter, there are few available references to any Irish dancing that may have existed. Certainly, Irish and other white settlers performed dances of Irish origin, or with Irish influence. For example, both square dancing and tap dancing, two of America’s primary cultural dance styles, both have roots in Irish dancing, as do, especially, other American . However, the Irish dancing of the time does not seem to have left any long term influence on Arizonan/Sonoran desert culture. The opposite is true of other forms such as German music and dance, which one can see in the form of the hybrid Waila. However, some sort of Irish dancing must have existed in the region. As Arizona’s population began to grow in the 1940s and 1950s, so grew the Irish culture. Mary McCormack recalled what she learned when she first came to Phoenix.
In 1962, we moved from New Jersey to Phoenix, and, in the fall, I inquired if there were any Irish teachers, teachers of Irish dance, in the Phoenix area. Well, the Lawlors, Nora and Pat, were neighbors, and their children were in class with my children at St. Theresa’s, and they said, ‘No, there are no Irish dancing teachers here’. The Cunninghams, from Chicago, had learned some steps, and it was Maggie Cunningham who had danced whenever they needed somebody, because this lady from Chicago had taught her the jig... She danced and Sterling Briggs played the pipes for her in [performances].

Margaret (Maggie) Cunningham Hyland, one of the first dancers in the “Valley of the Sun”, recounted the beginnings of Irish dance (and organized Irish cultural activities) in Arizona.
My parents came to Arizona in 1942, my mother was dying with [tuberculosis], my father was very bad with asthma in Chicago they said. There were four of us kids, they had lost the first baby, my sister is five years older, and then my bother Jimmy that you talked to, and my brother Eddy. And so they said if you go to Arizona you’re going to live, but she is [still going to die]… Anyway, we came to Arizona in ‘42; I was three years old. So then my sister had studied Irish dancing in Chicago, with somebody…the name was Roche, I’m not sure…it was probably Pat Roche. So she had done probably a jig and a reel, and I was, my mom used to say, ‘oh, Margaret Mary is a born dancer, she is like a cat running to milk’. I was mad to dance. I did dance. I danced professionally and I am ballet-trained. I don’t know if you know this about the Irish, but the philosophy and the belief was, and especially in my family because there was so much natural ability, my brother Jimmy that you talked to had a beautiful Irish tenor voice, a and there was such a natural ability to sing and dance, and they promoted it, and they honored it, and my mother’s father, Pat McNicholas, was a brilliant step dancer. He was like All-Ireland champion step dancer, they were trained, you know. He went with his sister, this is two generations ago in Ireland, so

she would have company, and he sat on the bench and learned all his dances. She learned a few steps but he learned everything, sitting on the bench. He was a marvelous dancer.. They were always singing and dancing. There was a lot of it, and it was honored, because also that same grandfather, Pat McNicholas, sang more beautifully than some of our tenors today. He had this natural clear, gorgeous Irish tenor voice. No training. So they had a great appreciation of it. So it was like, ‘Of course [you] will take Irish step dancing’. My father, when we came to Arizona, was so lonesome. There was absolutely no Irish here, and he would stop down to have a beer sometimes after work, and he would say, ‘I would give my soul to hear an Irish tune!’, because it was, ‘Lay that that pistol down, babe, lay that pistol down - Pistol Packin’ Mammy- Lay that pistol down’, and he would go nuts with that, or it was Mexican. He worked for the city, and they would all speak Spanish, and he used to say, ‘Will you speak English, for Christ’s sake! You’re in America’…

The Cunninghams and other families started to organize Irish social events.
There was not much doing, and my father was great. He was like president of the union and he was in the Knights of Columbus, and he was an usher in the church, very civically-minded So he was the one, because we were the first, we were the first Cunninghams here. Everybody came here in these days to die. They came for TB and stuff. They came because of the light air. People used to sleep on the roofs and sleep outside, and do all kinds of things, because all we had was swamp coolers, but that was all you needed in those days. Every other Irishman that started to come, would come through our house. There was the Mullins, and there was the Hanifans, and there was the Sullivans. They would visit with my dad, and he would help them all find jobs if they needed that. So, it was like a small community. So my father, probably about 1945, started what he called the Irish-American Social Club, and that was the very first Irish club. There was a little hall, around 15th or 16th Avenue and Van Buren, there was a little hall called the Assembly Hall, but you could rent it probably, I don’t know, for around maybe 10 or 20 bucks, maybe 50. We would have potluck, and all the women would bring dishes, and all the Irish that started coming to Arizona, would get together, and we would do sets and Irish dances. I grew up doing Irish sets because in our living room in the old days it was linoleum… They would push the chairs back and get everything out of the front room, and the Sullivans and the Mullins, and Uncle Tom and all of them, and they would be doing the Irish sets. And I can remember as a little girl, I would have my little arms up on their shoulders, they would take me off my legs, and we would be flying around the room, you know, round the house, and they would be flying. And it was the old Victrola that you cranked with your hand, and maybe a big old 78 record. And they always would do the Irish sets and the dances. The one good thing about the Irish is that when they get together they want to laugh. They tell stories and they tell jokes and they laugh until they are falling down. So they would come and it was always potato salad and ham, and there would be Irish soda bread, and the drink in those days was the highball, which was whiskey and Seven Up or ginger ale. ‘Will ya have a drink?’ that meant, ‘Will ya have a highball?’. And even the kids, we were kids they would say, ‘Margaret Mary will ya make a drink for Uncle Tom?’ and you would go into the kitchen and you would mix a bunch of whiskey in a full glass of ginger ale and ice, and that’s what everybody drank. So they had the eats, and then in the front room they would dance and dance and dance. And they would do the Highland Fling and the Stack of Barley. And the sets… They didn’t do the Siege of Ennis in those days... Going in and out and around and in and out and around, and then, like I say, the whole group would go in and out, and then the whole group would swing like hell. It was great fun! An Irish party…It was a great thing, and even my brothers, they would rent the assembly hall, and it would take all day, like my dad and my brother Eddy, and my brother Jimmy, would go and set it up, tables and chairs. And my mother would be all day and the night before making a huge thing of potato salad and sandwiches, like they do in Ireland, you know, they make the sandwich. It is very tasty in Ireland. But they served sandwiches. So the week before St Patrick’s Day they were up on the phone calling everyone who they knew was Irish, and spreading the word. ‘You’ll come to the party now, it is at the assembly hall,’ I

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mean, no formal invitation, nothing, just a phone call, and they’d all come. There would be a table going down the center and it would be covered with food. So then you would have Irish records, or, in the old days, there was an old codger. My mother was a great one for, she always took care of people and she took care of these old guys, they had nobody. Pat Dirkin, was out here… everybody was out here for their health in the old days, and he was out here for his chest also. Well, he was one of those Irishmen, it’s a rare breed. It was the last of that breed. There were two of them in my life, and I have never forgotten them. Bill Colley was one of them. And he could stand in my front room and quote maybe ten, fifteen verses of a beautiful Irish poem, not missing a word, and he could quote, and quote, and quote. Because the Irish, you know, they went to hedge schools. I think in my mom’s generation (she was born in 1909) they were just then getting the schools back. The English had persecuted them and destRoryed their churches and schools, and they were not allowed to speak Gaelic, and so they were taught in hedge schools. Anybody that knew the numbers and knew the English would volunteer to meet with a group of kids and try and teach them. So they were taught literally under hedges and underground. And so Bill Colley is of that era and they had to memorize. They memorized, and it is the whole thing of the Seanachie, the Irish storyteller. They memorized many, many, many stories, and they would go from house to house, and they would sit and entertain you. And, of course, you would feed them and they’d sit around the fire. And that is how they brought the news and they would be telling the stories and singing the songs. So that is why they are naturally such a verbal race. Bill Colley would stand in the doorway and do verse after verse, and I remember being a little girl looking at him, thinking, ‘How can he remember all of that?’ because they don’t miss a beat. Well, now, Pat Dirkin, who I was telling you about, he was a skinny old guy, bad chest, and his wife, and he had a son who was in the seminary, of course. He was another one. He would come, and before he had entered the house he would stand for five minutes in the door telling my mother, ‘What a gracious, fine, lovely lady, and what a fine hostess, and what a fine family you have raised, and God bless you, it is a credit to you,’ and they would go on, and on, and on. He was like they say, ‘Full of Blarney,’ he would never insult you.. the Irish have a way of not being direct. Americans will say, ‘I don’t like that hat. Why are you wearing that hat?’ An Irishman would never say that. My own father would look at you with a kind of scornful face and say, ‘Shoot, that hat’s a credit to you.’ Meaning... it is making you look ugly, take it off. So, anyways, Dirkin had this great gift of gab, where he would talk and talk and talk, and he was full of blarney, if you know what I mean. Dirkin was a great melodian [player], do you know what a melodian is? Well, you know what an accordion is…Well, a melodian is octagonal and it is round, it is a little round, but it is the same thing. It is a little squeezebox. The Irish use a lot of accordion players, and so he played the melodian. He played the jigs and the reels... He was one of the first ones that played for me.

For a while, these parties were the main opportunity to see Irish dancing. However, a girl named Mae Cooney arrived and began teaching step dancing to her few but eager pupils. Margaret Cunningham continued:
In those days, the Hanifans, John Hanifan, lived over by St. Agnes”. John Hanifan brought his niece, Mae Cooney, from Cork, Ireland, and she stayed with him. I don’t know if she was trying to emigrate, I’m sure she was. She was here for a number of years. She was a short girl with dark hair. She had studied step dancing in Ireland. So there was myself who was mad for dancing, and [with] natural ability. I could look at it and do it, it came naturally to me. Then there was Sylvester and Matthew O’Brien. They lived over on Jackson Street, and this was all St. Matthew’s Parish, and they had Kathleen, Helen, and Sheila. I think that Kathleen didn’t study, but I think Sheila did and I know that Helen did because Helen was in the same class as I was. There might have been one or two others. There was only a handful of us. We would go to John Hanifan’s house. As I said, they considered it very important that we learned the jig. And then [my father and the Hanifans] would have a visit, and they would probably have their highball. Mae Cooney was in some room, I don’t remember, but I do remember a linoleum floor. She taught us. She was here for a while, because I remember that I learned a reel as the first thing that you do. It’s a one-two-three, and a one-twothree, and a one-two-three-four-five-six-seven and so on. So she taught us the reel first. I don’t know if there

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were five or six dancers, there might have been only four of us. First you learned the reel, and then you learned the jig, and then if you were the die-hard, little good dancer that I was, you learned a hornpipe. So I learned all of these dances from here, and I know that I was only in third or fourth grade when I learned this, but, for me, it came really easy. I had good coordination. I could hop like a rabbit. So that was the origination of Irish step dancing in Arizona. There was none before that time.

Margaret Cunningham and her brothers and sisters would share their dancing with their classmates and the nuns at their school, who were always very enthusiastic about her dancing and eager to promote Irish Catholic culture. Every St. Patrick’s Day, she would perform a showcase in as many of the classrooms in her school as was possible.
So I would tell my story of St. Patrick, and then I would have my little record, and they would have the Victrola, the record player, in the class. I would dance the jig, and maybe a reel, and maybe a hornpipe, and, boy, I could dance like a bat out of hell. I could do three or four or five dances. I never got tired… I could just jump like a gazelle so I would go from class to class. They would send me to the next classroom, and the next classroom so I would go through the whole school telling the story of St. Patrick, and dancing jigs. Now, my sister had told the story, but I don’t think that she did the jig. I would do the jig and do my little demonstration. We were like the most Irish of the Irish. The culture was kept very much alive. My brother sang ‘The Rose of Tralee’, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’, ‘Danny Boy;, all the old Irish songs. He sang them all. And then we all sang.

Although Margaret Cunningham maintained her step dancing talent after Mae Cooney left Phoenix, and occasionally taught her own classes, there was not a very fast growth in the number of people dancing. Ms. Cunningham was also working as a ballet performer and in other styles, and, thus, Irish dancing was a love, but not always a first priority for her. She and her brother, (now Father) John Cunningham also created a musical routine which they performed for many years, and were very influential in the development of the Irish music scene.
After Mae Cooney, I was the only one who kept up the dancing. When I was older, being out having a drink somewhere, someone playing ‘Turkey in the Straw,’ and it was St. Paddy’s Day, and I had high heels on, and I was the only one in the lounge who could do a jig. So I did the ‘Turkey in the Straw’ in high heels. Gradually, people came. Women that had learned the jig back east or somewhere else, would come to the parties, and they would jump up and do a few steps, but I was the only one that actually performed it… I worked with a group, and my performances were the Irish jig and the hornpipe and, if they wanted more, the Charleston. And I won contests with the Irish jig and the Charleston! First it was Pat Dirkin on the melodian, and then Sterling Briggs on the bagpipes, and then the next great accompanist was Sol Rudnick. Sol Rudnick was a little Jewish man who should have been Irish. All he ever did was play Irish music, and he really dedicated his life to Irish music. He was totally into it. So, in the later years Sol Rudnick was our sole accompanist. But, again, there were no schools. I got married in 1960, ’61, and it was after I got married and we moved back here that I did teach some step dancing. And again, I was still dancing. I never stopped dancing until currently. So, by now, we have some people that are coming in who know it from being taught somewhere else, and the Irish community is growing, because now you have the clubs kind of split off. I taught my brother John the Irish jig, the reel, and the hornpipe. He learned guitar when he was young, like in high school. He became very good at it. We used to sit around the house singing Irish songs, strumming the chords. So we did Irish shows. John and I were the only Irish entertainment for years, all through the late fifties and the sixties. There was nothing here…there were no bands [or anything] - it was John and I. When Jerry and John McMorrow were little kids, Pat raised them so Irish, and Pat McMorrow is a great dancer. I have danced my entire life with Pat McMorrow. So he wanted the kids to have the Irish culture. Well, those little guys, the guitar was bigger than they were! But they started singing and playing

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with us. We would have these jam sessions. You know Irish parties, we would all get together and God almighty, we would go on all night singing like mad, and dancing. Then Claire, their sister, I think she studied with Mary McCormack.

In 1962, Mary McCormack and her family moved to Phoenix, and Mary was convinced to begin teaching classes. She and her daughters had previously studied dancing on the east coast. She described her background:
After taking lessons from the Baron school as a child, I did see the style of dancing that was being taught in 1959 and the 60s in New Jersey by Una Ellis. In fact, I went to her adult class a few times, and enjoyed doing the steps the way they were teaching them then. My [first] dance teacher taught, and he also played the fiddle. So when we were dancing, and he was teaching, he’d play the fiddle. We didn’t have any records or tape machines. They had to have a lot of musicians.

Una Ellis, one of America’s longest-teaching and most accomplished Irish dance teachers, recalled the classes that Mary and her daughters would have attended, as well as her own background.
I was in my thirties... It was in Bergenfield, New Jersey. It was in a private hall I think. Basically, they may be the same as today. I had the beginners first for an hour, and then kind of intermediate, then the more advanced dancers, and then we had a special class for figure dancing... I think we were more advanced than they were a few years before that - more coming towards the Irish way. Probably we were headed more that direction, toward the culture of Irish dancing as it is today.... I had about 150 (students). As my class grew and expanded, probably in the early sixties I would have had about 160. We were out all the time. We went to different shows. We did a show with Maureen O’Hara, in New York on St. Patrick’s Day, and we did all kinds of shows, just like they do today, especially during St. Patrick’s week. You know, it was always very busy…Church dances and things like that, because they wanted entertainment. I started with James T. McKenna in New York, many years ago, and then when I was a teenager I went to Ireland. Well I was born over there, but I went over for lessons, and I went to Anna McCoy in Belfast, Ireland, and I went to her for about three summers. She helped me with my TCRG. I studied with her.

Mary McCormack met Margaret Cunningham at a party at St. Theresa’s Parish, where they performed together. Mary McCormack recalled:
In the fall of 1962, there were plans to have a St. Patrick’s Day party at St. Theresa’s Parish, for Father Michael O’Grady. Word got out that I knew a few Irish steps, and some of the women in the parish who were Irish-American and Irish born thought that they would like to perform if I would teach them something, and we could be part of the party. I taught the ladies a jig step and a three hand reel. They said, ‘Oh, you’ve got to teach our children’. Well, that next year in March, at the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick party, my daughter Mary had a costume from Una Ellis’s class. She danced, and John Cunningham and Maggie danced [in downtown Phoenix]. Sterling Briggs was involved with the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and he played the pipes. He was trying to get a pipe band together. He started teaching bagpipes. John McMorrow took lessons from him later on.

Mary McCormack was to become one of the most prominent figures in the sphere of Irish dancing in Arizona. 5

Chapter Two Mary McCormack: 1964 to 1980
Mary McCormack eventually became a pillar of the Irish dance community, in part because of her perseverance. She taught Irish dancing in Arizona from 1964 to 1998, an amazing thirty-four years. Through those years, the Valley experienced growth that it is still continuing. Irish cultural events slowly began to draw more participants. For many of these years, Mary McCormack was the only Irish dancing teacher in the area, and her dancers were the only group in town. Margaret Cunningham commented:
The only teacher that persevered through that time was Mary McCormack.

Many of the people interviewed were very interested in making sure that Mary McCormack had been interviewed. Fortunately, she was the very first person I interviewed for this book. Margaret McNulty asked:
Wow. You are doing so many. Are you going to do Mary McCormack?

Mary McCormack recounted her beginning years as a teacher:
As a result of the parties, the Donegal Dancers got started in 1964. We came up with that name because a couple of priests being from there, and my parents had come from the north of Ireland. I wanted to give a north-of -Ireland name to the group. My mother was from Tyrone, and I couldn’t see [it being] the Tyrone dancers. It started in 1964, when I taught in the porch of my house at 48th Street and Indian School Road. We moved here to Vernon in 1965, and continued to teach in the screened in porch at my home. The class started with 5 or 6 local St. Theresa people. In 1964, we danced again at the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and Father O’Grady took us down to Sacred Heart Homes, to visit the Little Sisters [Daughters of Charity of Vincent de Paul] and the elderly. There were a couple of other nursing homes that Sterling Briggs got involved with. We went to nursing homes and parish dances. Father Mc Hugh invited us to Most Holy Trinity. Of course, if St. Theresa’s had a party we went there. Jim Murphy was involved with the Friendly Sons, and he had us come out to the American Legion. Word of mouth got around, and every year around St. Patrick’s Day, we got invited to dance. As more people saw the group, I got more students.

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Mary Doyle Lanz was one of Mary’s long-time students and later an adult dancer with the McElligott School, as well as the mother of Eamon Lanz. Both the McCormacks and Doyles went to St. Theresa’s elementary school, which is how they became acquainted. Mrs. Lanz recalled her days in Mrs. McCormack’s classes:
I started dancing with Mary when I was seven years old, so that had to be probably 1964. I started dancing with her because her daughter Ann was in my class in grade school. It was something we did after school. We walked over to her house and her mom taught us on the back patio. I think she charged us 50 cents a lesson, maybe 75 cents. It was less than a dollar. I danced with her from the time I was seven until I finished college and moved to Tucson in 1977, so that was 13 years. She was a lot of fun. All of her daughters stopped dancing, and I still danced with them. I really enjoyed it. It was a fun hobby. Nobody ever mentioned competition... They certainly weren’t here in Arizona. Nobody ever suggested that your teacher should be certified, nobody had any idea about any of that. We just did it for fun. Mrs. McCormack had a philosophy; I don’t think she ever turned anyone down. We danced at nursing homes, we danced at retirement parties, we danced at retirement centers, we danced at schools, we danced at churches, we danced at anything that asked us. We danced at all the international festivals in town. I remember that we danced on TV a few times. She was a very patient woman... She seemed to tolerate the noise and the hubbub of the dance class. We would run out in front and play when she was working with somebody else, and then she would come out into the driveway area and call us in, or out into the backyard, where we were playing, and we would go in and dance. She would line us up and show us the step facing us, and turn around and show us the step from behind, and make us all do it. Then she would stand in a line between us, one on each side, and we would do the step on the right and left foot. She would go down the whole line. We would all have to hold hands. That’s how we would learn the step. Then she would put the music on, and we would try it to the music. Of course most of the kids were Irish Catholic, but certainly not all of them. There was Sheila Martin. She went to Xavier High school, and I think she then went on to the U of A. I danced with her a lot in high school. She was one of the main dancers through my high school years, which would be 1970-ish to 1975. There were a handful of us who danced for Mary that had danced for a long time. She wasn’t what I would call a real hard taskmaster. I mean, I have never watched Tom Bracken teach, and I have never watched Pat Hall or Sharon Judd, but I have watched Heather teach. Heather always gives pointers about ‘lift your leg higher, point your toe more, pick up your back foot, stand up straighter, whatever’. The finer points. I don’t remember Mary doing that. My guess is she did some of it, but we weren’t competing. I don’t think anybody conceived of competing. We were doing it more for fun. She had the same rules that most dance teachers have. No gum in class, no gum at performances - Those types of things. But that’s how she would teach us.

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She used to tell us to hold our dress, we were instructed to hold our dresses. She always had long hair pinned up in a bun and she always wore a skirt. I never saw her in a pair of pants until, forever. I always think of her in a dress. She was a teacher. She had a grade-book, and she had all our names like we were students in a class. She would have it all lined up by month and date, and when you came in, she would check you off and check if you’d paid. She had a little box you would stick your money in. I would take my 50 cents or whatever it was and drop it in the box, and she would check us all. [For music we used] My Ireland, By James Galway. It was a great big 78. It had almost everything on it that you would need to practice to. That was a big deal to get your parents to go buy it for you. Of course that was back in the “dark days”, when malls were real far away. She was very patient. We worked always on both solo steps and figures, in the same class. I know a lot of the teachers today break it up. You pay for figure and you pay for solos. Back then, we just did everything.

Mary Lanz also alluded to the nature of the Irish community at that time.
Back then, the Irish community and the Irish clubs were rather political, and there was a big schism, a big split, and all kinds of political stuff. My parents weren’t interested in the politics. They wanted to do the cultural heritage part of it.

Mary Lanz was able to make pocket money throughout high school performing for Mary McCormack and with Sterling Briggs and Sol Rudnick.
I went with Sol [Rudnick] even out of state, on a couple of expeditions where we performed.

Margaret Cunningham talked about some of Mary McCormack’s other pupils:
Maureen Mullins always studied with Mary McCormack, and she danced with her school for a long, long time. Her daughters study with Sharon Judd. And then the McMorrows came in the scene, Pat McMorrow, and his kids.

The Donegal Dancers performed all over the city, from Mayor Hance’s new Brown Bag Lunches to the “Bedpan Circuit.” Mary McCormack recalled some of these:
When Margaret Hance was Mayor of Phoenix, she started the brown bag lunches. On a Friday near St. Patrick’s Day we got invited to dance and perform there. At that time, Sol Rudnick had come to town, with his fiddle, and he and Sterling Briggs and Owen Keating got involved with the dancers, and performed downtown, outside of City Hall. Eventually, it moved over to Patriot’s Park. So that was a big deal, and it always collected a big group of people. We got pictures in the Phoenix Gazette and the Arizona Republic with the dancers doing their thing on St. Patrick’s Day. We also got invited to the Festival of Nations in Scottsdale, the Firebird Festival in Encanto Park... They also had a Celebration of the Arts down at Symphony Hall once a year. It was [a group of] cultural, ethnic performances. Theresa Perez was involved with that. We always went down to perform and represent Ireland. At this point, too, the McMorrows got

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involved with playing and being part of the entertainment. All during the 1970s, we always called it the Donegal Dancers, if we needed some representation at Irish goings on, to represent Ireland during those years. They called it the ‘Bedpan Circuit’... We went to the Jewish home, we went to the Catholic home... We went to California with a Moose. They had a Moose Lodge here in town, and there was a Moose convention. Sterling Briggs was involved with the Moose, so we took a bus over to California with a Moose, and we danced at Disneyland.

Mary Lanz remembered the shoes the dancers had worn.
We wore ghillies... I actually had a pair of ghillies. We had hard shoes, but we had what we call flamenco taps put on them. I still have a pair of hard shoes with the nails driven into them. That’s what we danced in for the hardshoe, but they had heels on them.

Ironically, Una Ellis’s classes at the time had the reverse types of shoes. They had actual hard shoes and then ballet slippers instead of ghillies.
We were using the hard shoes with the buckles on them and ballet slippers…little ballet slippers.

Mary McCormack’s costumes recalled Una Ellis’s first costumes.
In the beginning we started off with just little green dresses and gold belts, and then we had white skirts, black velvet jackets, and a white shawl. Then we went into a traditional dress with embroidery all on it and lace collars and cuffs. That was black with white, and the embroidery was green and gold.

Mary McCormack spoke about her school costumes, which were generally very simple and stayed largely consistent over the early years.
I always liked the white costume. I was partial to white, and it just made sense to me out here in Phoenix. The kids that I had, the little ones started with a white blouse, and we made a full circle skirt with a little bib, and straps, and a button. I had a lady who was a dressmaker make the pattern, and then the parents just made their own dresses. There was no embroidery . When I went to Ireland on my first trip in 1974, I tried to find Celtic knot patterns, to do some simple embroidery. I had the hardest time trying to find a store that had transfer patterns. So, I finally found one. When I had this gal make a dress for me, I did have embroidery on it. But they just had green dresses. We wore black stockings, because that’s what they had worn back east. I made the ‘boys’, if you danced the boy’s part, you wore a kilt, and, if you were a ‘girl’, you wore a dress. So they had a green kilt and a white blouse, and a black velvet vest, and the ‘girls’ had the green dresses with the white shawls.

Margaret McNulty’s daughters started dancing at the end of the period during which Mary McCormack was teaching children.
We emigrated here in 1978, and one of the first Irish events that we went to was a picnic in Scottsdale. Mary McCormack had her dancers were there, and I saw the kids dancing and figured that would be a good way for them to keep some [connection to their heritage]. That’s how we got involved in the first place. That’s when the McMorrows were [small], and they were singing, and there were a few dancers there, not

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too many. I think Mark was one of them. [Fiona McNulty Behan’s] now-husband was one of the dancers. I think there were about ten; it was small. [Mary’s class] was very relaxed, and it was a lot of fun. It was a social time for the parents who went down there too. We just sat around and visited. We were outside on the patio.

Margaret McNulty and her daughter Fiona talked about Mary’s use of live musicians such as Sol Rudnick, Marshall Rakowsky, and Sterling Briggs.
Margaret- She did have Sol Rudnick, when they were dancing at shows. She had taped music for practice. But he would come to practice every once in a while if there was a performance coming up. You guys would dance at the Festival of Nations and things like that. Fiona Behan - That was fun because he was really nice. Margaret- Always a lot of fun, yeah. Fiona Behan- He was really nice and calm, so that was good. He was at every performance we did. And he would have somebody with him, too, a guitar player, with him. Remember his “Turkey in the Straw”?

According to Mary Lanz:
On Sol Rudnick’s album, [you can hear] Mary dance.

Mary Lanz talked about the differences between Mary McCormack’s dancing and the modern style.
When I hear a reel, I hear a certain set of steps that nobody in town does. It’s something Mary taught us as children that we did, that nobody else does. Whether its right or wrong - I don’t really know. They fit the music. They look nice. The jig is probably the one that is the closest to what we learned, although the figure dances are pretty much the same or pretty close. I almost freeze when I get up to dance for Heather and I hear a reel. I have to really think about it because that’s not what my feet want to do. After 20-25 years of doing the same steps, it was a real hard habit to break. The hornpipe was different, the reel was different, our jig steps were different. We didn’t do what they call a hard jig now. We called it the double jig and it was different. It was a lot simpler than what they do now, because, with those kinds of shoes you couldn’t do a click... I think the dancing looks more exciting now, much more alive. We danced heavier on our feet... It was just what we did.

Eventually, Mary McCormack wanted to hand over her dancers to a teacher who had more experience and who could take the children to a higher level in dancing. She was able to encourage all three of the next group of teachers who took over children’s Irish step dancing in the early 1980s.
It was around [the 1970’s] when I had a full time job teaching school and a good size class of students. I was looking around to see if I could find somebody who would take the class. Maybe in the late seventies,

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Dottie Flynn, Nora Pearse, and Kathleen McCafferty Dobyns were in town. All of them knew, of course, that I was teaching Irish dancing. I had approached Dottie, since she had a big class back in New York, and knew what it was all about. Kathleen McCafferty was involved with her family in Cleveland, because some of her brothers were teaching, and she had been a championship dancer. And Nora had moved out from Philadelphia, and she had been a championship dancer. They all knew what was going on.

Kathleen McCafferty Dobyns remembered meeting Mary for the first time, and being persuaded to begin teaching.
We moved to Arizona in 1979, and I tried to figure out what was going on as far as the Irish community [goes]. Around St. Patrick’s Day of 1980, then, was my first exposure to actually seeing things on the news, where Irish dancers were going to be and things like that. I first ran into Mary McCormack [then], and her group. I saw her dancers and their limited exposure to Irish dancing, and I thought, ‘Well, I could probably help her, and get the kids sort of up to speed, bring them up to the ‘80s, formalize costumes, or whatever’. I got with Mary, and I explained who I was. At the time, they had Nationals, but they didn’t have the regionals. You know how they have the Midwest Oireachtas, and the Western Oireachtas, they didn’t have that. They would just have the Nationals. The first competition I ever danced in, there were 75 kids in it, the very first year. I won the Nationals five times, and then I just stopped. Then I had to go, I was done, I was too old, whatever. So I was pretty confident that I had the skill level that I needed to help out here. So Mary was pretty glad to have that, and she said, ‘Well, I have all these people who call me with all these beginners that I am not doing’. So she said, ‘Why don’t you call these people, and start taking the beginners’. She was keeping with the older kids or the older adults. So, in September of that very year, in September of 1980, I called all of the people she had given me on the list, and introduced myself.

Peg Cunningham talked about Nora Pearse:
When Nora came to Phoenix, she missed her Irish dancing, and so she danced with Mary McCormack. Mary talked her into starting her own school.

Mary Doyle Lanz had also continued to take classes from Mary McCormack, and she was encouraged as well to begin teaching.
The last two years I danced for her I taught the little kids for her... I taught the little ones at my dad’s place of business, in that same general part of Phoenix... I think she let me keep the money; I don’t really remember. Whatever it was, it was probably a dollar a lesson. It was not really anything significant. I just did it because I really liked doing it. I have always liked kids, so that part was fun for me.

The sixties and seventies followed a pattern of slow but steady growth. However, soon thereafter, the Irish dancing community in Arizona would soon thereafter see a blossoming into three distinct schools. The Irish community would soon establish a feis and parade, both of which helped to promote dancing and raise the competitive of dancing in Arizona.

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Chapter Three Kathleen McCafferty, Nora Pearse, Dottie Flynn Wood, Mary Doyle, and the Phoenix Feis: The Early 1980's
By the beginning of the 1980s, Mary McCormack had been able to convince Kathleen McCafferty, Nora Pearse, and Dottie Flynn Wood to begin teaching the children. Mary McCormack maintained a group of adult dancers. Mary Doyle moved to Tucson and began teaching briefly in the mid eighties, before Pat Hall began teaching there. After seeing competition in other states, parents began to organize the Phoenix Feis, which was roughly concurrent with the establishment of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Prior to this, John Corcoran had formed an Irish festival at Encanto Park. Irish dancing institutions in Arizona began to resemble those maintained elsewhere. Kathleen McCafferty née Dobyns described her dancing past:
I actually come from a large family of Irish dancers. There were six of us, four boys, two girls, and we all danced. We were all champion dancers. As we became adults, my sister had a school, my brother and his wife Judy had a school, and then I had opened a school, in the Toledo area, but that was brief. That was around 1977. I also, as I moved around the country, helped other teachers, because I really wasn’t interested in opening my own school. That’s a whole life, that’s a pretty big project, and I was never really sure that I wanted to do that. We all started dancing pretty much when we got to be five. The majority of my career was spent with Tessie Burke. She was certified, out of Cleveland. She tapped into the talent that was there, and she made me into what I was by the time I stopped dancing competitively. At one point, in our family, we were split among three schools. In the end, we were all at Tessie. My whole life revolved around Irish dancing. All of it. That was all I did. Didn’t care to study, didn’t care to do my homework. All I wanted to do was dance. We traveled a lot. They have a lot more competitions in the east than they have out here. Every single weekend, we went somewhere in the summer. We never missed, and every weekend, we were somewhere else. My parents bought a motor home in the end. As well, my mother went to work at an airline. One time, it was after the very first Oireachtas that was ever held in this country, there were only Minor, Junior, and Senior Championships, and when I danced in that Oireachtas and I won first, I was the only dancer there not from New York. They didn’t have the trophies, so we came home from that empty-handed. The trophies

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came, and they were having a dinner dance in New York, to present the trophies. I remember to this day my mother coming into my room that Saturday morning and saying to me, ‘Would you like to go to New York this afternoon to accept your trophy?’. I [was] there. so we packed up my little costume, and we stayed with another dancer’s family. All of the first place winners danced. I probably came home the next morning. Apparently my parents thought that they were just not going to have any part of having one person missing out of that rather select group. I think the last three years I danced, I never got a second.

As previously mentioned Kathleen McCafferty was quite the champion, and she was even subsequently mentioned in John Cullinane’s Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing in North America because of this. She competed in the World Championships and danced extremely well for an American of her era.
I danced in Ireland in the Worlds, about three times. At that time, in the late 1960s, and the early 1970s, pretty much Ireland and England had it all sewed up. There just were no winners from America.. We were actually some of the first dancers to come over there, and dance, and we were totally out of our league at that time. Just like when I took the kids to California, that’s how you bring back a better standard. We started bringing that back. I did win one thing, and that was Best Overseas Dancer, and that was pretty exciting, because that included all the kids from Australia and England. Apparently it was anybody overseas at all. So that included that Canadians, the Americans, [and the Scottish].

Kathleen Dobyns was thus probably the most accomplished dancer that Arizona had seen at that point in time, aside from the one visit that Mary McCormack recalls that a certain famous duo made to the “Valley.”
Mick Maloney was coming through [for a performance], and he had these two young lads dancing with the group [Donnie Golden and Michael Flatley].

Kathleen Dobyns classes started in an inauspicious manner, continuing along the path that Mary McCormack had set. Mary McCormack recalled:
It wasn’t until 1980 that Kathleen decided that she would take my group. She was working full time and going to school, so she came to my house on Saturday mornings and [held class], until she found a place to hold lessons. That was maybe six months down the road. I guess some of them didn’t continue with Kathleen, because they had other things going on on Saturdays. Saturday morning was maybe not as good as a weekday night for some of the kids. So some of them dropped out.

Mrs. Dobyns described:
It started through Mary, but then Matt’s dad and I became very active in the social clubs around town [Irish American Social Club]. And then it became simply word of mouth, or they would see the kids somewhere, or something like that. There was no direct line or anything. Some of the kids had joined somehow or another through school. I had a bunch of girls who were in high school, and I don’t think they were Irish by nationality. They just got hooked up through school. They were fun. They were nice little dancers, but then they all went off to college. The class never got very big. There just wasn’t a market in the valley at the time. I taught beginners, and each year the kids would advance. They got better and better.

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I just taught pretty much traditionally. I taught as you are taught to teach if you are going to take the exam. There are certain things you need to do. I taught appropriately, by the book. My sister-in-law, Judy, started giving me set pieces, she would teach me set pieces, and some steps, and I was starting to bring those back. I don’t know how it came up, but I started dancing with the kids. We got a call to dance at Symphony Hall in summer. We had this really nice six-hand, and one of my kids was in Ireland, and I thought, ‘Oh, man! I can’t pass up this opportunity’. Well, I was as tall as the kids, and the kids’ costume was the same as my costume, so I just got my costume out, and we did the six-hand. After that, every once in a while, I would dance with the kids. I usually just did a set piece. Not very often. I wasn’t comfortable doing it.

Kathleen Dobyns talked about the costumes that her dancers wore:
In the meantime, we got costumes, and we went from black tights to white socks, because they were wearing black tights when I got here. Those were Tessie Burke’s costumes, and, sweet woman that she is, she never said anything. I never had any problems with that. I realize now that was probably not the smartest thing to do, but it was a beautiful costume, and it had beautiful colors, and it just looked really nice. I was so far away from her, I definitely posed no threat. My kids would never be going back east to dance. Kids just weren’t motivated to do that then. You couldn’t say that now, kids will go anywhere. People are so much more mobile. Christine Bell’s mother would bring me back all the shoes. They went [to Ireland] every single year. We just fitted the kids, and then I told them where to go, to the stores that I bought my shoes from. Getting costumes together was initially pretty tough, because I had a lot of trouble with the fabric stores, and a little trouble with the parents. When the kids got paid for engagements, they got money, which went into a bank [and] was never, ever touched by me. That money then bought their costumes. I would go to the fabric store, give the money and say, ‘I want six bolts of this green’, and then I would tell the parents that they had to go to [a particular fabric store, at a particular location], and buy that fabric, that it was set aside for us. The parents would get the name of the fabric and think that they could get it from their local one. Sure enough, the green would be off. That kind of stuff used to just drive me crazy. Matt’s dad embroidered most of my costume. He did a fabulous job. But I remember him just sitting around embroidering.

Kathleen Dobyns was not fully certified and this led to some difficulty between her and some of the Western teachers.
I wasn’t certified, because I never took the exam. I was issued a conditional certification, based on the need of the area. In other words, because this area did not have a teacher, they would give that. You could not get a conditional certification in Los Angeles, but you could, at that time, get one here. I doubt now, that someone could get a conditional certification in this city, but you could get one in Flagstaff. The problem with [An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha] is that, at the time, they said, ‘you must go and take the exam where we say and when we say’. First of all, I’m an American . They are Irish, and sometimes, I am not really fond of being told what and where to do something. I do remember that I went over to Los Angeles, for a Western Oireachtas, and I had dancers dancing. When I got there, I found out that they were giving the exam. I refused to take it, because I didn’t study. I didn’t know they were giving the exam, and I just didn’t understand why they didn’t notify me that the exam was being given and I would be required to take it. I could have studied. There was no way I was going to walk in there cold. I could have done everything but

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my books, because I just wasn’t strong on my books. I thought it was very unfair of the Western teachers, because they did know it was being given and they didn’t notify me.

Kathleen McCafferty Dobyns was the first teacher to take Arizonan children to out-of-state feiseanna.
I remember taking a very small group over to California, to their first feis in California, saying, ‘This is a feis. Everybody sit down and pay attention’, and brought them back. When you do things like that, when you are exposed to competition, then the standard of dancing will rise. And it did. The kids started winning medals, and then they started winning trophies.

According to Janet Corcoran:
Kathleen Dobyns was the first one to take dancers over to California for competition. We went to San Diego and Escondido.

The McNulty family remembered this aspect in particular detail.
Margaret- She went to her first [feiseanna] with Kathleen. It was very relaxed. That was the introduction to your first feis was with Kathleen. There were no [feiseanna] with Mary [McCormack]. Fiona- For the experience, she put me in the Nationals competition, but I was very nervous. It was just for the experience. I was a decent dancer, but I wasn’t spectacular or anything. It was the normal Nationals, but I didn’t get called back. Margaret- She didn’t even had a solo costume. We took Kathleen’s class costume, and put a white band on the middle, and put a white band on the sash to make it look like a solo costume. There were no solo costumes in Phoenix then. I remember Kathleen had them wearing knee-high white socks. I remember Ron Plummer, or somebody, one time, at a feis told Kathleen, ‘Get those kids out of those socks! They look bow legged!’ Then she put them in black tights. And then it was poodle socks from then on.

Kathleen Dobyns remembered the limitations of being so far away from the rest of the Irish dancing world.
I was starting to run out of material. As you know, probably a lot of teachers bring teachers from Ireland, or they have dance camps, or they buy their set dances, if they are not a very creative person, they will pay for set pieces. That goes on to this day. That was the point I was at, and I had a very little school, and the economy of that school would not support that kind of behavior. There were not a lot of kids, Irish dancing was not very popular, and I couldn’t make the kind of money that the teachers in the valley today are making. When I started my dance class, it was a dollar a lesson, and I felt terrible when I changed it to two dollars a lesson. And then I started kind of gradually raising it up. It was a little side project, that’s all. I didn’t have any champions. I wanted to have champions, but I just wasn’t there yet. In order to have champions, you have to have competition. You have to have it on a regular basis. You have to have competition within the school or within the city, where you are dancing against the same kid all the time, so you can just raise the bar and raise the bar. It just wasn’t going to happen.

The McNultys also saw this separation from the rest of the dancing world as affecting Kathleen’s steps. 15

Kathleen and Mary’s styles were more simple. There weren’t any complicated steps, or anything like that. When we started out early, Kathleen didn’t have material once we got to a certain level, to help us advance.

However, Mrs. Dobyns also recalled feeling a particular sense of success on certain occasions:
[Christine Bell], who was in Ireland, called me from Ireland. She had won in one of the competitions in Ireland, and it was like one of the best moments I had ever had. I remember I was in tears, to think that one of my kids from this little rinky-dink community could actually medal in Ireland. That was kind of exciting. I had nice dancers. I remember Sarah McNulty was my first dancer to win a trophy... [but otherwise] it was just a real mom and pop organization.

Both Mrs. Dobyns and Mrs. McCormack described the particular persistence of a dancer from Tucson. Kathleen detailed:
I had one family that would drive up to Phoenix [from Tucson] for lessons. I gave that girl private lessons, essentially, because she came so far. She deserved to get three or four hours worth of work. I used to teach her at the house. I gave a lot of lessons out in the garage of course, every teacher does. Then, when Pat [Hall] came, she wasn’t working, so she was able to go to Tucson and just stay there. Then, of course, she got a class going down there.

Mary McCormack added:
She was from Tucson. I think she was coming up to Kathleen for lessons because it was at a point in time when Pat Hall was not there. Her name was Tanya [Lloyd].

Leisl Shaughnessy had already moved into the Phoenix area and began taking classes with Kathleen. She commented briefly on Kathleen’s style.
I did [continue with Michael Smith] until I was probably, I think I was ten when I moved out here. [that would be about] 1983, I moved out here, but I don’t think I started dancing here until [I started] with Kathleen Dobyns. I danced with her maybe close to a year. Then Pat Hall came to town with McTeggart, and that was who I danced with until I was nineteen. I think Kathleen was a little more traditional. Pat grew up in Fresno, California and I think some of what she did was some traditional with a little more newer style. Kathleen was a mom at the time. She was just a very sweet person, very easy going... I grew up with a teacher who threw jig shoes across the room at us, and [yelled] at us. I love the man; I think he is a wonderful teacher, but the kind of stuff that happened there would not happen here. Parents would not have gone for that.

At a certain point, the stresses of being an Irish dance teacher began to interfere with the rest of Kathleen Dobyns’ life. One particular event, in particular, took it’s toll on her and she decided to stop teaching.
Around St. Patrick’s Day, pretty much the whole month of March was pretty miserable for me. Just awful. We had all variety of things. A pretty fair amount of private parties, parties in people’s homes, and little television spots here and there.

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Very few teachers hold other full time jobs, because it just turns into such a full time job. I didn’t have the class very long; I stopped in December of 1984 [when I was 30]. What happened was, I became pregnant, and I was working full time in an intensive care unit. I would work ten hour shifts, and then right after work (I would go in at 5 a.m.), I would drive straight to dancing class, and then teach all night. [It] was not too bad until it became very late in the pregnancy. The baby was due April 5 th, and he was born the week after St. Patrick’s Day. The week before that, the doctor had said to me, ‘You can’t work any more, you have to go home, and you have to stay in bed for the remainder of the six weeks of your pregnancy’. I said, ‘Well, I can’t do that, because it’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and I have 17 engagements, and the kids have to march in the parade’. I bargained with him, and I said, ‘Ok, I’ll skip the parade, I’ll skip the engagements on Friday and Sunday, but I have to go to the engagements on Saturday’. I think [that] was actually St. Patrick’s Day that year. Well, five days later, I gave birth to that child. I should never have done that. When the doctor says, ‘You go to bed’, you go to bed. But that is how Irish dancing is, it can kind of take over your life if you’re not too careful. He was born and he had to spend a long time in the neonatal intensive care unit and all sorts of things, and I thought, ‘This is nuts, this is crazy, I almost lost a child over this’. So, that fall, I started calling teachers to come and take over the class. I called actually three teachers, and I had one teacher accept, and that was Pat Hall. So, at the Christmas party, unbeknownst to any of the parents, I just stood up and said, ‘effective when we come back from Christmas vacation, I’m not going to teach the class anymore. This woman is coming from California. I’m going to stay home and raise my son. And that’s what I did. That was the end of the class. It was very short lived.

Even after ending her school, Kathleen Dobyns did not entirely stop teaching Irish dance, and she stayed active in the Irish community.
Some families I am still very close to. I know that after I closed the class, I had two families that would call for five years, to ‘please come back, please start again’. I tutored Tricia and Mary Cunningham. Every once in a while I would get a call for somebody who wanted tutoring, and I would do that.

Around this time, Mary Doyle Lanz moved to Tucson and found that there were no Irish dancing teachers in the area. She began teaching to a small group.
There was not really a cohesive Irish dance community in Tucson [around 1977 or 1978]. There was an Irish community, but certainly not a dance community. There was Scottish country dancing, and that was fun. They also had some highland dancing. And I don’t remember how, but somebody somewhere talked me into teaching people what I knew about the Irish dancing. I’ll have to admit, I was probably fairly reluctant, just because I didn’t want to take upon all that work. I love the dancing and I love sharing it, and I think the dancing should always be for everybody of all generations, from any culture. It seems to me it’s a fun thing and it should be shared, but actually choreographing it and thinking about it, and teaching it, and making sure costumes were done, and all that was not exactly what I wanted to do. But anyway, somehow I got talked into doing it. I think it was from 1982-1984, and we called ourselves the Emerald Isle Dancers. I probably charged a dollar or two dollars a lesson; I’m sure it was very little. I was a lot of fun. I had kids and I had grownups. We danced around town a couple of times. We danced at “Tucson Meet Yourself”. I remember we were filmed for a Norwegian show that of course we never saw. We were in the paper once. I would say [we had] maybe 20 dancers. I had two or three adults. Most of them were kids, I want to say 10-15? Not old enough to drive. No guys.

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We did some solo dancing, but we did a lot of figures, and a lot of ceílís. That’s what people were interested in. Frankly when you do shows, I think people want to see the group dancing more than they want to see an individual. In 1984, I was pregnant with Eamon and I had my other son. So I had a not quite two-year-old, and I was very pregnant. So I said, ‘You know what, guys? I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t have the time or the energy. I have a full time job otherwise, and this isn’t a moneymaking proposition for me’. About that time, Pat Hall came to Tucson to teach. So I was grateful. I felt like I hadn’t left anyone out of the loop. If they wanted to dance, she was there... I just said, ‘You know, I’m going to shut down, guys. My understanding is, she’s a certified teacher. You are going to learn. If you are going to go somewhere with this, she is the person to do it with’.

Back in Phoenix, there were two other teachers that also taught small classes, Dottie Flynn Wood and Nora Pearse. But both had students who danced in the locally emerging Phoenix Feis, and both made a specific impact on the dancing in the “Valley.” Patricia Prior had the opportunity to see the teaching styles of Dottie Flynn, Nora Pearse, and Kathleen McCafferty.
I saw them all teach. They would only allow you in for a few minutes, but I saw them all teach at some stage. They all had their own methods. Kathleen was the first to show discipline. Mary was gentle with the kids. I’m not saying that Kathleen wasn’t gentle with the kids, the kids loved her. [But] she had the discipline for Irish dancing, and it came through in the dances. That’s why the dancers were very good. They really were very good for that time. To watch [Kathleen’s and Nora’s] styles, you could tell they were totally, totally, different. Kathleen was more traditional... She got the kids to flow. Whereas [Nora’s style] was more heavy. Dottie Wood started her school about the same time, so we had three schools going at that time... All three were completely different. Dottie Wood’s was very, very old fashioned, with a little bit of country lilt to it... Nora was quite good, but she had a different style as well. It was fun to watch because they all had such different styles of dancing. Even growing up in Ireland, I didn’t realize there was such a thing as a different style of dancing. We thought there was just one style and that was it.

Mike Flynn, the son of Dottie Flynn Wood, remembered his mother’s dancing training, during which she was taught by one of the most influential teachers in the New York area, Professor McKenna, who John Cullinane has dubbed the “father of New York Irish dancing”. Professor McKenna also trained Kathleen Mulkerin, Jerry Mulvihill, and Peggy Smith, as well as her brother Peter Smith, and many more famous names of New York Irish step dancing. Joey Flynn was also a notable student.
As far as her dancing, she was dancing since she was about five years old. My father (Joey Flynn) and [she] met [because they were in] the same neighborhood in New York City. Professor McKenna was the one that they learned it from back in the thirties, I guess. He retired in Florida. I have pictures of him. After a while, he wasn’t too well, either, so he would sit down and he would just do the movements with his feet while he was sitting, and the kids had to learn that way. So it goes back a long way.

Mike Flynn spoke more about his parents’ careers as teachers: 18

My father was Joey Flynn, who was a step dance teacher back in New York, and then [Dottie] was a teacher also. It was competitive. There were the McNiffs and the Smiths, and they were big Irish schools also, with the Flynn School, back in New York. The style was different then; it was more of a hard step. It was just different off-of-the boat kind of stuff, so a little different, but the competition was always serious in the [feiseanna], I danced them myself. It was always the Flynns against the Smiths and the McNiffs. They were great teachers in those days. A different style I can say, though. They were on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Johnny Carson Show and the Merv Griffen Show, when those guys were first starting up, all of the TV shows in New York…[they were] smaller shows, before they became big-time and went to Hollywood and all of that. They performed at all of the local shows. When Johnny Carson was starting out, they were on the show. Mostly local New York talent at the time. She did some American tap, of course, we all did that. But then she had a few people that went on to do Brigadoon on Broadway, and things like that. And then some went out to do the movies. Gene Kelley did a movie, I believe. There were a couple of students that did Brigadoon, in the 1960’s, on Broadway. There used to be a lot of talent that would come out and they wanted some of the Irish background, step dancing, to use in the movies and stuff like that. She did a lot of things through the years. Knew a lot of people. I think they danced for Nixon, and a lot of commercial work, Budweiser, [etc.]. She had quite a lifestyle, with the TV and the shows and the politicians, and everything else back in New York. It was nonstop when I was a kid. If we weren’t going out to do a show, we were in class. And, of course, [as they were both] teachers. I’d take class five days a week, because I had to go with them. She taught the whole five boroughs of Manhattan, and they performed up and down the East coast. After that, with my father, putting [feiseanna] together and festivals and things like that. Then she came out here and did the St. Paddy’s Day parade, and the Colleen Ball, and the whole thing; they all got started together. So, she did a lot of work in the community, too. She came out here in about 1978, 1980. My father still had classes back east, when she came out here. They had separated at that point. Lifestyles had changed, they had separated, and she had met another fellow, and things weren’t the same back on the east coast. The work had changed. So she had gone out west, where she had wanted to go, anyway. Jim Wood [was the person that she married afterwards]. She kept my father’s name because of the school, mostly the background of the Irish step dancing was the Flynn School, which both of them had [taught for].

Mary Moriarty, who was a child living on the east coast when she knew Dottie Flynn Wood, said, off the cuff:
She had reddish-blonde hair, she had glasses, she was thin, and she was a damn good dancer.

Kathleen McCafferty Dobyns spoke about Dottie Flynn Wood:
Dottie Flynn had a lot of trouble. She never enjoyed good health. I can’t remember what happened to her school. It just kind of dissipated. I think that some of her kids went to Pat Hall.

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I lost a couple of families to Dottie. Dottie had a very distinct style. It was very New York, what I would call flatbush. She had a very distinguished style of dancing. It was a little looser. It wasn’t as meticulous as my class, the style that I employed. It was just a lot looser. It was a little wilder, but much different. It’s probably not anything you’ve seen. Dottie was much, much older than me, like 30 years [older].

The Corcorans also talked about Dottie’s style:
John- Dottie had good steps, but Dottie was relaxed. With Dottie you were out for fun. There was no competition with Dottie. She taught because she figured, ‘I learned this; I’ll teach it to the kids’. Dottie was very loose about money. It could be two dollars a lesson or something. She wasn’t strict about the position of the hands or the back. As long as you did the steps, Dottie was fine. She was very relaxed that way. Janet- But her steps were so outdated. They were really old and outdated. John- Yeah but you still see her son dancing today; Flatley-type. Janet- You can tell he’s a good dancer, but very outdated steps. He does the sevens almost like a double jig type.

Mike Flynn also remarked on his experiences in dancing and the style of dance:
I did [compete in the Nationals], years ago, early, I guess it was 1966, ’67. I have a Nationals championship trophy. My style of dancing is just totally not there anymore. I guess I would be more of a pub dancer today if I went [to Ireland, etc.], instead of the way that these kids are so talented today. The style has changed. I don’t think I could compete anymore; well, Dottie’s style of dance would be… I don’t even know if they would accept it anymore. It has changed so much through the years. They started, I know my dad and Dottie started changing the style, he took some classes on it, but he wanted to stay traditional, McKenna style...

Mike Flynn spoke about Dottie Flynn Wood’s classes in Phoenix, and her other activities in the area:
She only had about 30 kids all together [in Phoenix]. She didn’t continue for too long because of her health reasons. She didn’t have the health for it. She did it for a few years and we had some good dancers, but then she got ill and we kind of let it go. She got more active in doing the other things, but the dancing she got away from. She did some promotions, when she was out here, there was a gal who came over from Ireland, to do some singing. She was trying to get her started out here in the business. She did a lot of [promotion]... She brought a few Irish show bands over [to New York], back in the 1960’s, when they were popular.

Mary McCormack spoke about Dottie Flynn:
Dottie Flynn only taught for two or three years. Her health was not too good. I think she had to have heart surgery. Also, she needed to turn her class over to a registered teacher. If we were having these [feiseanna] that we were registering with the Western Region, we needed to have a registered teacher. So she called Ron Plummer, who was from Canada. He flew out from Canada to San Diego each week, she knew that. She talked him into coming to Phoenix in addition, and teaching one day a week.

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Late into Dottie’s career, she taught children of Margaret McNulty.
Dottie Wood was before Ron. That was just for a little while. We left Pat Hall. There were some personality conflicts. That was the first time that we left a school. And then the kids weren’t dancing at all, and Dottie Wood said it was such a waste, and so she started working with them. She didn’t have many kids, did she? She only had about a half dozen of the girls that [were] dancing at that time. I’m pretty sure she taught in St. Gregory’s. She was very loving and very caring, and that is where Anne Marie would watch you guys dancing at Dottie’s. She would start a little when she was about a year and a half. She would start doing her little steps as soon as she would start walking. Yeah, Dottie was nice. She knew that she could not take them where they needed to go, so she got Ron Plummer to come into town, and then Ron took over. [Dottie] was in bad health. She had had couple of bypass surgeries and things.

Unfortunately, Dottie Flynn Wood passed away in 1990. Peg Cunningham’s daughters were students of Nora Pearse. She talked about Nora’s style, and she recalled the makeup of the group.
Nora was just in her twenties. Dottie was older than me. Nora was a very wholesome [and] very well liked. She was a young married woman, a lovely, lovely girl. [She was] a person you’d want to have your children to be around; to have them look up to her as a role model. We were sorry to see her leave. And once she left, she had just heard about the Maoileidigh school, and had recommended for the students to go to the McTeggarts, or to give the Maoileidigh school a try. [Most went to Maoileidigh.]... She was homesick…She wanted to go back to Philadelphia. Her husband was going to work at a printing company back there. I can describe it (Nora’s style) as very traditional. She mixed it. She did everything. She did solos, and they really worked hard when it was time for a competition. She would put her heart and soul into it, and really expect the best by them. Her figure dancing was pretty good; the children competed against good schools and did very well with it. They got to use it a lot, because they were always out performing– not just nursing homes, but other places... country clubs and whatnot. She built up a nice reputation; people always wanted her school back. [The Pearse costume was a] brown and a yellow blouse, a toast colored vest, and a green skirt. The age range was from six, seven to thirteen, fourteen. They were outside of the Irish community, and it wasn’t until the Daughertys joined, and their children, and I joined, that they became aware of an Irish club, and of the Irish community. No, they were outside of it, and the majority of them stayed outside of it.

Mary McCormack recalled:
Nora started out around 1982 or 1983, out on the west side where she lived. Dottie Flynn started her own group around 1982 as well.

Kathleen Dobyns also remembered Nora Pearse, who had been a contemporary of hers back in East Coast competition. 21

Nora just had a really nice style. She had a really nice little class. I let Nora’s kids dance in competition. She didn’t have a conditional. I didn’t care. So long as I was being active in running the feis and on the committee, no child should ever be turned away from a dance competition. That’s just the way that I saw it. This was a little tiny town, at the time. Anything else would just have been less than I ever would have wanted. Some of the teachers on the West Coast had a problem with that, and I do remember that there were some actual protests on the feis field. They were dancing, and that was all there was to it. If this particular teacher didn’t like it, then they should not come. But I just could not turn away my neighbor. I don’t think Dottie had a conditional either. [ed. note- She listed in advertisements that she had a conditional.]

Peg Cunningham talked of the manner in which Nora began having her students compete. Nora, as well as all of the other teachers of this period, was more reticent to put her students into competition than most teachers of today.
Nora Pearse was kind of talked into having the children compete at a feis. She didn’t start out wanting to do that. She would have a lot of performances. They went to a nursing home maybe once a month, and they got to do a lot of their figure dancing. They got quite good when they would be competing in [feiseanna] with their figure dancing. [With Nora], we never went to even one out of state feis. I’d say the only feis we ever went to outside of Phoenix was in Arizona. She wasn’t really into competitive dancing. She was pushed into it by some parents, reluctantly. She didn’t really want to get into that. I guess she didn’t feel ready for that. Considering, her kids did quite well here, in Arizona, but other schools would come in, the Plummer School, the Houston school from Canada would come in every other year, down to Tucson, and they would just blow everyone else away. They were just better.

Heather Stewart, a former student of Nora Pearse who is currently working in California with Doireann Maoileidigh, also remembered Nora’s reluctance to enter the children in competition, and also shed some light on Nora’s own background and skills.
[Nora] was cool. Her whole reason for teaching Irish dance was just to do something for fun, something cultural. She wasn’t into competition at all. As a matter of fact, she encouraged us not to do competitions. It was just so cutthroat, and it took away from her whole... She loved Irish dancing so much, and she wanted us to enjoy it as much as she did. She went to the Worlds and All-Irelands and all that stuff. She grew up doing it back east, and it was just die-hard. How the kids treated each other when they got to championship level, she said it was horrible. She didn’t want us to ever have to get involved in something like that. If we wanted to be champion dancers, she pushed us, but it wasn’t something that was her main goal.

Heather also spoke about the way in which she found out about Nora’s classes:
Back then, you had to look for Irish dancing classes. It wasn’t like now, with Riverdance and Lord of the Dance and so forth, so there weren’t that many people that found out, unless they belonged to the Irish social club there, or something. My family is Scottish, so I did Scottish dancing. I went to St. Simon and Jude, which was run by the Irish nuns. On every St. Patrick’s Day we had a huge festival, and Sister Raphael, the principal, would get out there and do her hornpipe. She grabbed me out of the audience one day and said ‘Heather come out here and do this with me!’. That when I was in 5th grade. She gave me Nora’s name and I just started taking [classes].

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Back then, it was always that their parents were from Ireland, or they belonged to the social clubs, so they wanted their kids to dance.

Carrie Haney was a very young student of Nora Pearse’s. She remembered that Sol Rudnick also played for Nora’s dancers:
Sol was our fiddler. He went around to a lot of our shows, and dressed up as a leprechaun and fiddled. I was six years old, but it seemed like every time I saw him, he was in leprechaun outfit... [Do you] see his leprechaun ears?

Anne Daugherty was also a Pearse parent, and describes Nora’s sense of discipline:
Nora was the one that definitely did not want the parents in the classroom, although she did invite us in a couple of times so that we could see the steps... so we could know what the kids were supposed to be practicing. Basically, she was pretty good with the kids, because the kids all liked her... I liked Nora. She was a very nice young lady... She gave the boys time-out a couple of times, and she kicked them out a couple of times for being disruptive. Six and seven year old boys just don’t quite have that concentration.

Peg Cunningham recalled a particular piece of choreography that the Pearse dancers would always do at shows. This is something of an unusual happening, because most of the teachers simply had their dancers perform ceílí or stepabouts (solo steps, generally in a line).
She and her sister, who is an accredited teacher in Minneapolis, choreographed this dance that had the American flag and the Irish flag in it, and they did a beautiful figure dance [with it], with the majority of the students in the school. She did figure dancing, the two-hand, three-hand, four-hand, and six-hand. Haymaker’s jig.

Heather Stewart also remembered the dance fondly:
[The flag dance] was the show piece, the finale piece. It was really cool if you were the two front people, because you got to hold the big flags. One got the American flag, which none of us wanted to hold, and the other one got the big Irish flag. All the other little ones in the line, there were like six other ones in the back of the line, had little Irish flags. We would do a choreography, but it was sort of like high school flag teams. We would touch them. It looked really cool. It was just something Nora wanted to do for her show piece. [It was] dangerous, because we would flick them around in people’s eyes, but it was fun. We loved doing the flag dance.

Stewart also talked about the extra practice the group might do in preparation for competition and special events:
Nora taught once a week [in gymnastics and dance studios]. When it was coming up to [feiseanna], she would have extra Sunday morning classes on her Patio... She always had popsicles and Kool-Aid.

Eventually, Nora Pearse moved back east. Heather Stewart transitioned to the Maoileidigh School.
Nora moved back to Pennsylvania in the beginning of the summer, and Doireann came out [about] two months later.

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Nora Pearse wrote each of her students a letter when she left.
At the end of each letter she wrote who she thought it would be best for us to go to. She told me that there [was] another teacher in town, but this new girl, Doireann, is coming out and she is from Ireland. She’s a champion dancer. she said, ‘I would like to see you go to her, because you can get great things from her’. So I did.

During this period, Mary McCormack continued to teach, but her focus shifted to adult dancing. Anne Daugherty became one of her students.
It is all Mary McCormack’s fault [that I got into Irish dance]. Actually, and I don’t remember how old Ryan was, but it was at a Phoenix Feis and I had learned Ryan’s two-hand light jig, so that I could practice with him at home, so that he could practice and it would go well. My sister-in-law talked me into doing the adult-child competition, and Ryan and [I] took a fourth place. Mary McCormack came over to me a little bit later, and she said, ‘My house, Thursday nights, be there!’. And I said, ‘Mary, I live on the west side, you live on the east side, I can’t do this’. She said, ‘Sure you can, the traffic’s all gone by the time you need to leave your house. You just go home from work like normal, eat your dinner, and be at my house at 7:30'. Okay. So she called me up and she gave me directions, and I went to her house that Thursday. That’s how I got started. I loved to dance with Mary. How did Mary teach the adults? Well, gently. It is not that she couldn’t push us, because, on occasion, she did... We would all show up, we would go to the back room, and we would all start stretching and warming up. She had some little warm up exercises…standard stretching exercises…that she would have us do, so that our muscles were all ready and warmed up. Then she would just start class. Sometimes she would say, ‘Okay, can you take this one and this one and teach them such and such a step’ to the more experienced dancers. The first night I went, Sharon and another girl threw me through a three-hand. Literally threw me. That was how I learned Mary’s three-hand. She probably pushed part of the time up a little bit more than the adult was ready for. I danced, oh... probably a month and a half before my first performance. Okay! Gee, that was fun... Scared to death! She had a lot of patience, because 90 percent of us adult dancers had not done it at all as children. You sit there and you are going, ‘You want me to do what with my feet that fast? Ha ha ha’. People talk about being fumble-fingered.. We were definitely fumble-footed. When I first started, she was pretty much bringing everybody along at the same pace. She only had like 6 or 7 people, and then we kind of blossomed all of a sudden. We had probably about 20 people at one point. I know that we had enough people to put an eight-hand [or two six hands] on the floor for several [feiseanna]. She had people help others who were struggling with a particular step. I danced with her for a year before we even discussed hardshoe. She wasn’t even teaching any hardshoe dances. All of a sudden, it was like, ‘okay, yeah, I’ll teach you guys hardshoe. We’ll start with the hornpipe!’. Mary’s dance style was very, very traditional, and it stayed that way throughout my time dancing with her. She was innovative in that she would change her steps and that sort of thing and make up new ones, but she wasn’t into things like butterflies, double clicks, shiver jumps, bird jumps. She wasn’t into those kinds of stunts. [That] was good because as chronologically challenged folk, it’s better not to be trying that kind of stuff, if you have never done it before... [Mary] did some things that, when I started with Heather [McElligott], Heather said, ‘Not a chance was anybody doing that in [my] class’, like the having your right foot behind your left foot, and then bringing

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your right foot in front for a cut [a whip]. Heather said, ‘I don’t understand how you guys can do that, and why you don’t end up tripping yourselves!’. And now we have those maneuvers in Heather’s steps.

Sharon Judd was introduced to Irish dancing as an adult, through Mary McCormack.
I was dancing with Mary in the early 80s. [Around at that time], Flannery was dancing, Noreen Gibney, Maureen Ciasi [nee Mullins], Mary Wolfe, Pat Winthrop. As far as I know she always had them at her house. She had a den that was always wide open for dance class and that’s where she had her ceílís, and she did old set dancing things there, and people would gather up... I think the original group of Irish that came to Phoenix, you know like Peg Cunningham, and all those people would gather and do ceílí and set dancing there. We would do hardshoe out on the patio. They used to have this Christmas party. Santa always came and they had a piñata, and they had parties around St. Patrick’s Day, and the Irish Foundation, when that first started. A lot of feis committee meetings over there, at Mary’s house.

Mary talked fondly about her adult students:
At this big gala they had, the first Irish St. Patrick’s Day dinner dance that they had at the Civic Center Plaza, they wanted some Irish dance entertainment. At that time, in 1983, I was teaching adults. I had started with an adult class, because some of the now older kids that I had taught were then young adults and they wanted to continue dancing. At that St. Patrick’s Day dinner dance, in addition to the schools, the adults danced. So the Donegal Dancers got reorganized. [It was] probably in 1986 or 1987, when there was adult competition going on, and we had an adult competitive class. The dancers wanted to compete, so they did. I think the year we started, we did it at the ceílí, at night, and, before the ceílí, we had whoever wanted to dance get up and dance. One of the judges did a little job. It was not a big deal. Then, the adults started coming in from California and whatnot, and there was more competition. It was great. I always enjoy seeing the adults dance.

Although Chris Locke never took class with Mary McCormack, she noted that Mary was such a feature in the Irish dance community that there was really no person who didn’t take something away from her. Chris Locke remembered: [Mary] always seemed like she was a very proper and a very kind person. I would have been very
surprised had she every done anything improper in public. She was just a very giving person. I think that was part of how she commanded a lot of respect. I don’t remember her ever really talking very much in front of groups. I think that she was always a force that reminded people of what the basis and tradition of Irish dance was. She enjoyed doing ceílí a lot, and I think that she did some calling or teaching group dances at ceílís.

Because of the burgeoning new schools, people started to think that perhaps Phoenix should have its own feis. Children were starting to get to levels at which they were competitively viable, and the new teachers, reluctant as they were to have their students compete, had for the most part come from backgrounds steeped in the competitive tradition. Some parents did not want to be entirely reliant upon trips to California for their children’s dancing growth. So, after starting with a festival, the Phoenix Feis was started. John Corcoran was very much involved in this process. At the same time, the St. Patrick’s Day parade was started (and would be very successful, attracting approximately 50,000 attendees), as well as the accompanying Colleen Pageant. John and Janet Corcoran remembered trying to begin the process. 25

John– We started with a couple of festivals first; no dance competition; just exhibitions over in Scottsdale. Janet- We had a festival there, and of course we also had that little thing that you tried to get going at Encanto Park. Pat Tierney was the Scottsdale organizer. John- We went over [to California] basically to see how to organize our feis, our competition. We went over to watch the Tierney feis, the Hibernian feis in San Diego. We talked to Pat, and Mary and Jim, and we watched how they put on the stages and how they controlled the numbers, and that’s what we based our feis on, so we knew that it would run smooth on the stage. And they had the same thing as we had then. They were in August? Janet- No, they were in June. They used to be early in the summer, because we would go back in August for the second one. We would go for two [feiseanna] in San Diego, which was great because it wasn’t that far. John- That first year Mary was just into dancing so we just went to the water. Janet- Kathleen didn’t put her into [feiseanna] until she had already been dancing. She wasn’t quite 7 yet when [she was put into her first feis] but she had already been dancing for 2 and a half years. She started when she was 4 and a half. John– If it wasn’t for Father Gillespie I don’t think we would have ever had a feis here because we started out with no funds. There was nothing. Janet– The Irish American social club loaned some money so that the first feis could go, and then we paid them back. They had given the seed money to start things up. John– When we had the festivals the year before I think we turned in about a thousand dollars, and then... We didn’t know anything about medals. We didn’t know how to go about it. We got some medals from Ireland, but I don’t think we ever really used them, because then we got our own medals. Janet– Well, the medals we got were hideous. And once you get going to [feiseanna], then the other [feiseanna] tell you what you can do, and how you make your connections. Then when you join the feis commissions, and you get on all the mailing lists, and they send you stuff, like one book with teachers’ and judges’ names. We didn’t even know how to get judges. We had just known the names of some of the judges from them having been good dance teachers and having had a good reputation. That’s how we got them out here. John– And, of course, back then there was no requirement that there be 3 judges for championships. We just had one judge, one musician. And we only had one stage, so it wasn’t that hard! We had maybe 30 people in any one competition, and that was usually the special.

Mary McCormack was, of course, involved in the Phoenix Feis from its inception.
It was right around that time that each of the Irish groups... The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick became the Irish American Social Club. The Irish Foundation of Arizona became a separate club. Irish Northern Aid was a group, Irish Human Rights was another group. Around St. Patrick’s Day, each of these groups had their own Irish party. So, I guess, around 1982 to 1983, that there was a feeling that they needed to get together

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and have a big, official St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which would be a parade and a big dinner-dance. Out in Scottsdale, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help did have an Irish Festival in 1982, which went very well. It was run by Pat Tierney, who was a resident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He was the organizer and the driving thrust behind that first Irish festival. I have kind of a recollection that it was a two-day affair. The McCaffertys and Nora Pearse had dancers at the festival. In September, 1983, the big St. Patrick’s Day committee was in full swing, and, with Dottie Flynn being the full thrust for a feis competition to be held in Phoenix. She wanted to get a feis organized. So, in that fall of 1983, there was a feis committee set up, and we planned a November fund raiser at St. Gregory’s [where Father Gillespie was] where the dance classes were going to perform. It was a festival. We had other entertainment in addition to the dancing. There was no competition, there was no judge or anything, it was just a fundraiser to get the feis started. It was exhibition dancing and other entertainment. 1984 was the first parade, and in 1984, we had our first feis. I don’t know that it was registered with anybody, because Kathleen was not a registered teacher, Nora Pearse was not a registered teacher, nor was Dottie Flynn. But Pat Hall was down in Tucson, I think, at that time, and her mother Maureen was a registered teacher, so I guess because Pat’s class had begun, she could send dancers from Tucson and California to our feis. They also came from Colorado. Dennis Dennehy was the adjudicator and Patty Moriarty was the musician. It was a festival. It was the feis held at St. Gregory’s, and it was Irish entertainment. The first one was held in Gordon Hall and in the cafeteria, and the festival was outside. We put up a stage outside, and had the quadrangle for people to watch the competition on the outside stage. That was really an ideal situation because there was more room outside, and people were not eating and visiting. So it worked out really well, until one year when we got rained on. I don’t remember what year that was, but last minute on Saturday, we had to move the feis inside to Gordon Hall. The food was still over in the cafeteria, so people had to go over there to eat....I guess maybe the next year, we came out again, but, as it got bigger, we just felt that it wasn’t [a very good strategy] to plan on having [good weather]. I guess there were some comments; some Octobers were very hot. Gordon Hall was too small. I don’t remember what year we had to move from St. Gregory’s, but we did. We had to go to a hotel. They used to put out a St. Patrick’s Day Parade newspaper, but then I guess the Desert Shamrock took over. You always used to have a paper to poke around in.

Patricia Prior remembered the politics of some of the groups that created the Phoenix Feis, and some problems therein:
There was the Irish American Social Club, which I believe still exists. But out of that, it started with the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and that changed to the Irish American Social Club. Out of the Irish American Social Club came the Irish Foundation. The Irish American Social Club still existed, because there was a political [schism] that had nothing to do with the dancing. It had to do with...there were a lot of Irish British people, and there were a couple of people that were so strong in their political [aims], toward [achieving] a unified Ireland. It was very hard for a lot of people.. And that caused the split... There were splinter groups, but the dancing was not a part of the splinter groups.

Janet Corcoran had her first and only competitive experience in the first Phoenix Feis.
We started an adult group that we just kinda threw together and just learned the dances a month before the feis. It was a great combination of people, because we had teachers from all the schools with us there teaching us. We had Dottie Wood teaching us and Kathleen Dobyns. The dancers were me, Janet Corcoran,

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Rita Crosby, who has passed away (and we were amazed that she made it through a whole dance), Mary O’Connor, Ann Sheehan, Pam Casey, and Chrissy Flinn. We learned a six hand, and then I think we did two four hands, and a couple of the ones who were in better shape did 4 hands on different teams, so they had more medals. It was something else because we hadn’t been dancing long, but we learned the steps and learned how to do the dancing. Dennis actually rang the bell to quit the dance because he was afraid someone was going to have a heart attack! That was fun. So that was my only Irish dance medals, and I got two of them. Of course, we had no competition.

Peg Cunningham remembered that the tenor of the Phoenix Feis always seemed somewhat different from outside events. The perception of this of course varied from person to person, as did the relative “benefits” of attending.
I remember some kids talking in the bathroom, in Phoenix, some Plummer kids from California. It was a very good school, with very good dancers. One kid was telling the other kids, ‘If you really want to move up, come here to Phoenix, and compete!’. They had a harder time against the competition in California. There were more of them. But things in Phoenix have changed. There are very good schools now, some very good dancers. And going to other competitions makes you better. Pat McCafferty has been running [feiseanna] in Ohio for years, and he would always criticize us here in Phoenix, that we should not be presenting awards on stage, that it takes too long, it’s too drawn out. He says ‘We do 1200 in one day in Ohio’. But I guess we liked giving the kid that honor on the stage in front of everyone. There was something personal and special about that. And we got to know all our kids here in Phoenix, other schools included. There was a sense of pride in knowing the kid who got the first place and the second place, and so on. It was more personalized.

Patricia Prior remembered the Phoenix Feis ceílís:
I always did the door for the ceílí [for the Phoenix feis]... The ceílís in the 80s were fun. They had a better turnout back then than they have now, but they didn’t have the proper music. Mary McCormack called them. They were really fun.... I don’t think they charged more than five dollars to get in, so they had a good turn out at the end of the day. Of course, you see that they didn’t have as much competition all day long, so it is not like today where you go in and you listen to music nonstop, and you have the music going through your head all the time, and by the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is hear more Irish music. In those days, if you had seven dancers on stage, you had a big number for a competition... All the Irish community turned out. They always made it a social event to come out for the Phoenix Feis. You would see everybody at the Phoenix Feis, even if they only came for 15 minutes. But those days went when competition became competition.

Anne Daugherty remembered:
Historically, we have always had beer for the adults, it is a way of getting the dads there, and, usually it has been donated, or we have gotten it at a very good price from one of our local publicans, who have been very, very supportive. All of them have been very supportive of the [feiseanna]. Not just the Phoenix feis, but the others also.

Patricia Prior remembered the disorganized nature of some of the first events:
[The early Phoenix feiseanna] were total chaos. They weren’t anything like the [feiseanna] we have today. Today’s [feiseanna] are organized, at least ours are. [For] the Phoenix Feis, back then, the McNultys did the kitchen, a couple of us did the door, we always helped. We used to have corned beef dinners. Corned

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beef and mashed potatoes and cabbage. The McNultys did a huge job of that, every single year they ran that kitchen. And Kathleen Dobyns’s parents were definitely very involved. They were the people who did so much for Irish dancing. He did all the announcing at every feis. He kept control, kept the audience quiet. They did a fabulous job with it. [Also], Dottie Wood was very involved with the Phoenix Feis. The Phoenix Feis was [one of the] first social events of the year. We would have the picnic first [and then the feis]. At St. Gregory’s you would get a huge turnout.

Mike Flynn also mentioned Dottie Wood’s involvement with the Feis:
She did a lot of the organization of [the Phoenix Feis]. I guess there wasn’t one going on at the time when she got out here, so they wanted to get one started. With the group they put together they were able to kind of break up the work. I know my wife had done the banner for a couple of things, and we had some floats in the parades for a few years, [perhaps] three years in a row… So [we were] very active at the time… She did a lot of work when she came out here because they didn’t have a Colleen Ball or the feis or the parade. She and the background from all of the years doing promotion, because she had done it back east. It was kind of natural, because there were a bunch of people out here that really wanted to do it, too; they all got together and pulled it off… The cottage, she always wanted to get the Irish cottage out here, and now it has become a reality, too. A lot of things that are being done, she was involved with in the beginning.

Heather Stewart also remembered that the Phoenix feiseanna were packed, especially with viewers:
I was ignorant about how big [feiseanna] were outside of Arizona. We would go to maybe two California [feiseanna] a year, as a treat. When I started , at the Phoenix feis, it was huge. Obviously there weren’t tons and tons of dancers, but they had a big fairgrounds, and they had lots of attendants.

Although Elizabeth Suit did not start dancing until the 1990s, she was later the chair of the Phoenix Feis. She remarked upon some of the events of the past:
I want to bring back all the things this year that they used to do, like they used to always have a freckled faced kid contest... Oh, look they had a maypole! And the Maricopa Cloggers performed.

Kathleen McCafferty compared one of the ideas behind the Phoenix Feis to the current situation on the West coast:
I was supposed to help run a stage [at the Phoenix Feis, in 1999]. I don’t like to do that, and I haven’t done it for many years. I actually was very instrumental in starting that feis. In fact, interestingly enough, John Corcoran, had the first meeting, and they wanted me to be chairperson. This was probably a mistake. I saw that as a conflict of interest, and I said I wasn’t going to do it. No teacher should be running a feis, because that is how it is done on the East Coast. Teachers don’t run [feiseanna]. Feis committees run [feiseanna]. That’s not how it is done on the West Coast. You have the Bracken feis, you have the McElligott feis, you have this feis, and that teacher’s feis... I saw that as a conflict of interest, I really did, and I said, ‘That’s not right, and I don’t think I should be chairperson. However, I will help you run the feis. I will teach you how to do this. This community’s never had one, and I can show you how to do it’. So John was the chairman. I did it for a few years, and then I just got out.

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Chapter Four Pat Hall Brings the McTeggart School to Tucson and Phoenix
The middle part of the 1980s saw the first fully accredited teachers to teach in Arizona. Pat Hall began the McTeggart School in Tucson, and later expanded to Phoenix. Later, Ron Plummer and Doireann Maoileidigh traveled in every week to teach class. All three schools that had a much firmer foot in competition, and dancers began to excel. However, the 1980s was truly the heyday of Pat Hall’s classes in Arizona. She was the first certified teacher to establish any sort of residence in the state. Some of her dancers, such as Leisl Von dem Bussche née Shaughnessy, became champions and even qualified for the World Championships. Arizona slowly started to compete with the outside world. The McTeggart School brought, for the first time, world-class dancing to Tucson. According to Dr. John Cullinane, Maureen McTeggart Hall received her TCRG in 1950 and then her ADCRG in 1965 on a return trip to Ireland. She originally helped run a “great school” in Cork City, which had been started by Peg McTeggart in 1939, and then became perhaps the first TCRG in the United States. She moved to Fresno, and, starting from 1959, she taught in the Oakland area and in Firebaugh, California. She began teaching in Denver in 1976. She taught a number of very prominent Western Region champions (and, later, TCRGs and ADCRGs), including Regan and Leanne Wick, Rachel Kermer Jones, and her own daughters, Ann Hall and Pat Hall. Currently among their more prominent dancers outside of Arizona are Tatiana Ogan, Chris Reidhead, Kimberly Coleman, and Jennifer Coleman. The McTeggart School extends across the country. The school holds classes in many cities, including Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins in Colorado, Fort Worth and Houston in Texas, Lexington, Kentucky, Phoenix, Mesa, and Flagstaff in Arizona, Albuquerque in New Mexico, Salt Lake City in Utah, New Orleans in Louisiana, Fresno in California, and Oklahoma City, Edmond, and Tulsa in Oklahoma. The McTeggart School is apparently the only accredited school of Irish dance currently serving Oklahoma City, Edmond, & Tulsa, and Pat Hall also holds class in Alaska. The McTeggart school has thus been able to help provide quality Irish dancing to communities which otherwise might not have access. Most of these schools have been in the Western Region and the new Southern region. Pat Hall, who is also an ADCRG, is the Regional Director of the Western Region of the Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America (IDTANA). In addition to being a past chairman of the Western Region, Maureen McTeggart Hall is a vice-president of the Irish Dancing Commission and adjudicates every year at the North American and World Championships. Fiona McNulty Behan stated plainly the difference between these new teachers and the ‘older’ group.

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[Pat Hall and Ron Plummer] were a little bit more competitive. It was a little bit more serious. And they had more material. They could teach us more.

Charles Flint was one of Pat Hall’s early dancers:
Pat’s main group was, at the time, Tucson, and then California. She didn’t live here. She had an apartment here, and she stayed there, but most of the time she flew in [for] a couple of weekdays.

Fran Rogan talked about the beginning of Pat’s classes:
In the beginning, she held them in George O’Leary’s mobile/motor home park, and she had a studio for a while. [She had classes] once a week. I watched her teach classes sometimes, but it wasn’t encouraged... [Her style of dance] is very traditional. For me, it’s what Irish dancing [should be], it’s very traditional....

Mattie Heenan’s children were in Pat Hall’s early classes.
In the beginning when they first started taking classes, they were doing it over at George O’Leary’s Mobile home park over on the east side. He gave Pat space to teach. Of course [most of] his children [danced]. I don’t even know if Matt was born at that point, and his older daughter never took dancing, but he gave Pat space to teach. I remember that when we went to the first class, I peeked in a the other kids who were dancing, and it happened to be Trese Concannon and Gwynette Vath. They had been dancing for probably six months to a year, and so they already knew their first couple of dances. I looked in and remember thinking that, ‘Boy, this looks awfully complicated for little kids who are the same age as my children’. In the beginning, we were allowed to sit and watch classes, if we wanted to. After we were at George’s - I really can’t remember the order of where things were - I think some of the parents had said that, ‘We don’t want to come over to George’s because it is too far on the East side and we are so far away’. So we went to a more central location, which was the dance studio at Tucson and Fifth Street for awhile. And I guess then that maybe that wasn’t available, and we started having classes over at Terry Concannon’s house. She has a large home in Winterhaven, and basically while the kids were dancing, the parents would just sit in one room and visit with one another while the kids danced in another part of the house. We did that for a few years and that was sort of a nice social time for the parents as well as the kids doing their thing. There were not nearly as many kids dancing then as there are nowadays, so I guess the class was divided into about three sections. She had the most basic beginners come first, and then she would have her more beginning and younger students, and then she would have her more senior and advanced dancers. I guess near to the end of the time that Pat was teaching in Tucson, she actually had another level that was really like her Open Championship dancers, which was I think Vanessa Lloyd, and Gwynette Vath for sure. Erin Rogan probably was in that group. I think that by that time Una Hennessy and Charles Flint had stopped dancing, because they were older. When I have seen Fran Rogan and the Concannons and the Vaths, and everybody over the years we have always said that our favorite memories of our kids growing up were the [feiseanna] that we all got together. Fran and I traveled to a couple of [feiseanna]. We went to maybe the Brothers’ Feis, which is always Memorial weekend. I think Fran and I went to Denver together once, and I have gone to two or three [feiseanna] with Fran without my husband, although usually Rory went to [feiseanna] with me, so we usually went as a family. Occasionally we took another dancer along. I know that one year we took Una to the Brothers’ Feis. There were not as many [feiseanna] then as there are now.

Mattie Heenan also talked about starting the Tucson Feis.

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We started the [feis]. There hadn’t been one in Tucson before, and they weren’t quite as big as they are now, but for the 80’s they were a good size. I’m talking off of the top of my head, but for some reason around three hundred dancers sounds about right. We had two stages, generally, and it was held in the same place that the [feiseanna] have been had recently, at the Ramada or whatever. They always brought in, I remember Pat saying that a lot of the teachers and a lot of the judges and a lot of the dancers in California would always say how cool the Tucson Feis was because we always would have a ceílí the night before that Pat would call. There would be a tremendous turnout. Most everybody would be there for the ceílí. Whole families would come, and there would be a good 150 people on the dance floor at any one time, I would say. So, we really had a lot of fun. I don’t think that dancing in general was quite as strict in those days as it is now. Of course there were some dancers who were very, very driven and put a lot of pressure on themselves, but in general I think that dancing was somewhat more relaxed than it is now. My kids started dancing between the first and the second feis. The first two [feiseanna] were held a George’s mobile park. those two were smaller. I wasn’t there for long periods of it, and I don’t remember too much about it, but it wasn’t the big deal that the other [feiseanna] became. I think by the next year we had moved to a hotel because Pat said, ‘Well, this is just not okay, because we need to have a place for people to be drinking, and we need to have facilities that can have people staying overnight so we can draw people from out of town. So we moved into town to one of the hotels. We had a feis committee, and I would say the active people were the Concannons, Mary Concannon, the Matriarch of the family, the Vaths, Fran Rogan, Winnie Hennessy, Winnie Nanna, myself, and Jean Lloyd, who was a little bit on the quiet side. She was treasurer. Peggy Ryan, who is married to Dan Ryan, who is a sports newscaster from NBC here in Tucson, and his daughter danced for a number of years with the girls. There were several other people who have kind of come and gone through dancing who I don’t remember anymore. We were sort of like the core group of people, and we would have meetings once a month, and then twice a month, and then once a week, right before the feis came up, while we fine tuned everything. And of course, we would keep a notebook, and figured out what was going well and what didn’t go well, what we needed to change for the following year, and kind of got things operating pretty efficiently that way. And, really a lot of the things that I see happening at the feis here in town were things that we did back in the 80s, although of course, things were on a smaller scale. And of course I think we brought in three judges, and live music. We frequently had a piano player from Canada come in named Brian Grant who was wonderful, and Pat King came in frequently.

Leisl Shaughnessy von dem Bussche talked about her experiences in the McTeggart School, including qualifying for and dancing at the World Championships.
When I came out here, Pat had a lot of students who were just in it for fun. They weren’t interested in competition. Unless you had the support of the parents, and the children would actually practice when they were at home, which most of them didn’t, we would just go once or maybe twice a month... We may have had it every week. I think [Pat] had to work with what she had to work with, and the students were not that serious about it. You really can’t force the issue, and make them practice and make them do what they don’t want to do. She worked us a little harder, I think, than Kathleen. Kathleen was definitely more easy going, but neither of them were disciplinarians, you know, harsh. I only went [to Worlds] once. I went when I was probably 12 or 13. I think it was more for the experience. I have family in England and Ireland, so we made kind of a family vacation out of it. The year I went it was in Limerick, and I didn’t practice for it. I didn’t really take it that seriously, and I didn’t get a

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recall, but we didn’t expect that I would. It was just more to go and see what it was like. Plus my friends from Boston were all going. So we kind of met up and just made a fun trip of it.

The Daughertys danced with Pat Hall after the Plummer School ended in the later 1980s.
Mostly it was at St. Simon and Jude. It was the same place. She pretty much kept the same schedule, and then when Sharon got her TMRF, she started doing the bulk of the classes, and, when Pat got sick, Maureen came in. Pat was a little bit more gruff with the kids, but she was still very good with the kids. She pushed them a little bit harder maybe. Ryan got along well with Pat. He liked Pat. He got along well with Sharon. He liked Sharon.

Patricia Prior talked about the different classes:
The Tucson classes were bigger. The Irish community down there is very strong and very committed as a community. She probably had about 30 students down in Tucson. The Tucson Feis was much bigger than [the Phoenix Feis].

Liesl Shaughnessy von dem Bussche remembered some other dancers in the region whom she remembered to be particularly skilled:
There was one from Tucson named Tanya Lloyd who danced with Pat Hall. Christina DeGrazio, who was out of Fresno, also danced with Pat.

Trese Concannon remembered the familial nature of the school in Tucson:
[Classes] were a lot of fun, actually. We were separated by age and by how well we were doing, like beginner one, beginner two, Novice... They were a lot of fun. A whole bunch of us learning together and practicing together, in the same age group. We were like sisters, all of us. We danced together and went to [feiseanna] together, and did birthday parties together. I mean, we were together a lot. We danced at least two-three times a week. We were a lot closer than it seems to me the girls are now. We were like a family. When I was smaller, everybody thought you were cute, and you’d dance, and [everyone would say] ‘Oh, you’re so cute’. I wasn’t as competitive. They’d win, or they would give everyone a medal, and then as you got older, obviously you had to know more steps, it became more competitive. You’d travel around...I had lots of friends in all the different states that we danced in and [I] would go and see them all. [From the other McTeggart schools I knew] mostly just Phoenix and Tucson. I didn’t know Maureen very well. I mean, we knew of them, we all danced together with them sometimes [in feiseanna] when we would be thrown together for figures. When I first started, we danced at my house and we put boards down, and then we moved out to I believe my cousin’s house [Gwynette Vath]. We danced in her garage. We danced at George O’Leary’s mobile home park, and then we danced at Vanessa Lloyd’s, and we danced in her garage. [The location didn’t make very much of a difference]. We just all danced.

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When I was younger, I was usually not where I was supposed to be. Charlie Singleton, who was older, used to always have to dance with me, and Pat would say, ‘Keep her where she has to be, Charlie, I don’t care!’. He used to get so frustrated with me! He was like my big brother, he took care of me... As I got older, Vanessa was a lot of fun. She was very much the big competitor... very, very much into the dancing. She would help us out sometimes [but] when it came to competition, she was totally focused on what she needed to do. Erin Rogan was very playful, all the time. She always had a smile. We had a great time with Erin. Erin was a good, good person. Darragh and Brenna Heenan were sisters. I spent a lot of time with them, spent the night at their house. They were the ones that introduced me to horses, also. They were a lot like me. We went to the [feiseanna] together. Their mom would take my cousin Gwynette and I, and we would take them. We would have a good time. And then we had Bridget for a while.

Mattie Heenan talked about some of the prominent Tucson families of the time and now:
The Concannons have been here since about 1945..and they are a very established Tucson family. There are a lot of historical connections. They own [two places downtown]. It’s a place more for weddings…the Hugo O’Connor facility [and] the Manning House. There are a lot of weddings that are held down there. And because there are so many of them, they are a force, and because there were so many of them dancing, they were a force. Fran Rogan was definitely another presence in the community because, as tiny as she is, she is a strong woman, and also had a good dancer in her daughter. Winnie Hennessy was another force to be reckoned with, who had a good dancer in her corner.

Liesl Shaughnessy von dem Bussche also talked about the costumes that the dancers wore in the McTeggart School.
We hand embroidered our solo dresses. [They were] not as elaborate as they are now. Usually we had two or three colors of embroidery thread. Almost all of them were black velvet. Most of them were lined with white satin, some of them had a color. We had a single or double strand of rhinestones around the waist. We had the crocheted collars and cuffs, there were the bell sleeves. And you actually had to earn them, you didn’t just start out as a beginner and get to wear a solo dress. All the moms kind of pitched in. Some moms could sew, some could embroider, and there was a lot of trading that went on in dresses and different things. No gold lamé. No lace panels or anything. Not anywhere near as elaborate as they are.... When we came out, [they] didn’t curl their hair for competition. It was just something kids didn’t do. We wore headbands, a natural headband with elastic underneath. I think they had [the patches for the class dresses] machine embroidered somewhere - the panels that were on there for the class costumes. Then they just were sewn on. It was a black wool jumper style dress with a red blouse underneath. [The hard shoes] had nails on them, and then we went to fiberglass. I think they were put into wood heels, and there might have been a little tiny toepiece, but I think we went from skinny heels to bubble heels, and back to skinny heels again. And the heels were made out of plastic or fiberglass after the wood. And they would get handed down through five different people, and they would have chunks of wood [broken] out of them. And then when they switched to fiberglass, when you would do a click, it was so much more crisp. But I miss the bubble heels, because it is harder to make [clicks without them]. And then we went through buckles on the shoes to no buckles on the shoes - elastic straps around the foot to the leather strap that went around the ankle. We used to wear a lot of elastic. They weren’t flexible, like what they are now. I see these

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kids get up on their toes now. The whole back of [the shoe] buckles in. The ghillies went through a lot of changes too. It seemed to be a kind of regional thing maybe, or who your teacher was. There were kids who used to wear these long toes ghillies. It got shorter and shorter and closer to the toe as time went on, which I think made it look like you were up on your toes. [We bought them at competitions.] There were a couple of places here in town that would sell the ghillies. The jig shoes initially would have the nails and stuff, and then when fiberglass was brand new, we would send them [back east].

Charles Flint remembered the McTeggart boys’ costumes:
It was a grey tweed kilt with black jacket, and the boys had a patch on the jacket that had ‘McTeggart’, and a shawl. And the bright red socks.. Luckily for me all I had to do was wear a kilt, buy a black jacket, get a patch, and sew it on there. My dad could figure that out. Being a boy we started out with the soft shoes, and then it got changed where we couldn’t wear soft shoes anymore. We had to wear the light soft shoes. That was before they changed the heel, where you could have bubble heels. I remember that, that was kind of nice because we could bubble up the heels a lot more and get better clicks that way. We actually tried to make bigger heels by putting fiberglass on the heels. That didn’t work, because the first click that we did, the fiberglass just shattered. We just thought we’d make thicker, fatter heels, and that would improve our dancing. A lot of the shoes were hand-me-downs. They were passed on from other kids from other states.

Mattie Heenan talked about the costumes, and the expense in particular:
At the time, I think my daughter’s class costumes ran about 150 dollars. Well, you would get the patches and you would get the black jumper and also this red... shirt underneath it, that was like, the hottest thing in the world to [wear]. Probably warmer than long underwear. And so the dresses were wool, so these poor kids survived. That was the original one, and then they went to something a little bit more modernized. I believe that my daughter’s last solo costume that we bought was between $350 and $500. She had one of the dresses at that time. The solo costume that we kept of hers was black velvet, turquoise underneath, with the traditional flowers, and no rhinestones, and I guess she has a rhinestone belt but no other sparkles on the dress. It was before the flash that they have out now. And I guess we paid about $125 for hard shoes, I think, if we bought them new. It has always been an expensive undertaking, that is for sure. No one was wearing wigs or falls at that time; you had to curl your hair.

Trese Concannon compared the dresses she wore to the dresses that are currently worn:
The dresses have certainly changed. They are a lot more frilly. They’ve gotten really into bright fluorescent colors and a lot of shiny stuff. The dresses are a lot lighter too. Ours were heavy, and they had the velvet. They were heavy and hot.

Chris Locke, who was a mother and dancer for the Maoileidigh and Bracken Schools, and who helped sew dresses for a number of dancers. She commented on the manner in which dancers related to their dresses and also about the different expectations of dresses as time progressed:
Some people, if they did well or if they didn’t do well it was the dress’s fault or the judge’s fault or whatever. Sometimes they decided that the dress was too heavy or it didn’t flow well or whatever, and that was reason for not doing well. That was one of the reasons, aside from the deciding that I didn’t have time, that I stopped making dance dresses. I could never predict. I would take too personally the reactions of people who blamed their dancing mistakes on the dress. Some of the people who I thought were going to be

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picky were really easygoing, and some of the people who I thought were going to be easygoing were really uptight. I think that the disadvantage of having the dresses be all alike is that they are generally more expensive. One of the advantages is that not all people have equal sewing and embroidery skills, and there were some really different variations. Every mother was expected to be a seamstress and an embroiderer.

Mattie Heenan talked a little bit about the demeanor of Irish dancing teachers.
I have always felt that Pat was a wonderful teacher. I think that Pat’s knowledge about dancing and her own dancing style is exquisite when you can get her to dance, which isn’t terribly often. But she is a beautiful, beautiful dancer herself, and she is very creative in what she comes up with. Which is the flipside of the fact that if a kid messed up at the feis, instead of her being someone who would say, ‘Oh, I know you didn’t do your best job, you know, maybe you can do something like this’ she would basically come over and, ’What... are you doing!’ you know and ‘beat them over the head with a book’ or something, and I used to think, ‘Gosh, can’t you just be a little bit more gentle or nurturing?’, but that just wasn’t Pat’s way. I guess the Irish dancing teacher over the years is not meant to be that loving or nurturing soul that I would like them to be [and that is part of how they reach their standards of technique and ability], as I know more about dancing. So she probably was the typical dancing teacher in that respect, after all. But I definitely consider Pat a friend outside of dancing, she is someone I still occasionally socialize with.

Charles Flint spoke about the chances to perform that the kids had:
We really didn’t have many performances that I remember, locally. For St. Patrick’s Day, we always had a group of things to do. Every once in a while we would dance at like a center for elderly-type-thing. I remember a lot of things that we did were at St. Patrick’s day. We were dancing in bars when we were little kids, which was kind of funny. It was kind of the middle of the day, so it wasn’t like it was at night or anything. At the time, we were still wearing kilts, so it was always amusing to have drunk old ladies saying, ‘Hey, whadda you got under your kilt?!’ Competition-wise I want to say every three or four months we would have a competition in different places. A lot of times we knew far ahead when the competitions were coming, so the parents could save up money to get their kids to go. Usually we had six months notice of when things [were going to happen].

Liesl Shaghnessy von dem Bussche remembered the performances the dancers did in Phoenix, as well as the feiseanna:
Every St. Patrick’s, obviously, we were in the parade. We did downtown. I think we did the Colleen Pageant one year. That was at Civic Plaza. I did stuff down in Tucson with Pat because she had the class here and Tucson, so we did some stuff down there. I remember dancing at Heritage [Square] a couple times. And then we did community-type stuff. [The Tucson feis] wasn’t gigantic. We used to have it at some sort of retirement community. It was like a typical feis, they almost all seemed the same. We always had mass at the feis in Sunday morning, in Gaelic. Like, 20 minutes long. We always had a ceílí on Saturday night. Competition-wise, while I was in Open, in my age category, it always seemed like there were maybe 5 or 6 people. [The Phoenix Feis] was probably bigger than the Tucson Feis. That’s when they had them at St. Gregory’s, which, I went to school there, so that was kind of neat. We had quite a bit of competition come in from out of state for that. We would have that at Tucson too. We used to get people from Chicago in for Tucson, and the same for Phoenix. We never really got anything quite east of Chicago.

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Mattie Heenan also talked about the performances the children did in Tucson:
The girls have danced with the Chieftains. They have danced at weddings. I think it might have been Gwynette, who danced with Mick Maloney one year. They would perform in bars, danced in churches, danced in restaurants and danced at private parties, at nursing homes, and retirement homes. They have danced at numerous schools over the years. Because the Concannons had so many kids dancing, they just kind of organized things…Also, because Gwynette was sort of the premier dancer in town for a long time. There were times that I did the announcing at performances, and later on Terry Concannon did most of the announcing. I think Pat always arranged the performances. More often two would do the same step and then step back and then two more would do a step. They did a lot more figures than I have seen Tom Bracken do. They would always use several figure dances in the performance. They usually ended up with a reel where everybody would come out, and they would extend the music for as long as it took for each set of dancers at their level to do whatever their steps were.

Trese Concannon talked about the performances as well:
We would do like 10 to 13 performances [on St. Patrick’s Day]. That was a long day, starting off with the parade and then we would dance all day, and we would end up dancing for Sam and Winnie Nanna at the Harp and Shamrock. We did a lot of performances during the year and we raised money that way, to go to [feiseanna] and for our costumes and stuff. We had step outs, each [person dancing] depending on what level we were. We would [include] everybody in there, and everybody would jump out and do a step. We did an ending reel, which was a hardshoe. Depending on where you were in your hardshoe you would do certain steps. You had to know your steps or you weren’t in the performance. Other than that, it was mostly more ceílí stuff. We did some figures, but everybody got to step out, you would step out with somebody else in your group or maybe two or three people from the section you were in and you would all do that step.

Patricia Prior said that Pat Hall mostly had her kids perform ceílí and solos during the Phoenix performances:
She didn’t do any special choreographies. I think she had it in mind to do it when she started, but [it never happened]. Also Ron Plummer had a couple of things in mind to do, but he never did it either. I know Pat had talked about it, and she may have started one for the Irish Fair one time... She didn’t have enough kids to do a piece.

Fran Rogan talked about social events in Tucson:
We would bring in concerts, bands. Every year we would have an Irish picnic... The first parade was in South Tucson (a separate little city with its own government and police). And then the next year, Tucson itself had its first parade... David Hennessy was St. Patrick, every year until he died...

Margaret McNulty talked about the new level of dancers that was beginning to emerge in Phoenix.
There were a couple of dancers [who were on the same level as the California dancers]…Leisl Shaughnessy and two twins, Sherry and Shelly Cable, but they were taking [classes] somewhere else. And Leisl had taken [classes] out of state.

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Patricia Prior concurred:
Leisl was our first Preliminary championship, and the twins, the blond haired kids that were championship dancers that came in with Pat Hall. They were the first champions. We never really had any championship competition unless you got one or two from California. I remember one time we did get someone in from New York. They just flew in and flew out, beautiful dancer... We’ve never had as many championship dancers as we do [now], in any feis.

Asa Markel talked about the dancers that were prominent in the McTeggart School before he came and during his time there:
Well, when I started [and] pretty much the whole time I danced the largest family were the Concannons. They included…well it’s kind of difficult because their cousins were the Vaths that were actually Concannons on their mother’s side...so it was actually seven or eight kids that were all related. So in the smaller class you had Mara, she was like a little elementary school kid. The two others were Adam and Colleen, and they were both mid-level dancers and eight or nine years old when they started out. They would always do two-hand together and stuff. And then Colleen’s older sister was Trese, and she was, I guess, midlevel. I did two hands with her and she was one year younger than me. She had a brother named Casey who was two or three years younger than me. He danced for a little while. Then I guess he started again after I left. Then their other cousin besides Adam was Gwynette. When I started she was a Preliminary championship dancer and she was my age and she was an Open dancer when I left. In that class, there was Vanessa Lloyd who was one year younger than me. I think she was the only Open dancer there when I started out. I met Tanya Lloyd but I never saw her [dance] . I know she’d been Open, because we had practice in the Lloyd’s garage for awhile and there were a lot of trophies in there and a lot of them were Open. This was, like, the second generation, because there was Charlie Flint who danced before. I met him but he stopped a few years before I started. There was that whole generation of people. I know their names but I’ve probably never even met them, because the girls would just go on and on and on about it, so I don’t really remember it. Now when I talk to girls that I used to dance with they go on and on about when I was actually there so I actually know what they’re talking about. So the rest of the people in my group were the Heenans. There was Darragh who was one year younger than me and Brenna who was one year older. They were both about Preliminary when I started. And then there were the Rogans and both Sheila and Erin were Preliminary. Erin was one year younger than me and I danced against her eventually in Preliminary and Sheila was like two years older than me I guess. She was in Preliminary, I guess. And then there was another girl... What was her name? Because she, I actually know her from somewhere else too. Oh yeah, I know, it was Bernice Little because her mother used to [go to] the Quaker meetings with my parents. I went to Quaker meetings with my parents when I was small, so I knew her from that, too. But she didn’t dance for very long and she was a Preliminary dancer. She made her own dress one time I remember. Well, Carrie Lawson also danced. She got into Preliminary about the time I left. And there’s some other kids, the Fennertys, and I know some kids who stopped and started at various times... That’s about, that’s like the hard core group of people that all went to dance camp and stuff like that in the day.

Leisl Shaughnessy von dem Bussche talked about the differences between Arizona competitions and the ones she had experienced on the east coast.
I had been out of it for a few years so getting back into it was a big adjustment, but the level of competition was very different. There wasn’t as much competition. It was definitely a lot smaller out here. There wasn’t as large an Irish community out here as opposed to in Boston, obviously. So, you didn’t have as much community support, it just wasn’t known. People out here had never heard of it... Lack of competition, not to say that nobody was competitive, because there were some fantastic dancers, but most of

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them I would say didn’t live here because there wasn’t a lot of dancing going on in Phoenix at the time. There were some good ones here too. When I grew up back east, all the states are so close in New England, that we would be in Delaware, or New Hampshire, or Connecticut every weekend, traveling. Out here, [they were] few and far between, so it was kind of hard to get motivated to practice for them because you had six months to get ready. I think when I started here I had to start as... I had competed probably as Preliminary back east, so when I started out here, I think I started Prizewinner solos, and then did Preliminary, and then went into Open. That was fairly quickly because I think I had been dancing at Preliminary level back east. There were usually 3, 4, or 5 competitors. The competitions weren’t gigantic. Back then, I think they used to have boys separate from girls. I don’t know. Boys wore kilts back then, and now they wear pants, and I think it is kind of an unfair advantage, because you can’t see their knees. You can’t see if their legs are wide apart or whatever... My brother used to dance and he did not like wearing a kilt... We didn’t have a lot of boys. When we would do eight hands and there was one boy we would all fight over him.

Patricia Prior talked about a difference between the Phoenix Feis and the Tucson Feis:
The Halls attracted a lot of top class [dancers to the Tucson Feis].

Sharon Judd spoke about the time conflicts that some children have between scheduling competitions and excelling as well in other areas:
I saw [Gwynette] when she was still competing down there with McTeggart before she went to college, and all I remember is that she came to the feis after a swim meet, and had these horrible blisters on her feet from fins or something. She was trying to do this big change into the feis mode... Sometimes out of town competitions are better, because then that’s all you’re there for. You pack it up. Either you go to the competition or you don’t. When you are in town everybody always tries to do their swim tournament or their band concert, or their soccer game, and then they come and try to switch gears real fast.

Charles Flint talked about the seriousness of Pat Hall’s teaching, and about her expectations. He also talked about the results it brought him:
At that time we were still pretty strict as far as dancing. Hands at the sides. No smiling. Everything was serious stuff. We all acted like we were serious, we were going to win, and that type of thing. Back then, it was serious. If your arms bobbled, you got the bobble can, it was time to go. Fix that arm. We had a Western Regional Oireachtas, and I won first in two years, and one year I got third. I competed in Ireland, but I [didn’t dance in the Worlds]. I was pretty much at the top of my group, along with a couple of other people. The only other people in my competition the first couple of years got firsts right away, and they got forced into a higher bracket, and forced to learn more and practice more.

Trese Concannon also remembered this emphasis of Pat Hall’s:
I love Pat. She is a great encourager. I mean she was strict and you had to know your stuff. She is an awesome dancer, and her figures always won, we always won with our figures, she made us work hard at them. She made us do well or we weren’t allowed to perform.

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Mattie Heenan talked about the conflict between encouraging all children and the desire to produce good competitors, and the tenuous balance that she thinks that teachers should try to uphold:
Brenna was somewhere in Preliminary championships, basically. Darragh stopped competing probably two years or so before they dropped out. Darragh was someone who loved dancing, still loves dancing, but competing was not in her nature. I think there has been [a pretty heavy emphasis on competition] for a long time, probably since the seventies, anyway. I don’t think it was as fierce then as it is now, but I definitely think it was there, for the kids to compete, and to do well. That is part of how Irish dancing is set up, and that is how the teachers become recognized. They receive their accolades by how their students perform. It is part of the system. It is nobody’s fault. But I do think there should be room for kids, I would hate to see any child discouraged from dancing because they don’t want to perform. I would hope that a teacher would say, ‘Well, kids A, B, and C all like dancing and competing, and it is all right if kids D and E to come and dance and perform and not compete.’ I think there is something to be said for the culture as well, and not every kid is meant to be a competitor in everything they try out for. I would hate to see a kid discouraged from dancing simply because they don’t want to compete. It certainly helped to enrich my kids’ appreciation of their culture and all of those things. I would hate for her to have missed out on it just because it isn’t in her nature to be competitive.

Sharon Judd talked about the different expectations that teachers can have for different kids:
It’s just fun to see the kids stick with it, and to move up into Prizewinner and Championship. I don’t even think a lot of the parents realize how high the standards are to get that far in Irish dance. They don’t realize what it is like to get up there, feis after feis. When the kids get all their stuff in Novice, and you know that takes a lot of work to get there, and then they go to [feiseanna] and they don’t always win, because everybody in Novice, you know, is fine. It just takes so much courage for them to stick with it, and to keep practicing, and to get up there and do it again and again, until they get that first, and how many times do they have to get second, before they get that first. I’m just very proud to see that they build that kind of character, and go that far. That will stay with them whether they get to the Worlds or don’t. I think you have to be careful to leave room, and appreciate and encourage the beginner dancers at the same time as you are keeping your champions competitive and sharp.

Asa Markel compared the sense of competition from that time to that of today:
The thing is the difference between the two time periods is in the old days, before Riverdance, because everybody was in a big family and everybody knew everybody else’s family and everyone was there because their parents probably made them do it when they were younger sort of like going to church or something. Nobody ever talked about anybody else’s dancing. I never remember anybody talking about that really, once or twice girls in the same class would talk about ‘well this girl needs to learn this’ or whatever, but when you were at a feis nobody ever talked about that stuff. It was extremely rude and I don’t think, I don’t remember anybody ever talking about it. But it’s a little bit more vicious now. All these kids sort of watch Michael Flatley, and I guess they’re all very competitive and it’s not as much of a cultural-social enterprise as it is an actual competition now, I guess. So it’s a little more cutthroat. I’ve heard the girls I was helping teach and so forth complain a lot about other dancers, basically telling them off, or saying ‘We’re gonna win’ or whatever. I don’t remember that really ever.

Patricia Prior remembered one occasion in which she got to see Pat Hall perform: 40

I only saw Pat dance once, because [she would only go] through a couple of steps [in class] and then she would stop. She danced [on the stage one time] with Donny Golden. That was the only time I ever saw Pat dance. It was totally unexpected. Donny Golden was dancing with the Chieftains. He was a fabulous dancer. That was the top. Pat Hall came up with him for every step. She was fantastic. To see the two of them dance together...

Mattie Heenan talked about a particular Tucson Feis where she herself danced.
Did you ever hear about Pat’s adult dancers winning first place at the feis? One of the [feiseanna], Pat said, ‘I want to enter some adults in adult competition because it is embarrassing, I don’t have any adults dancing, so who is going to dance?’ So Winnie Hennessy and Winnie Nanna, and Fran Rogan and myself, and then Mandelberg, and Neil Flint, and that was six of us, and there would have been two more, and I am not sure who the last two were. We ended up with eight dancers.. Oh, my husband, I don’t know if said him. Pat taught us the Sweets of May, that was going to be the dance that we performed, and we practiced and practiced our little butts off. And my husband, you have to understand, I have been trying for twenty years to teach him to waltz, and he can’t learn how to waltz. He honestly, he came home after our practice one night, and the girls said, ‘Well, how are you doing?’, and Dad said, ‘I am doing great. I have learned my hop out two three fours.’ And the girls were going, ‘Dad, it is hop out two threes! You don’t do hop out two three FOUR!’ ‘No wonder I am having trouble!’ So we practiced and practiced, and Rory basically became the body that you sort of threw around on the stage. So if he had to swing my arm and then go into his corner and do something, I would swing him, and then I would just kind of push him into the right direction. Forget footwork! We were just glad to have the body standing in the right place. So we would just get him from position to position to do what he needed, and he did learn the clap clap slap slap and all of those little parts, but he couldn’t do any of the proper footwork. So, the night of the performance came. We were all wearing black and white, we had white blouses on and black skirts, and the guys were wearing black pants, and all of the other dancers from the other communities were wearing flashy outfits… We knew we weren’t good to begin with, we were not going up there thinking that we were any good, because we knew our limitations with Rory in particular. So, the day of the competition came and Rory realized that we were going to be dancing in front of all of these hundreds of people, and he goes into the bar, and he was going to fortify himself with a drink before he faints. The feis was running behind, and I think that was one thing that used to happen a lot more I think than you guys do now, was we would run quite behind. It was more behind than Rory realized, and we sort of forgot that he was still in there drinking, because we were still doing other things. And all of a sudden, I realized, ‘Where’s Rory, where’s Rory?’ and I go running in and I find him, and Rory has gotten himself so sloshed that he could barely stand up. I went, ‘God, Rory, what are we going to do, you are drunk as a skunk, it’s horrible, you have to dance in a little while.’ and he said, ‘Well, I’ll quit drinking now.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s great. You are disgusting, and I don’t know what to do with you!’ So he stopped drinking, and, fortunately, the feis was so far behind that Rory actually had time to sober up before we went out. So we finally go out like three and a half hours later, something horrible, and go out and do our dance. And I remember Donny Golden was one of the judges, and he was judging the adults. Danny Golden was the teacher of Jean Butler, who was the star of Riverdance, and she was at the feis that year. We went out to do our Sweets of May, and you know, when they do the figure dances, they usually have you dance maybe two different steps of your figure, and then they ring the bell and you are done. All I remember was glancing over at Danny, and he has blonde hair and he was so red from laughing that he looked like his head was going to explode. He made us do the entire dance and take our bows at the end. I thought he was going to fall out of his chair, he was laughing so hard. And he did award two first places, one to the real winners and one to us for having the nerve to get up and perform the way we did. So we have often talked about our first place finish at the Tucson Feis. That was our short performance career. That was our one and only dance that we ever did together. Fortunately they didn’t have to burn the floor when finished dancing. It was pretty bad.

Leisl Shaughnessy von dem Bussche also had an amusing ‘parental dancing’ story. 41

My favorite memory was at the Phoenix Feis, a few years ago, they used to have a parent-child two-hand, and my dad and I did the parent-child two hand. In fact we were up against Margaret McNulty and maybe Sarah, maybe Anne Marie. I don’t remember, [maybe both]. I think my mom danced with my brother, and I think my mom and my brother won that year, and I am convinced it is because it is a boy... My dad and I got some sort of a trophy, and several moons ago, I think we left them somewhere, all the trophies, all the medals. I remember he and his buddies drinking beer out of that afterward, passing it around. He won some sort of an honorable mention or something, and it was the funniest thing. The man has never danced, he is not a dancer. He got up and had his number in his back pocket. Margaret (this is one of Margaret’s funniest memories too, probably) pulled it out of the back pocket and held it up like this for the judge, and pointed the toe and made a whole production of it. Everybody was just in stitches... He and I practiced it, he was really taking it seriously, Pat was over there practicing us over to the side. It was hop two threes and whatever, and he just couldn’t get it, and he was prancing around trying to do it, and he was kind of a bigger guy, so it was pretty funny. Pat was trying not to laugh and take him seriously. It was hilarious. The year after that Margaret got up with one of her kids and repeated the same thing and held up her number.

Regardless of whether adult men were let off the hook or not, Charles Flint did not feel that he was separated by Pat Hall from the girls in terms of expectations or steps.
[I don’t remember that the dances were very much differentiated by gender]. I remember doing the Blackthorn Stick with everybody else for a couple of years, everybody did that. Most of the dances, I remember Pat making them up as we were going along. It was just like, ‘Ok, [so-and-so] doesn’t like it this way, let’s try a double click here and a slide here and a turn around there.’

Asa Markel remembered, however, that boys were treated differently in competition:
Well, the thing about being a boy is that you get used to winning against girls. The thing that you get really upset about is the boys specials and stuff like that, then you really find out where you are [with] judges. Because it’s such an aesthetic sport, [I think] there’s so much subjective judgment going on. You totally see tall, thin girls winning all the time. I knew these two guys who were a little overweight and they weren’t really that up there but I thought they were some of the best dancers I had ever seen; their hardshoe and light shoe was amazing. So you get sort of cynical about that, and as a boy, after a while, after competing, people can tell you that’s all that you want, but it’s not until you’ve won a bunch of times that you sort of think, ‘Well it’s because I was against all these girls and the judges just had me win.’ Which isn’t always true, but you kind of expect to place. You know you’ve done really badly if you didn’t place. I got to Preliminary championship in something like 5 or 6 [feiseanna] and I just sort of told people that that’s because I’m a boy and most of the girls in my class sort of agreed with me and we just sort of left it at that, so I guess I never really thought about it that much. But I remember being a lot more stressed out about boys specials because then you can be totally smashed in front of everyone by some other guy that you’ve never danced against otherwise. Those are the most fun anyway because the boys clicked and it was always really cool seeing this big competition where they do one step that’s supposedly really cool. Later on that was the big trend. When I started it was still boys specials and boys doing soft shoe reels and clicking their heels and doing all this cool stuff. About when I was starting to leave, the big treble reel craze took off and, at least in Arizona [feiseanna]. It got to be more and more of a big deal that that was the big special. There was the slip jig special for all the girls, there was the boys special, but then now that I’ve come back, well... When I was back in college it was definitely the treble reel special that everyone would stop and watch, for good reason, but that wasn’t really that well known when I started out.

Asa also remembered the girls fawning over the champion boys. He and I had a conversation on the subject: 42

Yeah, [I had friends from other schools]. Well the guys, because like you’d see any other (male), you’d always remember who he was because there’s only one other, come back a month later and ‘oh yeah it’s you again,’ so yeah. There’s this guy Jeff MacLeod who was about my age, he danced for Harney in Redwood I think. Elizabeth Venable- Yeah, that’s so weird, because I knew that guy too and had a crush on him for like five months... Asa- Well, that was just the scene, like it was totally like that, like girls would totally be in love with. They picked either Gene or... Matt, yeah, Matt was his name, Matt Martin and Gene, they were sort of like N’SYNC or something, like girls just picked one or the other, they were in that or the other camp, at least from my perspective. I didn’t know any of the Jeff admirers because I would actually sit with Jeff and hang out with him so I didn’t really, I guess girls weren’t talking smack when I was around him, just when I was over with Jeff, so whatever. But also some of the guys with Harney I knew from my first feis but I didn’t really get along so well with a few of them... There were a bunch of guys in that class actually, whenever those guys danced there were like four or five guys which was pretty amazing, so they were kind of close knit I guess, but I can’t even remember their names right now. There was a guy that I knew who was really nice. Man, was his name Ryan? I don’t know, but he had long blond hair and he eventually was really an amazing dancer, by like ‘95, ‘96, like really, really good, probably a Open championship level guy, I can’t remember his name. But Harney had really good dancers anyway. At least the boys, And I knew the twins, I can’t remember their names even, I think their last names were Rego or something. Elizabeth Venable- Oh, Sego [from the Maoileidigh School]. Asa- They started out dancing in slacks and ended up wearing kilts, which was a lot nicer. In those days guys did wear kilts so it was kind of cool.

Trese Concannon talked about her experiences as a child at the Tucson Feis and the Phoenix Feis:
The Phoenix Feis that we went to had arts and crafts for the kids to do. The Tucson Feis is at a hotel with swimming and stuff. I remember the Tucson Feis being huge, though, I mean we had like four or five stages going at one time, it was a big feis when Pat was here.

Leisl Shaughnessy talked about the perceptions her school classmates had about her dancing:
I think [my classmates] thought it was kind of funny. I mean, people would always imitate it, and, of course, what they did was hideous. But some people appreciated it. I always danced at school for St. Patrick’s Day, if we had a talent show, I would dance for that. My teachers always seemed to have more of an appreciation of it than the kids, the kids kind of made fun. I think the curly hair and the whole bit was not how they were used to seeing me.

Heather Stewart, who, at that time, was dancing for Doireann Maoileidigh, also remembered stigma being attached to her talent.
Growing up through school, when I was in grades through high school even, people thought I was a freak. I was a little leprechaun person. Until I would get up at the talent show, and they would see it, [and they would be amazed]. They would think it was all lucky charms, clicking your heels in the air.

Charles Flint also reflected on the subject: 43

At the time, I enjoyed it, but I was kind of embarrassed of it. It wasn’t popular. Now it is like, ‘That is pretty cool.’ Well, at the time, it wasn’t that cool, because, one, you are dancing, and it didn’t seem to be that cool at the time. Second, I was wearing a kilt. That was just thoroughly embarrassing. I didn’t want to have any of my friends know. Only my best friend knew, and somebody else knew because they saw me performing. I was kind of embarrassed of it, but I enjoyed it, and I kept doing it. Now I see the little boys that are dancing. It has been popularized by Michael Flatley, and those types of groups. Everybody knows about it, but at the time that I did it, nobody knew about Irish dancing. It wasn’t really that popular.

At the same time, Charles was allowed opportunities through dancing that might have outweighed the troubles that dancing might have caused him. For example, he was able to go with the Halls to Ireland.
I went on this trip and saw England for a day. We had just realized that it was not the same time zone, and we didn’t understand why we were falling asleep at twelve in the afternoon, not realizing that it was bedtime at home. Then we flew to Ireland and we stayed at Trinity College in [Dublin, or Cork University in Cork]. And we got to say in dorms, which was all these girls and me, in this big dorm, so I am in hog’s heaven, and they couldn’t stand me because I was a boy. Then, we had practices. It was competition, but it was more of a dance camp. Maureen Hall and her sister, if I recall it right, were the dance instructors, and they would teach new dances there for us and for the Irish kids that were there, so we would get to meet the Irish kids there, and compete against them. We were there for about a week and a half, and started bouncing around from place to place, to see the rest of Ireland. So we saw most of southern Ireland, because at that time, 1983 or 84 or so, it was still pretty heavy in Belfast, so we didn’t go and see any of the northern territory. So it was a fun trip, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that in any other way unless I was an Irish dancer. I got to do that. I got to go to California, Phoenix, and Denver, a couple of competitions in Vancouver, just all over the place. The fun times were just hanging out with other kids from other places, who we only got to see every couple of months, and just hang out and drink a lot of soda, eat a lot of bad-for-you foods and get sick. That was just a great time.

He spoke more about the dance trips he used to make:
A lot of the trips that we did, like to California, we would pile into the back of a pickup truck that had a top on it. Not your big pickup trucks like they have today. No, we are talking a little pickup truck. We would pile in five kids, six kids, and we would just sit crossways, and all of our bags would be lined up on the sides, kind of like our pillows. We would just put blankets on top of them. That’s how we got to most of our competitions.

Trese Concannon also talked about getting to travel through the school, and especially about the workshops that the Halls hold in Colorado:
We went up to Fresno dance camp, and she would have us over at her mom’s house, for a couple of weeks and we would dance and she would cook for us and take us all around. It was a lot of fun. I think it was the best time of my life growing up, going to those dance camps and dancing. We danced all day long. We would take a couple of hours off. We danced in the morning and would take a couple of hours off, have lunch, maybe go swimming, and then we danced in the afternoon for maybe 4 hours, and then we would have dinner, and we would either go out to a movie or watch a movie, and then we would go to bed early and get up and do the same thing over again. She would take us out and show us around, too, on certain days where we wouldn’t dance in the afternoon, we would go out on an outing. There were about 10 or 15 girls there, too. She put us up in her house and would feed us.

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Mrs. Maureen Hall, ADCRG, eventually began teaching classes for the Arizona branches of the McTeggart School after Pat Hall had some troubles in the early 1990s and could not come in anymore. Asa Markel remembered the way that classes were run in Tucson when he started:
When I started classes down in Tucson, there were something like 20 dancers. I started in the summer and there were less than 20 dancers because most the families would go on vacations. So you would see more people when the school year started. They weren’t really divided by age or ability until later in the school year. I guess when I started we didn’t really do anything very formal. Like, class wasn’t very formal at all. Basically, you were just supposed to sit in a line of chairs and just watch the dancing going on or actually be practicing something. And there wasn’t really any stretching out or anything. The first teacher I danced for was Pat Hall, and then I danced for her mother. When her mother came in, I was in high school – a sophomore or junior. She was the first one to demand that we stretch out, warm up and do all this stuff because previously the past idea of a warm-up was three slow reels in a row or something. So, I wasn’t really exposed to any formal dance training until Mrs. Hall came around. It usually lasted an hour or two, and they just went, generally, reels through slip jigs, all the other light shoe dances, and then there was a big switch over for hard shoe. Pretty much everything was done in that order. During the school year, when all the dancers were around, you would have two classes. One for the younger kids and, once you got all your dances into Novice, which was the third level, you could be in the next class, because that was generally where all the Open figure dancers were. That was back when figures were beginner or Open – that was what they were called. That was kind of the idea - that in those classes you were supposed to able to get a six or eight hand dance together that was going to be the team for whatever competition.

Asa Markel also talked about the relations between girls in dancing and himself:
Well, I was the only boy above the age over eight and most of the dancers were girls between the ages of eleven and sixteen and so forth. So, [there] was really, sort of, a lot of gossiping – a lot of girl politics, I guess. I don’t really know, because I wasn’t really included in a lot of the conversations because there was so much gossip and stuff between girls about people that had danced before that they knew, or people that they ran into at school or whatever. I didn’t really know what they were talking about and I couldn’t really add anything to the conversations about all kinds of girl fashion and stuff like that – I really didn’t have much to say. But usually there was a lot of chatter in the background. I remember Pat yelling a lot about the girls I danced with anyway because they were always talking, whereas with the younger kids... the problem was always this or that little boy. I think there were usually two at most, who would usually get out of hand – that would be the big problem. And with the older girls it was always too much talking, and it was always about boys or what their next solo dress would look like, and stuff like that. I never really worried that much about that stuff. But, I guess it was pretty cool school, especially if you were a girl, because you would pretty much just hang out and just talk about what was going on.

Asa Markel also talked about the instability that it seemed the Tucson children felt after Pat Hall stopped teaching, and the manner in which they related to Maureen Hall:
Most people in the class didn’t really know her that well, so if she got upset about people talking and stuff kids were more apt to shut up after a while. I guess it was just sort of funny because for some reason, even though she was supposedly with the same school, her dances were completely different from Pat’s. So I remember I probably talked more with the girls that I danced with then than I ever did before, just because we were trying to figure out what we were supposed to do, because we rarely understood what was happening. I guess people were more apprehensive at first. I don’t think Maureen taught for very terribly long [here] at all, really, so it probably stayed that way for a while, really, just because people had danced with Pat for such a long time that everyone would just sort of come and hang out because they kind of knew what to expect.

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Around the middle of the 1990s, Rosemary Browne, MD, TCRG, moved into town with her family. She had danced back east and started her daughter (Caitlin Meaney) in classes with the McTeggart School. Later, they would dance with Tom Bracken, and Rosemary it was then that she would get her TCRG Certification with An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha. She told of her background and the moment where she first saw the McTeggart School:
I grew up in Connecticut. I started dancing when I was four... I was I grew up in Stamford. That is forty five minutes from New York City... just east [and] over the border. My teacher was Kathleen Mulkerin. I started... it must have been 1964. At the time, she was one of the only teachers in Connecticut. There was only one other teacher, Mary Anne Griffith of the Griffith Academy, and, back in the 1960s, my teacher had some quite good dancers. [One was] Patty K. Moran, who judged the Feis in the Desert and judged that Tucson Feis. She was the big thing and she was her co-teacher. The Oireachtas used to be [the equivalent of] the Nationals. It didn’t break up [until the mid 1970s] into regions... Actually, my teacher discouraged competition, she was always saying, ‘Oh, don’t bother going..’ and I was actually at a feis, and I heard about the Oireachtas. I was in the 8 th grade, and I asked my teacher if I could go, and so she said, ‘Yes,’ and off I went to the Oireachtas. I was the only one who was entered in it from our school. It was at the Commodore Hotel, in New York City, which is attached to Grand Central Station, and I remember taking the train in at like 6 a.m. with my mother, and back then you had to do a light shoe round... and one set dance, and then if you got recalled, then you had to do the second set dance, and they had to be contrasting. So I got recalled, and proceeded to go out to eat in Grand Central Station, and got sick. I ate and threw up, and I had to do Kilkenny Races as my second set dance, and I about died, because that is the longest set dance. So anyway, I got recalled... And that was the only time I ever went, actually. I didn’t go to a very competitive school. I mean, she was competitive back in the 1960s, she was pretty much one of the only shows in town. She was one of the first TCRGs in the United States. My understanding of it was that in the early 1970s was when it slowed down a lot...On my treble jig, it was at light jig tempo, and my hornpipe was at traditional speed or even quicker. That’s what we did, so I never did a slow jig or a slow hornpipe until after college. It was completely different, but it was evolving, and my teacher continued the traditional way, so I know lots of really old [steps] that even Tom says, ‘I never learned stuff like that’. I went to my reunion about five years ago, and it was really funny because there were like fifty year olds, forty year olds, thirty year olds, twenty year olds, teenagers, ten year olds, six year olds, doing the same steps. She never changed them over all those years. We could all get up and do the same exact steps, it was really amazing. It was all really well preserved. Which is wonderful; just for competition it wasn’t great. Then I actually quit when I was sixteen. We went on a tour of Ireland with our Irish dance group, and came back, and there wasn’t as much going on so I stopped. I got interested again in it after my second year in college, and I went down to New York a few times with my friend who was taking [classes] in New York, and so that got me interested in it again. So I went back to college and I looked up the teachers that were in Washington, I went to Georgetown, and so I found Maryanne McGraff. I went to her for about two years, and competed down there, and it was a lot easier down there than in the New York [and] Connecticut area, so I actually won a lot down there. But I always felt like I was cheating, because compared to the competition I had grown up with it wasn’t very much. It was still beginning then, kind of like the way it was out here, sort of. It was when I got my first taste of more modern dancing, and I really loved it, but I was pre-med by then, and I [didn’t have much time to devote to dancing]. When I was interviewing for college, when I was a senior in high school and I went to Georgetown, the person interviewing me looked at my stuff and said, ‘Oh, boring, boring, boring, Oh, Irish dancing, what is

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this?’. It was the very last thing I put on my list of things, you know, like yearbook. She said, ‘What’s this?’, and so I started talking about [it]. This was way before Riverdance, twenty years before Riverdance, when it was not a very known thing at all, and she kept asking me about it, and I just couldn’t believe it, I was sitting there going, ‘I can’t believe I’m having my college interview and I’m talking about Irish dancing, this is really weird’. It was the last thing I expected. She had been asking me about music and tempos and stuff, and I had never had an intellectual conversation about Irish dancing before, I had just always done it and never really thought about it. So, finally she said, ‘Would you mind doing it for me?’. And it was back in the seventies with disco and the big high shoes and everything, and so I got up and danced Irish dance in my interview for college, and I couldn’t believe it. I walked out, and my friend, who was already at Georgetown, who had danced with me, said, ‘Well, how did it go?,’ and ‘I said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but she asked me to Irish dance’. It was just so funny. So you never know when it will just unexpectedly show up in your life. I mean, now that Riverdance is just so prominent and popular, it is probably not as exciting or unusual as it was back So then I didn’t dance at all for 10 or 15 years, until I moved here, basically. I mean, every now and then, I would go to a ceílí or something, but until I came here it had been out of my life for at least 10 or 12 years. So imagine my surprise to move to Arizona and find there was Irish dancing. I really thought there was nothing Irish [out here]. It took me six months to find any sort of Irish [event]. One of the first people that I met, a guy named Ray Carroll, who was one of the founders of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade here, he said, ‘Oh, my wife would love to see you, she [loves] Irish dancing’, and so he actually asked me to dance at a party. So I hadn’t put on my dress since [having] had three children, and I can’t believe I did it, but I put on my dress, went to this party where I didn’t know anyone, and danced a little bit. People were very interested because, up to that point, the only dancing in Tucson was McTeggart School, and I was thinking that I was one of the first people from a different perspective who was in town, who knew anything about dancing. At that time people said there was a school , the McTeggart School, and Pat Hall was the teacher, and I saw her like a month later at the St. Patrick’s Day parade, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to her. Caitlin was just four. I finally met up with her at a Mick Maloney concert, and Regan Wick had been the guest dancer, and everybody met afterwards, and I went up and introduced myself to them and so she said that she had heard that there were several little girls who wanted to start, so she started a beginners’ class. So Caitlin was four or five by the time she started, she was still in preschool. So we used to go down, she would teach at the Vaths’ house, at Gwynette’s house, in the back in the garage. So we all used to drive down to the Vaths’ house and they had a little lesson, and that’s when my son Michael started. When I tried to find out about Irish dancing, I called one Winnie and this other Winnie called me back. The two Winnies are very big people in Tucson.

There were several Irish-American cultural groups in Tucson in the mid 1990s. Around this time there was another sensitive incident in the Tucson Irish community. Rosemary recalled:
When I first arrived, there was the Irish-American Gaelic Society [IAGS]. That was the most prominent Irish group when I arrived here. There was the parade committee, and then, shortly after I arrived, they started the St. Patrick’s Day Traditional Society, which was around 1993, 1994, and the parade ran through them. Then ‘Speds’ dissolved itself. It was an attempt at a hostile takeover. It was very melodramatic, but ‘Speds’ was being run by people... When I first arrived here, the Tucson Six was very active, they were six guys on trial for gun running-- IRA guys. They galvanized the community. They really [split the community]. There were people for them [and] people who didn’t want anything to do with them. they were being kept in people’s homes and they were on trial, and there were Irish people totally behind them, and there were people who, because of the IRA connection, were totally against it, so it was actually quite an emotional time when I came here. So ‘Speds’ was very behind them, and there were always whispers behind people’s hands that it was related to gun running, that the money raising was gun running, which was totally not true. It was run by a lot of the Tucson Six sympathizers, so you could see why people thought that or said that, but it actually was not true. So some people came up with this brilliant idea that for five or ten dollars

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you could become a member of ‘Speds’, and they were going to get enough people, more than the actual ‘Speds’ group, to sign up, and then at the next meeting they were going to vote out the people in charge of voting in new people. So that’s what I mean by, ‘It was going to be a hostile takeover’. This happened at the parade, all these people signed up, and I guess the leaders figured it out, so they dissolved it. They just cancelled it. So ‘Speds’ dissolved. And ‘Speds’ also ran the first three Emerald Balls. I was part of some people running the Emerald Ball. So out of the dust of ‘Speds’, IAGS, which is composed of most of the older people in Tucson, Winnie Hennessy, Winnie Nanna, John Keller, all those people, IAGS took back over the parade, so the parade became an offshoot of IAGS, for a while. There were some people who ran the Emerald Ball, who felt that was a virtue and a good thing, and they didn’t want to let that die with ‘Speds’. So we founded the Emerald Isle Society, and got nonprofit [status]. [We] run the Emerald Ball and also we have the Celtic New Year celebration, Tir na Nog. Then, we also have a lecture series, when we bring in a famous person, an author, usually, to give a lecture. The Emerald Isle Society donates the most to the feis. They give two or three thousand dollars. We [the feis] are hugely indebted to the Emerald Isle Society. There is quite an overlap of parents and members. So, right now, IAGS is still around. Their goal is to build a building, to have an Irish center, so all their fund raising is for a physical building. The parade committee has once again shot off on its own. They are their own entity again. Rick Grenell is the chairman of that. An Ancient Order of Hibernians branch came to town two or three years ago, which is all men. I don’t know very much about them. They seem to be headquartered down at O’Malley’s on Fourth Ave. I have never seen them very much around.

Mattie Heenan also remembered this incident as being very heated:
I know there was one downtown that my children got in a lot of trouble for, which is an interesting little aside. What happened was, they were called the Tucson Six. Actually they weren’t raising money for the Tucson Six who were six guys who had Tucson connections who had been imprisoned for being a part of the IRA. Whoever it was that was running that fundraiser called up and said, ‘Can we have some dancers?’. I think they called my husband, Rory, because it is someone that Rory knew socially, and Rory said, ‘Well, we’ll get back to you on that’. So we tried for the next two or three days to get in touch with Pat, and then the fundraiser came up, and I guess Pat was out of town; I can’t remember exactly, and so I think everybody said, ‘Well, she is friends with someone of these people’. Or, for some reason we seemed to feel that it was an Okay thing, but because we hadn’t spoken with her… So the parents of the involved dancers got together and said that, ‘Well, gee, we are pretty sure that Pat would support them dancing, but because we haven’t spoken to her personally, what we are going to do is have them dance in street clothes, and we are not going to introduce them as Pat Hall’s dancers, in case there should be any problem, we don’t want to do anything that Pat would not approve of, and we will let her know what we did when we finally get in touch with her’. So that was what happened, and we were going to tell Pat, you know we had messages in to her that I don’t know if she didn’t get the messages, it is so many years ago that I can’t remember... So we got to class [at Vanessa Lloyd’s house], and by the time we got there that night someone had told her that the kids had danced at this function, and the story had been twisted, and Pat was so irritated at what she had been told that she didn’t want to hear our side of what had happened. The unfortunate thing was, in all sincerity, we had done what we felt was appropriate, and no one had tried to do anything, and it was made to seem [to Pat] that it was really sneaky and conniving, and that was really and truly not the case. She ended up suspending my two daughters and Erin Rogan, and [the other dancers] for three months. My younger daughter was especially devastated because that meant that there was a performance at her grandmother’s house that she wasn’t allowed to dance at. So my younger daughter never really got over that, and never went back to dancing.

Rosemary Browne talked about the transition between McTeggart and Bracken Schools down in Tucson: 48

So Pat left in June or July, and the Feis was cancelled that year, and Maureen arrived in August, to try and salvage the school, which, by that time was about twelve advanced dancers, and five beginners. Caitlin was one of the five beginners. It was the Concannons and the Vaths, Erin Rogan, Carrie Lawson, and then there was Asa Markel and his sister who moved to Flagstaff. The next year, the Concannons and the Vaths ended up quitting, the Markels moved, and the only people left were Carrie Lawson and Erin Rogan, and the five beginners. And Maureen was coming like once a month on a Sunday and teaching. Then, the first feis I went to was the Tucson Feis that year, Caitlin’s first feis, as a McTeggart. And that was in May, and then it was in [the end of summer] that Erin got killed. So then it was down to one teenager and five beginners. It was very difficult. At that point Tom Bracken arrived in Phoenix, and we heard about him. I was feeling that I wanted more than once a month for my daughter, so we went to the Phoenix feis in October when it was at that church still, and several of the parents approached Tom, and asked him to come down to Tucson, and we found out that the Concannons and the Vaths had already approached him. So for a while we went up there, because it was very delicate. It was very difficult for him to come in when the McTeggart school was still here, and so we were going up there. We basically quit McTeggart school, and then we were going up there for a while, because he didn’t feel he could go into Tucson, but then after it became too many kids, he started coming down here. That was a very difficult transition. There were some hurt feelings. I really genuinely, and I very sincerely, appreciate that Maureen continued to come in, because there were so few kids, and she still came. I mean, even if it was once a month, I have to give her credit, that she kept going. I really appreciate that, because I was thinking my kids would never dance, and I was ready to work with whatever there was, even if it wasn’t very often. I always thought it was better than having no dancing, and I really appreciate all the effort she [put in]. I really sincerely mean that, I really do. It might seem to be lacking in gratitude to switch, but when somebody came along that could drive down and back, instead of flying in once a month, I didn’t think, from a student’s point of view, there was any choice, what would be better, for the kids. That’s why we made that choice.

Sharon Judd talked about the difficulty of being a teacher so far away from students. Of course, Maureen Hall continues to come in to teach the school to this day, but Sharon’s presence and teaching has helped to solidify and maintain the school, so that it has a sort of “home base”:
I think [Pat] had been flying in every week, like Doireann had, and when you are flying into town from somewhere, even driving around town teaching class, just takes an awful lot of planning and time. I think when you are flying in every week like that, it just wears on you, and then it is every three weeks, three weeks out of the month, and then you’re there twice a month, and you’re there once a month, and that’s not enough. So [you] have got to do something else.

Trese Concannon reflected on the changes of the time:
When Tom came it was different. I think the school broke up [for more than one reason]. Number one, Pat had to move back to California, but one of my really good friends Erin Rogan died. And that really broke the group. We were like sisters, and when she died, it really tore the group up... When Tom came in, his style was a little different. Well, first of all for a little while we had Mrs. [Maureen] Hall. She would come in once a month, and we would dance for six to eight hours, and it was hard, and then when Tom came in his dances were totally different, It was different from how I had danced with Pat for years. It was a hard thing to get adjusted to, and then all of the new people, and none of the old people, I think was one of my reasons for quitting.

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As the girls got older, Vanessa Lloyd, her sister Tanya was a dancer, and she was in Prelim championships, and she went to the Oireachtas a few times, and maybe the Worlds, she got older, she graduated from high school, and went to college and got married. I mean, as they grew up , they were in high school when we were babies, and so as we all got older, we still danced, but I think there were about 25 or 30 of us. There were quite a lot of us, I remember there being a lot of people when we were younger, and then as we got older it kind of [became] a smaller group. And then when Erin died, then everyone stopped.

Asa Markel remembered that Pat Hall still thought about him even when he wasn’t under her tutelage anymore:
She called me because I won my first championship and she was telling me that I should keep on dancing for her mom. One of her friends was one of the judges and after I won that she called Pat and told her, ‘Your boy just won’ or whatever, and so Pat then called me, and said, ‘I heard you won and I heard you have to do this or that or the other next time,’ and we just talked about stuff. I told her, ‘Well, next time we’re going to Flagstaff.’ I talked to her again once when I went with Sharon to Denver.

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1. Maggie Hyland and Father John Cunningham

2. Mary McCormack and Sid Sampson, director of the “Bedpan Circuit”

3. Sol Rudnick, Wendy Gregory, Mary Greenan, Laura Greenan, unknown dancer, Mary McCormack

4. Diane Brady, Sepp Lanz, Mary Doyle in Tucson

5. Flynn School Ad in Phoenix Feis Program

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6. McCafferty- Mary Corcoran and Tricia Greenan, and a line of McCafferty dancers

7. Pearse School Three Hand and Flag Dance

8. Plummer School in Phoenix St. Patrick’s Day Parade 9. Plummer- Anne Marie McNulty, McTeggart- Mary Bridget Corcoran, Plummer- Kelly Daugherty, Maoileidigh- Tricia Cunningham and Mary Cunningham

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10. Doireann Maoileidigh (Hoy) helps students practice ceílí at the Tucson Feis

11. Adult Dancers- (Donegal) and Chris Locke (Maoileidigh-Bracken)

12. Maoileidigh- Elizabeth Venable, Adele Prior, Laura Masterson,

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Meghan Murphy, Siobhan Quinlan, and Sarah Houghtelin

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13. McTeggart Tucson- Trese Concannon and Gwynette Vath

14.Maoileidigh- Sarah McNulty and Heather McElligott

15.Maggie Calderone at the Arizona Renaissance Festival

16. Judy Thom, Sharon Judd, Patrick Broderick, Suzanne Houghtelin

17. Bracken dancers at the Orpheum Theater

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18. McElligott Dancers (with Heather McElligott Sparks in center photo) perform with the Chieftains and at various St. Patrick’s Day functions.

19. Bracken Dancers at Arizona State Championships- (clockwise from left) Katie Quigley, Elizabeth Venable, Julian Gladysiewski, Carolyn Quigley, Amanda Harrington, Matt O’Leary, Rachel McGregor, Laura Donohue, Ansley Pray, Kyren Lynch 0 2 .

Caitlin Meaney 21. Bracken- Elizabeth Venable at the Feis in the Desert- includes 22. Children from McElligott, Bracken, Christina Boothe, Laura Donohue, Elizabeth Moore, and Kelly Sweeney. McTeggart, and Maoileidigh

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23. Caitlin Meaney and Amanda Harrington watch as Zach Markey and Hunter Terrell sing silly songs to a receptive crowd: Rosemary Browne, Debbie Markey, and Tom Bracken at the 2002 Oireachtas, in Phoenix 24. Dancers from Bracken, McElligott, and McTeggart including Julian Gladysiewski, Hunter Terrell, Caitlin and Meghan Bayley, Ann Franevsky, and Kelly Sweeney compete at Rula Bula for Riverdance tickets

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Chapter Five Ron Plummer and Doireann Maoileidigh: The Middle 1980s and Onward in Phoenix
Two teachers emerged in Phoenix in the mid-to-late 1980s who were of undeniable quality. Neither lived in the area, but each established stable classes for a number of years, raising the dancing aspirations for the students that they taught. Ron Plummer, ADCRG, only taught for a few years, but Doireann Maoileidigh, ADCRG, was able to establish a school in Phoenix that lasted for slightly less than a decade. Ron Plummer, ADCRG, spoke about the time in which he was teaching in Phoenix.
There was a need for Irish dancing in the area, and there was another teacher in the area, I think it was Pat Hall... There was a Catholic school there that wanted Irish dancing as an after-school program. I moved in to start that, and I had a separate class as well in Phoenix. It was on the same day. I think it was a Monday, after school, and then I had my regular class in the evening. What I did at that time was every two weeks I taught maybe six to eight days, depending on the load that had to be taken care of. I had my own classes in southern California, in Escondido, San Diego, and Redlands. I flew to Phoenix, Arizona, and from there I flew to Seattle, Washington, and from there I flew to Chicago and did a workshop there. Then I had a lad from my class in Escondido who moved back to college to Philadelphia, so I stopped off in Philadelphia to train him as he was getting ready for the World

Championships. So I did that as well as having my own classes here, in Toronto.
[In my classes, I] obviously [had] warm-ups and stretches about 15 or 20 minutes, and then started into teaching steps. The children who were able to pick it up a little bit faster than others, which happens everywhere and in every kind of sport, would progress that little bit faster. Not that anybody was being held back, but it was

easier to group the children into a sort of an advancement, rather than holding them back, because of some kids not being able to catch on to what was being taught. As a matter of fact, the class in the Catholic school was extremely good. The potential there was just absolutely phenomenal…the talent was wonderful. That’s a long time ago, I wouldn’t even remember their names at this point in time, I’m still going through a heck of a lot of kids at this point in time. I can hardly remember their names, but I do remember that the standard and the quality of dancing at that Catholic school was just absolutely wonderful. The talent that was there was just wonderful to work with.

One of the parents would have picked me up at the airport, and taken me to the school. From there another parent would have taken me to my other class in the evening, and from there someone would have driven me back to the airport to fly to Seattle, Washington. [In the evening],it was a different set of children, a different set of parents. The kids in the Catholic school came out when they finished their schooling for the day they were lined up outside by the sisters and just taken into the class. They stayed there until such time as the class was over. In the evening class, it was spread out more. I had the beginners in the first period, advanced beginners in the second period, and Novice and Prizewinner kids thereafter.

When asked about the number of students he had in Phoenix, Ron Plummer said:
I would say anywhere up to thirty, maybe forty in the evening class, after school, and possibly twentyfive to thirty in the other class. It may have been a bit more at one point in time, and it may have been a bit less at another point in time, but I would say about that. It obviously would have had to pay for me [to be able] to go in there.

Mr. Plummer talked about his extensive dancing background and the success of his school:
[As for] Myself, I won the All Ireland championship seven times, the Ulster championship, which is Northern Ireland, about nine times, and I won all of the majors. In regards to students I have trained, I think I have eight World Championships, and one All Ireland Champion, who is my son. At this point in time [my son] is holding both the All Ireland and the World, plus the Great Britains, the British Nationals, and he just won the North American Nationals this past weekend. [My dancing style] probably hasn’t changed since I started teaching. I’m from the north of Ireland originally, and my style would be Northern Irish style and still is... Probably more smooth, with a lot of footwork.

Anne Daugherty commented on Ron Plummer’s dancing style:
[Ron and Nora’s] light jigs were much the same, where instead of doing a jump or a cut or an out, they did a jump and a kick out, much like Mary McCormack did. So, it was a little bit more traditional in the style. When Ryan [Anne’s son] went to the McTeggart [School – after Ron Plummer], he had to learn the point up hop back 234. That was a difference. Ron’s reel had a lot of leg lifts, so he said that several people would say that his reel and his jig would look a lot alike. He said, ‘But, you know, the people that do all the cuts, their jigs and reels look a lot alike. Their jigs look like reels! My reels just look like jigs!’.

Charles Flint talked about the differences between his style and that of the boy who danced for Ron Plummer:
The only other boy that was my age was a Plummer. They had different leaps and a different style of how they would cut. I do remember that we had quite a difference. Overall, it was fairly the same, but the choreography was different.

Sharon Judd repeated a story told to her by a former Plummer dancer. 60

Meghan Murphy (née Svenonius-Lydon)... she told me once, ‘You know, I used to take Ron Plummer’s class in that very same hall’, and she said, ’The thing I remember about it is him always having to call me out from under the tables’. Because they have the tables set up in rows for lunch, and the little kids scatter under the tables, so you have to call them to come on back for their light jig... They still do that. It is like a clubhouse, [to] get under the tables.

Mr. Plummer remarked about the anecdote:
I think that [the hiding] was in the evening class. There were a number of boys especially, who would get a little bit boisterous. [This happened more] if the parents weren’t around, were outside, went out for a coffee, or whatever. Well, that’s kids being kids. Controlling it was not exactly difficult, but yeah, it probably did happen, kids hiding. That’s kids being kids. But that didn’t happen in the Catholic school, in the afternoon class. It was more controlled by some of the sisters. Making sure they didn’t come out when they weren’t supposed to come out, it was very controlled. I didn’t have to control very much of that, they did it. Believe me they did it... And very well, too!

Ron Plummer talked about the lack of competition in Arizona, and about the differences between Arizona and other locations:
[There was] not very much [access to competition] actually. The Phoenix competition would have been the major at that point in time for those kids. They were mostly beginner, advanced beginner, going into Novice. Seeing as I was only there for a couple of years, they wouldn’t have been up in the championship standard at that point in time, but I would have believed that they would have gone that far. Even though I would probably not remember them now, they were only little babies at the time. [It is nice to hear these things now…that they did go into championships]. [The feiseanna were] not much different from anywhere else actually, except that it was hot. Hot outdoors. It’s probably the same format everywhere, and still not much different than it was then, except that a lot of the competitions end up being held indoors because of the heat. Most of the competitions held around [Toronto] are in the summertime because it is easier for travel. Wintertime here is an awkward time for travel because of the snow and ice. In California, Arizona, and even Seattle, Washington, didn’t have as much of the bad weather in the wintertime, so they could have their competitions mostly year-round. Whereas here [in Canada], the summer season starts right around May and continues probably ‘til October. After that (October), they start to peter out because of the weather. [Incidentally, in Ireland] they usually do it opposite. Most of their competitions start maybe in August and go through to the beginning of the next summer. The teachers there, because school, closes down for the summer, and very little competitions go on in the summertime over there.

Anne Daugherty recalled Ron Plummer’ s sense of humor:
The feis, the first year that Ryan and Tommy danced for Ron [was funny]. Ryan had been told, ‘Never turn your back on the judge’. Well, his reel step went straight forward, turn you around, straight backwards. That’s turning your back on the judge! The poor kid... he gets up there, he goes straight forward, turns around, and he stops. He kind of shrugged his shoulders, walked back, turned back around, and started again. Straight forward, turns around, and he is going [back... lifts arms in frustration, sighs]. Walks back to the back of the stage, turns back around, and for the third time dances forward turns back around, and he finally [makes more exasperated gestures with hands]. Patricia Moriarty was the musician for that year, and she

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stood up, when that particular group was all done, turned around, looked at Ron, and said, ‘What’s this [shaking hands]?! Are you teaching Italian?’. Ron goes, ‘Yeah, I guess’. Ron Plummer was a hoot. He was a hoot. He never yelled at the kids, ever, and we were right there. We were right there in the same room because it was the big auditorium at St. Simon and Jude. He couldn’t really get rid of the parents. He’d shoo us off into the other end, but he couldn’t really get rid of us. We would go off to the other end and we would sit, and we would talk. He would have the kids all lined up, especially when they were learning a new step, or practicing for a feis. He would line them all up and the whole line had to do the step together, and they had to do it right, and they had to do it until they all did it right. He would stop them in the middle of it, and he would go, ‘No, it’s that one’s fault, okay, everybody, okay, stop! Wait! Do it again!’. And they would do it again, and when they would finally do it right, he would go, ‘Thank you, Lord!’. It was so cute... He always looked so sincere when he did that, and the kids were going, ‘Oh, he was praying? Oh, wow’. Of course, it didn’t help, or perhaps it did help, I don’t know, that they were dancing in the church... He was just a nice man. He had a good rapport with the kids. It just seemed like he did a good job. I was really kind of sad to see him go, because Ryan was [attached to him, good with him]... Ryan started off with Nora Pearse, and then when she left, she gave her school to Ron Plummer, and he danced with Ron Plummer [an then he] went to McTeggart.

Mr. Plummer described his costumes:
They were white dresses with hand embroidery, and red satin shawl. It was the same costume I had in California at the time.

Margaret McNulty remembered the bright white Plummer costumes:
You had to be really careful [to not mess up Ron Plummer’s dresses].

Mr. Plummer also spoke about the likelihood that dancers from his different classes would not necessarily have met each other:
They probably would have met in competition if they did travel. I would say the kids from Phoenix didn’t do a lot of traveling at that particular time. More so the kids from California would have come to the Phoenix Feis, and in that instance they would have gotten together and not known each other but known each other by costume.

Janet Corcoran talked about some of the frustrations that people had with the lack of a permanent teacher who lived in the area:
[With] Ron Plummer, it was almost like he was always in a hurry. He would hurry into town, get the dance over, and hurry to get his plane that night. I think he relied on the kids’ practice. Of course, all of them relied on the kids’ practice. They always say you have to practice a half hour a day. Well, that’s impossible!

Fiona McNulty was an assistant teacher for Ron Plummer.
Fiona- [Ron Plummer] was a little more strict I think. Margaret- But you wound up teaching for him, didn’t you, on the days when he couldn’t come in.

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Fiona- Yeah, because he was coming in from California... He started coming in every other week. and the weeks that he didn’t come in, I would teach for him. He had close to 30 kids... Kids wanted to run around. Margaret- His temperament varied from week to week. Fiona- He was pretty decent. He wasn’t, like, yelling all the time or anything like that. He was strict, and he expected us to know our stuff. Margaret- He was always threatening to tie your hands together in the back if you didn’t keep your arms straight! Fiona- Yeah, he would say things like that, but I don’t think it was in a nasty way. Margaret- No, he was never nasty. He was sarcastic. But he was always nice, wasn’t he?

Eventually, Ron Plummer handed over his classes.
I was in there for a couple of years, and I gave the class over to another teacher from the Los Angeles area, Doireann Maoileidigh.

Years later, Mr. Plummer happened to meet some of his old students in a feis on the east coast.
As a matter of fact I met them [the McNultys] about five years ago, I believe in Washington, at a feis where I was judging. They just happened to be visiting there at the time. [They] didn’t realize the feis was on, or they would have competed, but they did hear about it and dropped in, and, funny enough, I was judging, so that was quite a surprise, to see them after such a long time.

When Nora Pearse left, as previously stated, she encouraged many students to go take lessons with a new teacher on the west coast, Doireann Maoileidigh, ADCRG. Peg Cunningham remembered:
She got word that Doireann was coming here, to town, and she didn’t know Doireann, in the way that she worded it in the letter. When we got back from vacation, we got a letter. Nora was already gone. And in the letter she said that she had heard that this Maoileidigh school was very good, that the teacher was very good, to give it a try. She suggested that we go to class with each school, and decide for ourselves, what we wanted to do.

Doireann Hoy née Maoileidigh taught in the Phoenix area throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. Out of her school came new institutions, including the Feis in the Desert. She also produced a number of championship dancers, including Sarah McNulty, who had danced with other teachers but eventually qualified for the Worlds with Doireann. Doireann said:
I came out [to North America] in 1985 all by myself. I started teaching in Los Angeles, and after about four years, Suzanne Houghtelin was moving to Phoenix, and her dilemma was, she didn’t have a dance teacher for Sarah to continue with. At the same time, Nora Pearse was leaving Phoenix, and it just so happened that I was moving in about the same time. It was a good coincidence. She moved to Pennsylvania, I believe, and I took over most of her kids.

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I started up in Winnipeg, and I did three months there, but after the second day I told them that I couldn’t handle that place and I was out of there.

Heather Stewart recalled Doireann’s first day teaching in Phoenix:
It was funny…it was at St Bridget’s church in Mesa, and we were all like ‘Yeah, yeah, a teacher from Ireland’, you know? We all sat in a bunch, Mary Cunningham and all those people, and we were all nervous, because Doireann had stepped in the church. She said, ‘Ok, now, we’re having tryouts today! I’m going to have you do your reel, and [the other dances], and if you try out, and it works out, you can stay, if not, you can go home’, and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh!’. So we went up there, and Mary and I thought, ‘We know how to dance, we’ll be fine’, and we got up there, and we danced, and she was just like, ‘Oh, wonderful, wonderful!’. So it wasn’t a hard transition at all. It was cool. It was exciting to have a teacher from Ireland. I asked her years later, why she did it, and she just said ‘I was so nervous, I was just thinking of something to do!’.

Peg Cunningham remembered the first class as one of the rare but special occasions in which she was able to see Doireann seriously dance:
The kids made her dance, because the kids never saw her before. The kids said to her, because they had always seen Nora dance. Nora always danced in performances, she was always part of it, and they wanted to see her dance. Doireann was very shy. She reluctantly danced for everybody, and of course, her dancing was exquisite.

Peg Cunningham (who is not related to the Cunninghams in this quote), also remembered the first location, and its significance:
The church that Father [John] Cunningham has out in Mesa– that’s where she gave the dance lessons first.

Doireann recalled the transition that the kids made, and the ways that she adapted her teaching for the transferring students:
I think they adapted very well [after coming from Nora’s classes]. They had been trained very well, so they didn’t find it hard at all. The styles were very similar. I suppose they had been dancing for a few years. I think they were so willing to learn that they took the corrections and worked with the corrections. I didn’t find that Nora did anything peculiar. Initially, I did solos. I focused on the hardshoe [for the kids who had been with Nora], because that was the part that needed the most reining in.

Doireann Maoileidigh Hoy spoke of her training and extensive achievements as a dancer:
My dad had a big school in Ireland [Inis Ealga was a longstanding and prestigious school in Dublin]. We [she and her sisters] all started when we were about 3 or 4, and then when we were about 8, we would go down to the class to help. That wasn’t just a matter of him putting us in the car and driving, it was a matter of 8 year olds crossing a very busy street, standing for hours for a bus, riding a bus for an hour into the city

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center, getting off the bus in the city center, and then walking for about 15 minutes through downtown Dublin to the dance class. It was big deal. We did that from the time we were 8, and then in 1985, I took off. My twin sister was already in Texas. We did the first World Championships, and we have been doing World Championships ever since. We were on the winning teams for the first 10 or 11 years. Life was Irish dancing. If we wanted to eat dinner, we did Irish dancing. So we have grown up with it. [I] did solo, figure, ceílí, and dance drama [in the Worlds].

Peg Cunningham compared the styles of the schools:
I know Doireann’s steps were more mixed with ballet, and Doireann used to say that they were more ladylike, in some ways, where Nora’s were strictly traditional, from back east. The McTeggarts were very traditional, too. Doireann’s steps were different. You could see it was a different style. Suzanne Houghtelin would speak for her and said it was a more ladylike style. After about a year you could see the difference. When my girls were competing in California they were just moving up very fast. I could see that Doireann was a very good teacher. So was Nora, but Nora really wasn’t interested in competitions. That really wasn’t what she wanted to do. They did pretty good with Nora, too, for what they were doing, but she wasn’t an accredited teacher. She did not have that license. Initially, she got the bulk of her students from the Pearse school. She started to draw students because she was a very good teacher. People would see the kids out dancing. The costumes were pretty, too. Kids liked them. They were pretty. I would say she had the largest school here. At one time it used to be

McTeggart had the largest school, and then Pat kinda gave it all up after a while. Peg Cunningham also talked about the very positive reception that this style found:
She mixed it. She did everything. She did solos, and they really worked hard when it was time for a competition. She would put her heart and soul into it, and really expect the best by them. Her figure dancing was pretty good. The children competed against good schools and did very well with it. They got to use it a lot, because they were always out performing– not just nursing homes, but other places. Country clubs and whatnot. She built up a nice reputation; People always wanted her school back.

Carrie Haney remembered one thing about Doireann Hoy that had always amazed her:
The one thing that amazed me about [Doireann] was that she was solid muscle!

Doireann spoke of the difficulties of being a ‘traveling dancing master,’ but also the reasons why she continued to do the work for so long:
It was very difficult financially, because I had to buy airline tickets months in advance. When I started going, they were 19 dollars each way, which was a great deal, but then, after a couple of years, they went up to around 120 dollars, one way, each week. It was very difficult because I was so tired. Every Friday, it took me all day to get there, and then I would get back in my car at two in the morning, and get home, and get up the next day to do more classes. But the

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kids were always worth it. Every single child, and every single adult, in Phoenix was just wonderful. That’s why I did it for seven years.

Doireann also talked about her efforts to include the Phoenix students in a more unified school:
I made a point to [integrate the teams] because I wanted you to get to know all the kids in California. I do know now that there have been lifelong friendships made because of it. I also wanted you [Phoenix students] to feel that you were a part of the school. I never wanted you to feel that you were just the Phoenix section, because you were as important, if not more important than all of the kids in the Los Angeles school. We did the exact same material, the exact same steps [in all locations].

Brandy Johnson, a Maoileidigh dancer, remembered dancing with other children from the school:
In California, the Martin family. My two hand partner for the first several years was Patrick Martin.

Peg Cunningham talked about the connections her daughters made with students from other branches of the school, and beyond:
It seemed we had a core. We were almost like a cult. It was so much fun to go to travel all together and to go to the [feiseanna] in California. There was a group of us that would all go. We knew these other people in California that we were friends with. We stayed in some of their houses. It just was a special thing. In fact, Mary [Cunningham] used to correspond with kids in California. She had pen pals in California. The kids got to know these other kids in other schools there. And not just the Maoileidigh school; she corresponded with a kid in the Kennelly school, and then one of the kids in the Maoileidigh school.

Doireann remembered that she always tried to make sure the children had a good time in class:
They always had a good time at the class, because I made sure they enjoyed what they were doing. I have come across a couple of kids who I did find were forced, and I have worked and worked with them, and I have had a couple who have left, but didn’t know if they wanted to leave or not, because they were having such a good time, and learning so much, and having fun doing it. Yet, their little stubborn natures were saying, ‘well, I’m going to show my dad or my mom that they’re wrong’.... I’ve found that too.

Brandy Johnson talked about the structure of Doireann’ s classes:
[Doireann’s classes were] pretty structured. Every week we did the same set of exercises and warm-ups. Then we would go through our dances and then maybe learn a new step at the end. I remember them being very similar each week. She had a [set] plan, which I think changed a lot when Tom came in. I remember her laughing a lot, she had a good sense of humor about everything. She was very rarely in a bad mood. Sometimes she was, but it was just very rare. She would just fly in and fly out, the same night, after dance class. That was so weird for me, that she would do that for us. I thought she was really well rounded. I don’t think there was one area that she liked to focus on [more than others]. I think she was pretty good at all the kinds, like hard shoe and soft shoe and figures and choreography. I thought she was a really well rounded teacher. I thought she was really hands on. She danced with us, to show us a step. She always had her hard shoes or soft shoes on with us.

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Chris Locke talked about Doireann Hoy’s teaching style:
I remember Doireann being serious but encouraging. She didn’t get angry very often, but she tended to be the most directive with students who she thought had the most potential, if they weren’t paying attention in class. She was fairly strict in class. When we first started it was a really odd combination of adult and advanced classes so we were in the same class as dancers like Sarah McNulty who went to Worlds. The two that she got most impatient with occasionally were Lauren Oriciulo and Anne Marie McNulty because they were younger for the class and their attention-span was appropriate for their age. They weren’t always paying attention but they were such good dancers that they needed to be in the advanced class. I occasionally felt a little sorry for them but I don’t think they minded. The combined class was particularly odd when I look back on it. [However], Doireann never made the beginner adults feel that we were doing poorly despite the fact that we were pretty awful. I remember Doireann as being very quiet but as having a very dry sense of humor. I sometimes picked her up from the airport or took her back at the end of the night. I had the pleasure of being able to talk with her a little more and learn more about her. As for her sense of humor, one thing she said about coming to Los Angeles was that she got sort of started around to go to different places and she got to Los Angeles and all her clothes dried easily and so she decided to stay there…This obviously not the whole story but it was certainly true. She also recalled how her pronunciation or the letter ‘r’ as ‘or’ sometimes caused confusion. She said that she wondered for a time why they would name a store “Toys ‘or’ Us”. Eventually, there were times when it was just an adult class. I think the adult class kind of eventually got to be a later class. I think there weren’t very many adults when we started. There never were a lot of adults, but there was at least a larger group for a while. She always remembered and commented on whether you had practiced or not. She would also let you know what your faults were in a diplomatic way. For example, at one point she told me that I was a great dancer if I could ever get in time with the music. I couldn’t really hear it in the soft shoes, so that remark made me go home and practice my soft shoe dances in my hard shoes to hear the sounds.

Inevitably, there were problems with having a school so far away from home. Heather Stewart remembered the difficulty Doireann had getting her students to practice as much as she would have liked:
In Phoenix, we only had her once a week. We didn’t have the drilling, constantly. We couldn’t understand why the California kids were better than us. We didn’t understand the practicing. Doireann would come in and say, ‘You have to practice, I can’t do this for you’. We would go into our garages at night [and practice], but we didn’t understand the [need for] drilling.

Doireann talked about these problems in greater detail:
I just felt that the Phoenix kids, because I didn’t live there, were inclined to use the fact that I didn’t live there as an excuse not to practice. [They thought], ‘Well, she’s not here, so we can’t practice, or, she’s not here, so it doesn’t apply to us’. Here, even if I did live in Huntington Beach and the kids were up in San Pedro, the fact that we were in the same area... It never crossed their minds to think that way at all. Because I was only in once a week, because that was the most I could get in [the kids didn’t progress as quickly]. I always wished I could get in more. That’s why I eventually got another teacher (Tom Bracken) in.

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I got the best teacher I knew, available, who happened to be emigrating, which was so good at the time. He was able to do as many classes as people were able to get to. That was my wish, that the kids had as good a teacher [as possible] come in and take over. There were some kids who despite the fact that they only saw me once a week, still improved [dramatically]. They were wonderful. With Phoenix being so far away, again, logistics has a lot to do with it. I know most of the parents tried to get their kids to as many [feiseanna] as they could. But I know, having said that, that that a lot of my parents here in Los Angeles travel an awful lot to San Francisco, and Tucson, and Phoenix, and San Diego, to get their kids to [feiseanna], so it is a lot to do with the effort the parents put out, too. It wasn’t that there was a lack of [feiseanna] [on the west coast]. There were plenty of [feiseanna]. It was just that [some of] the parents weren’t ready to drive their kids all over [the western United States]. Most of them wanted to be involved, but not that involved.

Patricia Prior talked about the practicing that her daughter Dara did:
When it was coming up to [feiseanna] [they would get together]. Dara, Heather McElligott, Heather Stewart, and Sarah McNulty got together a few times before a feis, but not often enough, not enough to be constant. Sarah lived over in North Phoenix, so if they wanted to practice, and if everyone was available, it took us an hour to get there. That was a long drive for the kids to get together just to do a few practices before a feis.

Probably because of the fact that Doireann usually only saw her dancers one day a week, they progressed more slowly than later, when there were consistent classes in the area. Sally and Laura Donohue also talked about this:
Sally- This was [Laura’s] first feis in Tucson, and she got an itty-bitty trophy for second place. We were all night in Tucson, overnight, motel, full bit, and all she danced was the reel. Thirty seconds and it was over with. We had no clue what was going on. This was still 1989. Laura- So almost a full year, and I still hadn’t learned a light jig. Doireann was a [relatively] slow teacher[in the number of new dances presented at the same time]. Sally- Well, she was. That’s why I was amazed at how fast Tom [Bracken] was pumping out dances to people.

Peg Cunningham remembered an amusing occasion when one of Doireann’s siblings came and helped teach the class:
I remember when she got married, her brother Owen came and taught the classes, and the girls were all in love with him. He was this good looking young man, and the teenagers were all gaga over him. One girl kept looking down, and he said, ‘Are you looking at the ‘doost’, are you looking at the ‘doost’?’

Chris Locke remembered when another Maoileidigh sibling came on a consistent basis to help the adults before the Oireachtas:
Eimer worked with the adult group that went to the Oireachtas when it came to Phoenix. She was really strict for that period of time…She could have had a whip in her hand and needed one to get the 8 of us to do

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the dance as perfectly as we could manage. We understood that this was good but we knew we needed to be awake for those sessions. For the Oireachtas, we probably practiced about three times a week for at least a couple of hours. We would line up in rows and we would practice 1-2-3s until we were all doing it the same, and we would practice having turns with a partner, to all do it the same. We probably practiced for a good three months, twice a week. Eimer would come in about once a week, and it was very, very structured. We practiced all the movements individually and then the whole thing together and all the timing. Other schools that we knew would be competing had adults who always danced and [feiseanna] and you knew they practiced. We were pretty “hit and miss” and sometimes downright embarrassing. But, Suzanne Houghtelin rounded up a group because being in the Oireachtas was one of her personal goals. Luckily, for everyone, we placed quite well.

Heather McElligott née Sparks also helped Doireann teach, especially near the end of the school’s time in Arizona. Chris Locke remembered:
Sometimes Heather would teach the class. I think that sometimes she taught it when Doireann wasn’t there or when Doireann was working with another group. Every teacher was different at pointing out and focusing on different things. What I remember about Heather is that she was very good at focusing on having your toes out and pointed down. Since it was not her school, she was not teaching her own step to us, but she was really good at looking at the form of your feet and different things.

Sally Donohue remembered a sweet feis story from this period:
MacAloon… Michael. He was so cute. Do you remember the time that he was dancing and he had a little clip on type tie, and he was dancing away, he looked back, and something had happened, he was still trying to dance, but his tie was gone. He was trying not to step on it, he was looking around, as to where it was, but he was dancing away. The judge was cracking up, the whole audience was rolling in the aisles, and the tie had disappeared. It was nowhere. He was sure he was going to dance over it and kill himself, but it had disappeared. So everybody’s laughing, and he finally stopped. It had gone down in his jacket. Only to Michael MacAloon could something like that happen.

Brandy Johnson talked about what the feis experience was like for her:
I was really competitive all the way through, until my last years of dancing, and then I cut back a bit. I remember going to every single competition, dancing in every single dance we could possibly dance in. With Doireann we did a lot of figures, which I enjoy. That has always been my favorite. I remember my mom and my grandma always being there, sitting in the front row. I remember getting really, really nervous. I would always get a stomach ache right before I danced. I remember doing my hair. That was always the worst part for me. I hated that. I think mainly it was me getting really nervous, but I liked them. Our parents would chase us and freak out about our hair and our dresses being dirty. I remember going and looking at the trophies before [the slip jig specials]. Oh, I really wanted that trophy.

Chris Locke talked about the expense of Irish dancing:

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I think that the dresses have become a lot more expensive, but I think that the whole process was always expensive for anyone who actually participated enough to advance in competition. I think it actually cost more, earlier, to be successful because most of the dancers from Arizona who advance in dancing spent an awful lot of time going to California. Because there were an awful lot of times where there were not enough dancers and the competition wasn’t that great in Arizona. It was a lifestyle. I’m not sure that, except for the dresses, the rest is any more expensive than it used to be as a proportion of total income. Certainly Arizona had less people going to really high levels, and I know that individuals maybe sought support from the community. I remember that Sarah McNulty sold Tupperware to raise money to go to Worlds. She was surprised, I think, when we just gave her some money rather than buying the Tupperware. I always figured that she actually made more if I just gave her some money, and I didn’t need anymore Tupperware but we wanted to support her as a symbol of ‘our’ school.

Sally and Laura Donohue had a conversation about the influence of dancers who came from other places (in particular, the east coast), and the differences in skill level:
Sally- Lauren (Orcioulo) moved here from New Jersey, and started with Doireann. Laura- And she already knew all the fancy trebles, and the twists. Sally- She really kind of blew their minds when she first came. Laura- None of us had done anything remotely like that. We might have had like one twist, but it didn’t look like a twist. She was going all over the place, rocking. Everything looked nice.

Although Doireann did have rules about costumes, sometimes the expectations that the Phoenix dancers had for themselves seemed a little bit looser. This was probably reinforced by the fact that all of the dresses and most of the accessories were homemade. Sally Donohue talked about this, and also about her lack of knowledge of Irish dancing customs as a new “feis mom.”:
[One girl had a dress where] the birds were embroidered facing towards each other, which seemed sensible enough, but they weren’t supposed to be facing towards each other. She wore it [in competitions and shows]. There weren’t specific rules. I didn’t even know that we were supposed to put in curls in, and in those first few pictures she didn’t have curls, I didn’t know anything about curls. Then when they said curls, I put them in, but I put them the way I liked them. She sometimes had them and sometimes she didn’t, but, when she did, sometimes we had little hair barrettes all over the place, and everything. It was a while before they settled on specific rules.

At one point, select Phoenix Maoileidighs even danced on “Murder She Wrote”, a popular TV show with California dancers from the Maoileidigh School. Their little group was called the “Ballynoe Tripsters.” Near the end of the 1980s, Sharon Judd and some other experienced adult dancers decided to form an educational group which taught the basic ideas behind Irish step dancing to school children. 70

I had taught workshops in schools - I think that was 1989, 1990, something like that. I had auditioned the Phoenix Irish Step Dancers onto the Arts Commission Roster. When we did that [the group included] Judy [Thom] and I, my brother Patrick, and Suzanne Houghtelin. We did that because I was on the Arts Commission Roster with other dance companies that I was with, so I got a copy of all the artists that were on the state roster, and there were no Irish dancers in it. It’s not something a dance school is going to do, because you have to be available during the week, during the day to go out and do residencies with the school district. So we all checked with Doireann and Mary, and we all got together and auditioned. You have re-audition every few years, and we are still roster artists. The thing is the schools or the communities file the grants through the Commission, so only so many grants are approved. It is all contingent on that. We do several things a year, but they aren’t all full fledged residencies... Other times we just go out and do back to back assemblies/lecture demos, and then sometimes you do a community residency, where you go up into a community and you are traveling around to different schools, where sometimes you do performances, and sometimes you do lecture-demos, and sometimes you do a workshop. Those usually culminate with a community performance at the end.

In the early 1990s, it was decided that Phoenix needed another feis. Peg Cunningham recounted:
We started going to California, to all these [feiseanna], and we began to think, we should have another feis here, in Phoenix. It kind of started that way. We felt like one wasn’t enough in Phoenix. We should have another one. Eireen Mackoway [who had two girls in the Maoileidigh school] did a lot of the organizing. Later, after her (she moved away; she got it started), Stephanie (Svenonius) Murphy and Karen Masterson, really did everything. They were wonderful at keeping it together, really holding it in there. Pat Prior was one of the original people that were in it [as well as] Margaret McNulty. We had a garage sale [for seed money], that’s one of the things we did. Margaret came up with that idea, and we had it at Stephanie’s house. We all donated all kinds of stuff, and it was very successful; it did raise a fair amount of money, to help start it.

Patricia Prior recalled:
The three of them got together and decided to do a beginner feis. I remember that I was not in favor of it, because [I thought] it would have taken away from the Phoenix Feis. The Phoenix Feis was just getting going at the time. But then, after a while of seeing and meeting everyone, I realized that we needed the competition of two [feiseanna]. Then the Tucson Feis was being started at the time. But then the kids would have three [feiseanna] in the state to compete. The families that couldn’t afford to go to California would have a chance at competition. That was it. Basically the first two years, it was a beginner special, it was not a regular feis. It took two years to get the dates through [the North American Feis Commission]. We all got involved. The first one that was registered was 1991. The first beginner one was 1989.

Sally Donohue remembered the main mothers who ran the feis.
Eileen MacAloon kind of ran it for a few years, and then Stephanie Murphy. [Eileen] MacAloon [eventually] moved to Texas.

Peg Cunningham recalled that, in the beginning, there were some problems keeping the feis going: 71

One year it was so bad, Doireann cancelled it like [the] week before the feis. She cancelled it just days before, because there was such a low amount of entrants. It was the only time it was ever cancelled. It was the only time any feis in Arizona, that I ever heard of, was cancelled.

However, despite its troubles, Doireann commented on the strength of the Irish community in Phoenix:
Definitely, there’s a very good Irish society out there. The whole Irish population out there seemed to be very close. They all knew each other, and they’d meet for picnics, and I was forever hearing about the Phoenix picnics, and always wanted to go to one of the Phoenix picnics, but never had time.

Patricia Prior also remembered the picnics.
The Irish foundation would have [the picnics], and they have been having them for years and years. They were April and mid-October.

Chris Locke talked about the kinds of changes that she saw the feis world go through:
I think that they have gotten a lot less community oriented [in Phoenix]. I think that the Phoenix Feis, for example, used to actually be a time when a lot of the Irish community groups would get together just to be together. Of course, I think there is a lot less beer drunk at the [feiseanna] than there used to be, because there was always a beer stand, which may be good or bad. There is a lot more attention paid to the state of the stage or the floor for example. Perhaps that has something to do with the danger level of the steps. It seems a lot easier to slip now. Also, a feis committee didn’t necessarily think about liability a few years ago. When I think about the floors, like the stage up high at the Phoenix Feis, it could have been pretty dangerous. There were also fewer rules about using things that would help make individual dancers a lot less slippery. You could put some things on the floor and now there are more specific rules. One of the big changes is that all of the awards used to be given in groups, and I think that actually awards were given more freely. Now I think that most [feiseanna] award pretty heavily the very, very beginning students but not so much the older. When everyone used to be called up, it seemed like more people got something. One of the big down sides [of a small feis] was that there weren’t always enough students to advance. My experience is limited to west coast [feiseanna], but I even remember going to the Gold Coast Feis, which is a fairly large one, and there would only be two or three competitors [in some competitions]. People seemed to always calculate scores right but there wasn’t as much pressure to be professional – partly because computer knowledge has increased a lot. For a long time basically two people ran the Feis in the Desert, Stephanie Svenonius and Karen Masterson. They basically were the Feis in the Desert. One of the things about the Feis in the Desert was that it always ran on time. It has always been an object of pride for the Feis in the Desert. They would lose their reputation if they didn’t run on time.

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Chapter Six The Beginnings of the Bracken and McElligott Schools & Continuation of the McTeggart School: The Mid to Late 1990s
The 1990s was the first decade that Arizona saw teachers who were not only fully certified but consistently living in the area. Tom Bracken, TCRG, ADCRG, born in Ireland and moved into the area to live and taught classes throughout the week in Arizona. Heather McElligott Sparks, TCRG, was the first person to learn Irish dancing in Arizona and then become a fully certified teacher, which was an important milestone for dancing in the area. Rosemary Browne, M.D., TCRG, did not learn Irish dancing in Arizona, but she lives in Tucson full time and passed her exam while living in the State. Brandy Johnson talked about what it was like in the period when Doireann was stopping her classes in the area:
I remember that there was a period of time when... Doireann would come like once every four to six weeks, and Heather would be teaching the class. That was always kind of confusing. They were kind of, we never really knew what was going on, I think they were kind of secretive when Heather was teaching. But then I remember really distinctly the time when Tom came in for the first time, and Tom and Doireann and Heather were all there, and Doireann introduced Tom. I remember, the very first week, I know I didn’t like him, and I don’t think anyone else did, either. Not so much that they didn’t like him, but they just wanted Doireann to stay, because we were accustomed to her, and liked her a lot. I remember thinking a lot of things like not wanting to change my dress. I liked my dress. I remember not wanting to be taught by a man. I thought Doireann was a lot more maternal, more comforting. I remember being really mean, just the first week, I think that was common among everyone. I remember thinking his accent was really funny... And then, I remember the next week when it was just him. He watched me dance, and then he said something really nice about me, about my dancing, he said I was really good, or he asked me to help him, with the littler kids. He was really sweet. By the second week, I totally loved him. I thought he was just the greatest. I think everyone else was still not cool with him yet. I think it took a lot of people a long time to get accustomed to him, and I think some people just never did, and those are the ones who quit, or started their own school, or went other places, or whatever... I’m totally happy with how things worked out between the schools. I think it is cool that Heather started her own school... I’m really happy that Doireann is happy now. She has a family, and I think that is really cool. I love Tom, so I think it all worked out nicely. I think it is kind of unfortunate that some people just didn’t like him, or missed Doireann so much that they just couldn’t stay.

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Patricia Prior thought that Tom Bracken’s and Doireann Maoileidigh’s styles were fairly similar.
I would say that there was a similar style of teaching [between Tom and Doireann], but that was because both of them were taught by the same person.

Brandy Johnson talked about the differences between Tom Bracken’s and Doireann Maoileidigh’s styles:
I think [Tom] and Doireann just had very different teaching styles, I remember that being very confusing to me. He was a lot less explicit about his instructions. He would say things were right. It was hard for him to explain why. He was more of a visual or performative person, and I think Doireann was more verbal. She could say the steps out, and I could say them in my head, and then it would work out... He would always just do them. He is a lot less structured. We never knew what we were going to do when [he got in a creative mood].

Chris Locke also compared the styles:
Doireann’s dancing was always very strong in terms of the amount of strength it took but it focused more on slower movements that were just as hard but in a different sense. Tom seems to focus more on fast movements... Tom is a very intense person [for whom] every performance is [extremely] important, and I think Doireann is more relaxed. If you [don’t] pay attention, Tom might make a remark to someone else and wonder why you need consistent direction, but Doireann would be very direct and tell you what to do. Tom is a disciplinarian but he is a disciplinarian by what he says and the feelings he expresses. Doireann was a disciplinarian simply because she was such a quiet and serious person.

Tom Bracken is a three-time All-Ireland champion. He taught both Irish dancing and in academic schools in England prior to moving to Phoenix. His school has had over twenty major placements in the World Championships, including first and second place solo winners Emma King (1997) and Michael Cusack (1995). He danced with Inis Ealga, alongside Doireann Maoileidigh Hoy. Rosemary Browne talked about Tom Bracken’s skill as a teacher:
And, actually, I had no clue how fabulous Tom was; I was just like, ‘You can come in [more than] once a month, makes sense to me!’. And I had no idea how great he was, until I walked in on the class, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, who is this guy?’, and I started calling around, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, how did we get him in Arizona?’. It was like, ‘Wow, this is great!’.

Margaret Hyland Cunningham talked about Tom Bracken’s choreographic abilities:
Bracken is a choreographer, and that is what makes him so special, plus, musically, he is absolutely right on correct.

Chris Locke also talked about Tom’s particular abilities: 74

I think he likes the challenge of individualizing and taking from each modern style to include in his dances. He would develop a whole new set of steps for dancers when you were past the beginner level. You were never quite sure that the steps would be the same if you missed a week or two. I think that has created flexibility in his advanced dancers and an ability to pick up new steps quickly.

Rosemary Browne also talked about what it was like starting the Bracken School in Tucson:
It was hard getting started... Our shows at the beginning when no one could dance, they weren’t that great, but you have to start somewhere... But it was actually really fun getting started, too. It was exciting getting something off the ground.

Carrie Haney competed for Tom Bracken when his school was new:
I stayed with Bracken when he first took over Maoileidigh, because I was thinking that I wanted to compete more, and that I wanted to see his style. That was a really fun experience because there was such a change in terminology, compared to Doireann. He would say treble, and she would say rally, and, oh, it was so different! I caught on to his steps well, and actually helped some of the other girls, who were more advanced than me, catch on to his steps. I was able to pick up by watching easier, and the terminology barrier didn’t affect me so much as other people. It was really cute, because they would come up to me and say, ‘Carrie, translate!’. They would get so frustrated. Eventually, we got past that, and he started teaching us that 12-hand, and that was really fun and brought us together. He started teaching us some 8-hands that we had never done before.

Marc and Karl Callaghan were Tom’s first Arizonan qualifiers for the Worlds, as well as his first Arizonans to win the Oireachtas. Brandy Johnson remembers that they became very good dancers extremely quickly. This pattern would later be repeated in some of Tom’s other dancers.
[The Callaghans] were in and out [of Arizona after they moved to California] within a very short period of time, and they got good really quick, which I think is a testament to Tom... With the Callaghan boys, Tom was the only teacher they ever had, and he focused a lot on them, and spent a lot of time with them. They got good really fast. I think it showed how dedicated Tom was and what a good teacher he was. They were really shy, I think, but they were cool, they were both cool kids. They were very competitive. They wanted to win everything, and winning was never as important to me.

Julian Gladysiewski talked about seeing Lord of the Dance on PBS, and wanting to start Irish dancing. Obviously he wasn’t alone. Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, and their exposure were probably the single biggest factors in the growth of global Irish dancing.
I saw Lord of the Dance on Channel eight, one night, and I asked my mom what kind of dance it was and she said ‘Irish’. I said I wanted to do it, and she looked at me like I was an alien. It was interesting. It looked like it would be fun, but I knew it would be hard work, but it looked like it would be something that would be a lot of fun. Plus, it would keep me active because I really didn’t enjoy regular sports like football and baseball. [I had never done any other kind of dance and dance had never interested me before].

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Elizabeth Moore also commented on the changes that Riverdance has made for dancers:
So now people, with Riverdance coming out, they come to feiseanna thinking, ‘oh, my kid could be famous now, because they can be in Riverdance’. Before Lord of the Dance, and Riverdance, it was more that you danced because you wanted to. I mean, there was no future payoff, except for going to Worlds or going to Nationals. Now it’s ‘you can be in Lord of the Dance or Spirit of the Dance or Riverdance, or any of the other dance, dance, dance’.

Asa Markel talks about the changes he has perceived since Riverdance, including the continuation of linking of British Isles cultures with Irish cultures, and the depoliticization of Irish dancing culture [which probably also relates to a rule made by the North American Feis Commission, prohibiting political tables at feiseanna:
There has been such a massive explosion right now [of Celtic culture] because of Riverdance and all that. [Scottish and Irish people] seem to get along. I remember that I went to one of my first big full concerts. It was Mick Maloney and some other pretty famous guys. They said, ‘We are going to tell some jokes.’ I think we were in Centennial Hall or something, it was packed out. They were like, ‘Are there any Scottish people in the room?’ Like half of the place raised their arms, and they said, ‘Well, we are going to tell these jokes anyway.’ And that is just kind of the way it is, at least with the older people. I think the media definitely portrays this sort of Leprechauns and stuff on the one hand, and kilts on the other… I think that Scottish people are much more frugal and tight-lipped, and I think that people seem to sort of play that up. The full concert, you will probably find both crowds there. Pat [Hall] used to teach, well, she didn’t teach but she judged both styles of dancing actually. There was a girl who came before me and she did both styles of dancing, which they say is sort of dangerous because Scottish dancing is more [like] ballet, so your knees are turned out more, so it is kind of a problem. But, apparently she did okay, so apparently it is possible. You go to Celtic festivals, everywhere, and it is always both Scottish and Irish people. There is nothing really exciting about being Welsh, I guess. People don’t really get too into it. No one would really have an ethnic festival about being English, really, unless you were in the north of England. Before Riverdance, I suppose dancing was a lot more purist. I suppose that was because it was mostly big families, really big Catholic families. And there was even a guy in the corner that would sell the [Irish Declaration of Independence, 1919] that Pearse read out on the steps of the post office. And they don’t really have that stuff anymore because I don’t think that anybody really cares, because maybe half of the people there really consider themselves Irish. I remember in Flagstaff, three years ago probably, there was a Celtic festival going on up there and all these dancers were up and this old couple was walking down the street and the guy was talking about ever since Riverdance you can’t get away from these damn Riverdancers, but [before Riverdance] people really had no idea what was going on. I remember on St. Pat’s you would go to some people’s houses, like really rich people in the Foothills, and they would have people from the Seven Piper’s Society and they would demand that the Irish dancers dance with the bagpipers and stuff and thought that would be fitting. I thought that was ok but the girls complained bitterly because pipers are not very good at keeping time. But it was alright. I thought it was cool, but I was the most Scottish of anyone so I guess I didn’t mind so much, but...

Fran Rogan remembered a story from a particular Tucson Feis that was of relevance to the Riverdance topic: 76

I think it was probably our second feis that we had this little girl from... this little red-haired girl from New York who just won everything. [That was Jean Butler]... The only thing that stands out in my mind is, did you ever hear of [Mr.] Heenan? The year Jean Butler danced here, he was president of the Irish club at that time, and he was presenting her with a trophy and he was so nervous. He had to walk up the steps and [he fell on the steps, and fell at her feet]. And years later [he said], ‘I was at that girl’s feet when she was 15.’

Leisl Shaughnessy von dem Bussche remarked about how much Irish dancing has changed in Arizona even since the 1980s, when she danced:
I think now watching the dancing that it is a lot more showy, I think it is more Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. There are things that I have never seen. I had been out of Irish dancing forever, and just went to the McElligott Feis not too long ago, just to kind of see what was going on, and Michael Smith was judging... It was a whole new ball game. I didn’t recognize half of what they were doing... Back when I did it, fancy was when you did rocks, and kind of the scissor type moves, and that was about what we did, but these kids at the feis were doing these kind of jump splits in the air where they were doing all this crazy stuff.. We never did any of that.

Donna Gladysiewski talked about her experience when Julian was starting Irish dancing:
We used to stand outside [Dara’s classes] as parents because we could see through the two way glass, all these moms and dads standing , saying, ‘oh, look, she’s so cute, look she’s dong such a good job, look that one’s doing such a nice job’, and Meghan Day, everyone adored Meghan Day, we would always say, ‘Now isn’t she adorable, she’s just like this little spring’, because she really, really was beautiful, and then they would say, ‘Aww, look at that little boy, he’s trying so hard!’. And I would be like, ‘Ooh, that one’s mine...’ He was so pitiful, he was terrible. His first class he wore little high top sneakers, too.

Brandy Johnson talked about performing in the Bracken School:
The very first St. Patrick’s Day that Tom was here, or maybe the second, we rented big vans, and then on St. Patrick’s day we drove all over the Valley. We just went to about six different shows. I always felt like we were really impressive... I remember people always thought we were the best. I think Adele’s [Adele Prior’s skirt came untied] one time and then, after that, she was so paranoid about her skirt coming off. I remember being in a six hand with her one time, or an eight hand, and this was a couple of weeks after her skirt had fallen off, I was all, ‘Adele, your skirt!’. And it was fine and everything. I was just tricking her, and she freaked out! It was so funny. Mine never did, thank God.

Julian Gladysiewski talked about a particular performance when things just didn’t seem to go right. Eventually, performances became more and more professional and elite:
During class that day, Tom had the music all set so you would just have to put it in the tape recorder press play. So we get up there and they had the lights off. And they started to play the music but, because they had to mess with it, it was not at the right spot. So we go up there and the lights go up, the music started at the right spot, but just as the eighth bar came around they stopped it. So, we all had to stop and they turned the lights off, so we are all standing… and then they did it again, the same thing happened, and they turned the

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lights off, and every time they turned the lights on and off it was getting funnier. So every time the music started there’s Elizabeth [the author of this book] giggling away in the dark. So after about 7 or 8 tries they took us off, and then we waited another hour until the very end. And we got a CD this time, and of course, it was the worst CD to use. I’m not saying the music was bad, it was just that, on it before the music started, there was this big huge intro of [recorded] cheering. So here we are up on stage, the lights are dark and there is cheering... Finally the music started and we did the dance and that was that.

Rosemary Browne talked about the ideas behind the choreography she does with Tom Bracken:
My teacher was really into shows and performances, and so.. I started doing the shows down here. I had 10 [dancers], and I was like, ‘Now we’re going to have the reel!’ and two kids would get up and then do the reel and then bow, ‘Now we’re going to do the light jig!’, and two kids would do two steps of the light jig and then bow, ‘Now we’re going to do the slip jig!’. And everybody in the audience would be like, ‘It looked all the same to me!’. It never even crossed my mind, of course it looked all the same, because they don’t even know the difference in the music. So those were the first shows I did, because that was all the kids could do. Then, a lot of what I started doing was what my teacher had done as a kid. I started doing what I knew worked from my teacher, who did really great shows. So that’s how I started doing the shows, and then I got more daring. I had never tried to do anything as complicated as Tom’s twelve-hand, and Tom was saying, ‘Oh, you’re good at that, you should try doing something like that’, and that would be really fun for me, too. But, once again, I am sort of tied up in the old fashioned stuff. I know all the old steps and the old figures, and now, there’s a lot of, I don’t want to say cheerleading, but you know how it ends, and now, often, choreographies start with a pyramid, and end with a pyramid. We never did things like that, there were lots of chains and stuff like that. As far as shows, we always did fast hardshoe stuff at the end, and we had live musicians. The last dance they would always play as fast as they could, and we would dance as fast as we could, and everybody would be off their chairs. We [do] that kind of stuff at the Emerald Ball and everybody goes, ‘Aahh!’. They all love it; they think it is the greatest thing in the world. I always like to line people up by size, and it doesn’t necessarily [correlate with] who knows the same steps. That’s how it think it just comes out. I try not to have them both on the same side, but they’re not necessarily always the second one in, then the third one in, and so forth. But, even in our slip jig [show dance], which I know that you guys [in Phoenix] do a slip jig up there that is the same more or less, yours seems more regimented in that you always go the first two, and then the next two, then the next two, then the next two [down the line]. Well, we just do it whatever step looks right first. So we never do it in that order, or very rarely do it in that order. A lot of the time it is just because I always wanted Savannah and Caitlin last. I usually have the strongest dancers last, and I kind of do it in that order... so I guess, from that way, it’s more random. So you guys took the same idea and made it more regimented up there. Even when people come out, when they do the two steps, or one person’s steps, I always do it that way, I always have the strongest dancers end. I always think it looks the best. I think it is unfair if you have a less strong dancer come out after a few really strong dancers. So it’s just like a buildup to the better ones. So it might have seemed random, but it is really calculated.

Brandy Johnson talked about Tom Bracken’s matchmaking skills and sense of humor:
Tom was always trying to get Marc [Callaghan] and I to hook up. That was so weird for me. We didn’t like each other really, but Tom just thought we would be the cutest couple... The same thing with Brendan [Prior]. Tom was always trying to be little mister matchmaker with me.

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Chris Locke talked about the priority Tom makes of working with dancers that are putting the hours in and improving themselves, and the “danger” therein:
I would say that Tom’s style of teaching varies with how much the student takes it seriously. If the student really isn’t learning or practicing he doesn’t he doesn’t put as much work into them. Lack of effort may be sort of frustrating to him but he doesn’t take it personally as long as they don’t blame it on him. But if you are learning something then the real danger with Tom is that he always thinks up a new variation with you. And he is more likely to come up with, to be more creative with, each person if they are really working. As an adult, I didn’t want to not practice but I wasn’t always ready for that new step. I always thought the best competition result was one where I would dance respectably but not necessarily move up to a higher level – adults are the only dancers I know who don’t always want to move up in competition level. So that was a danger of actually working but the personal attention is really nice.

Heather McElligott Sparks has also made a name for herself in Arizona as a skilled teacher. She has qualified Ann Franevsky for the Worlds, and sends several dancers and teams to compete in the Oireachtas and the North American Nationals every year. Notable dancers from her school include Christina Boothe, Elizabeth Stephens, Caitlin Bayley, Meghan Bayley, Kelly Naumann, Tonya Shoda, and Kate Carr, all of whom are or were local champions. Heather was an Open champion who began dance at an older age but progressed quickly through the levels. Margaret Hyland Cunningham remembered a conversation she had with Heather McElligott Sparks that she found touching:
Do you know Heather McElligott, the teacher? She said to me, because you see I have danced all over the place, Chicago, Ireland, everywhere. Man, if they turn on the music, I jump up and dance. She came to me, oh, a lot of years ago, and she said, ‘You know, I am a step dancer because of you, ’ and I said, ‘Really!’ It was over at O’Connor’s Pub. She said, ‘Yes, I was a little girl watching you dance. I thought that was so neat. It just looked so fun and so neat that I just wanted to do it.’ So that is Heather.

Heather McElligott Sparks talked about her extremely quick development as a dancer, and the reasons why she began teaching:
[My age] made me more determined. At the time I started, I was in the ‘13 and over’ [competition].… When you have to dance with really young kids, you don’t like being [beaten] by really young kids! Also, from when I [had shown] horses, I had very strict training [habits] and so practicing for a couple [of] hours every day was no issue for me. So, I went right to that, and just started practicing hard, every day, because I’m competitive. I’m not where... If I don’t win, it never really bothered me one way or the other; but that’s why I was able to progress through fairly quickly. I guess my years and years of practice, of just being a hard worker, kind of paid off in the dancing. [It took me only] one year [to get into championships]. Doireann had suggested I do the summer program at a school. I kind of got a feel of just doing it on my own and yet kept teaching with her and working with her own students. It was probably right around 1994 when I retired, so to speak. I also just kind of went from one to the other. It all just melded together. There was a slowing down of my competitiveness and an increasing of my teaching.

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I guess it was because Doireann had me helping with her [classes] so much. I [had] never really thought of being a teacher until she actually suggested it and said, ‘You know, you really should pursue this, you know… you’d be good!’ Whatever she said, made me feel good [about my abilities], so I said, ‘Okay.’ It was kind of just one of those things that I kind of just pursued. I had pursued the competitive end of it, but due to the fact that my knee was [injured]... It was such that I knew that I couldn’t continue practicing hard, like I needed to. [However], I still loved the dancing so much that a different avenue, I felt, would be nice. [Until] Doireann [suggested] it, it would never have crossed my mind that I could even teach. If she hadn’t brought it up and kind of pushed the point [I might never had done it]. Then, she helped me study for it, I passed the exam, and the rest is history! In our school, [nobody was studying at the same time]. I think Suzanne Houghtelin had, [perhaps], thought about it, and, maybe, Judy [Thom] had, but I’m the only one who actually took it. At the time, as far as Arizona, Sharon Judd also went and got her TMRF exam. I think we were at the same time, if I remember correctly. As far as our school, [it was just me and Doireann working]. [By] now, I had gone over to California, and a couple of her other students were kind of taking [on] different parts of studying, but, pretty much, I was the only one in her school actually taking the exam and going through with it.

Heather McElligott Sparks talked about the continuity between those earlier classes and her new school:
As a matter of fact, Ann Franevsky was part of that summer program. She and her mom, and a number of the other dancers stayed with me. I started a class in Cave Creek, and they stayed.

Elizabeth Moore talked about starting in the McElligott School, which was very new at the point when she joined it.
I went to a feis, which at the time I thought was an Irish fish festival, someone kept saying it was an Irish feis festival. Every time I heard it, I thought it was an Irish fish festival. I thought I was going to see some fish. Then I saw people dancing, and I thought they were all dancing for fish. Someone said [Heather] was starting up a school, or had just started a school, and that she was very very nice. So I went over and started talking to her and she explained some things about dance. That’s how I met her. Eamon [Lanz] had started the week before me. Ann [Franevsky] was there. Hannah and Aisling [Force] were there. They quit a while ago. Of the people that first started, Ann and I are the only ones left. Of that first crowd. Eamon quit to focus on school, and he was a guy, and we kept saying he was one of the girls. That made him unhappy, so we chased him away. Bad us. Our first class was in a living room. A hardwood floor living room. We didn’t do hardshoe back then, just soft shoe. It was so much more friendly. Back then, we danced and then we had a little social hour for the next half hour. Now it is ‘we go to class, we dance, we leave’. Then we were in a shoe store, where they sold workman’s shoes. So we had to move the racks every day we went to class. It was very laid back. When Heather first started, she was just coming out of being around Doireann a lot, and so her teaching style was very new and very old school. I think now that she has had dancers in Oireachtas and dancers in Nationals, she is much more her own teacher and focused much more on detail and stuff like that. She knows so much more now then she did back then.

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Mary Doyle Lanz remembered the class Heather had when the McElligott School was new:
So Eamon started dancing in the fall of 1994 with Heather. She had some kids out in Cave Creek, and she had some kids out here. And, it was Eamon, and Mary Placito, Ellen’s daughter [former McCormack dancer], and, eventually Kate Carr, and Elizabeth Moore, and Erin Lawrence. I think were the original group who danced at the Placitos’ house. And of course more kids came and went, and there were probably a couple of other girls who were there that have since [left dancing]. It reminded me of when I was a little girl in Mary McCormack’s house. They danced in the back. Heather put the music on... And I used to just sit there and watch, and it was fun to watch them. And every time the music came on, my feet got itchy, and I thought ‘I want to dance’. Then they moved it to someplace bigger, and she got more students, and after about two years, I said, ok, that’s it, I’m dancing... So I still dance one night a week with her.

Elizabeth Moore talked about the manner in which Heather teaches her classes, and she joked about the relationship that advanced dancers develop with their teachers:
There is a half an hour of warm-ups. Floor stretches, for about 15 minutes, and then lots of endurance/technique exercises, like we’ll do switch jumps for [enough time to] get our heart pumping. We alternate soft shoe and hard shoe days every week. The champions usually don’t do the light jig and the single jig, obviously. We do them about 4 or 5 times, and then we change dances. Once a week we have a championship class and that is just any champion that wants to work on something special. As a general rule, our school is very good at our treble jigs. That was Heather’s best dance. We have our good dances that we focus more on, because Heather is so good at them. In terms of teaching, she is very good at working with the little kids, but when it gets into people that she has known forever, it is hard for her to control us because we are so rambunctious. [Heather’s style] is much, much more detail-oriented [now]. She has grown into it. She’s much more into the details and into being a teacher. Back when she first started, she was being a teacher, but she was also your friend. She wanted it to be such a friendly school, and now it is a friendly school, and now she has so many students that she has to keep a lot of control... She is very open to new ideas that you have for yourself, because she understands that you know your body type and how you can do stuff.

Carrie Haney eventually joined the McElligott School:
Heather is great because she has a wonderful relationship with her dancers. She takes a lot of time out just to talk with them and see how they are doing. She cares about them as people more than as dancers. It is very much a family type atmosphere. We have an annual Halloween party, out at her house. At the same time, she can be really strict, which is fantastic. But, most of all, she wants them to have fun, and have great self-esteem, because of what they are doing. Appreciate the dance and the culture... Heather is very laid back, and is always joking around, always has a smile on her face. At the same time, when some of my students, who were at least 19, 20, up to 25 years old, would come over to McElligott, they would be afraid of Heather. I would be like, ‘She’s not scary!’... She would come to me and go, ‘Why don’t they come

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to me, why do they come to you?’. I was like, ‘They’re scared of you Heather, I don’t know why!’. She’s strict when she is telling them what to do with their dance style, but, otherwise, she is very approachable.

Elizabeth Moore spoke about the things that kids in her school do outside of dancing class:
When we were practicing our eight hands for the Oireachtas, we would get together and have these slumber parties, and just totally go wild. Then we would leave the house, which was probably a bad idea when eight of us got together and we were starting to paint the town red. We would just be goofy. The McElligott Harry Potter club. We used to, every month, but now, not so much, ever since the movie came out. A bunch of us that read Harry Potter would get together at someone’s house, and read the books or play the games. We used to, every month, but not so much since the movie cam out. It was just a chance for us to get together and be goofy, and we didn’t really do much Harry Potter stuff. It was a mix. Me and Ann [Franevsky] and Kate [Carr] , and then little Courtney [Svoboda] and Britney and Caitlin. It was just such a broad selection of ages. No parents ever came. That movie came out the weekend of Oireachtas.

Elizabeth Moore talked about Heather McElligott Sparks’ classroom demeanor:
[Heather] can be sweet. When she is not teaching, she is so sweet. But when she gets on her teacher’s hat, she is, especially lately, very discipline oriented and, getting to do what you need to do and making sure you do it, really trying to get us all focused. She is really focused herself. So much fun to be around when she is telling us ‘More dancing, more dancing’ [and we say], ‘We don’t want to do anymore!’.

Heather McElligott Sparks talked about the objectives she keeps in mind when she choreographs:
[When choreographing, I focus on] audience appeal. Music is very important to me because, I think, for the audience, the competition style music can be pretty redundant and boring. It’s great for us because we don’t even hear the music anymore; we just follow that beat and it guides us and our minds are going a million different directions. So, honestly, for the dancer... they could dance to anything and make it look good, but for show pieces you have to think of the audience. I try to perceive it form the audience’s point of view and try to make it entertaining.

Ann Franevsky qualified for and danced in the World Championships. Elizabeth Moore chatted about her.
Ann gets so much out of what little she has! NO! No! No! I don’t mean that she has little talent or little skills, she is TINY, she is tiny, she is, like, wee. She is so powerful and so dedicated to doing everything right and proper, and practices twelve times a day. It’s what she wants to do and she goes and does it.

Elizabeth Moore also commented on some of Heather’s other prominent dancers:
The entire Bayley family has such awesome natural turnout, and they of course have those skinny little legs that are such perfect Open championship legs. They practice all the time, and they are so into it, and their mom sells shoes, and so they always have shoes. They are just really naturally talented. [Tonya Shoda] choreographed my set... She teaches a beginners class on Fridays.

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Carrie Haney mentioned some of the same dancers:
Ann Franevsky is teaching, as well as Tonya Shoda, and Katie Martin, but Heather is always there for those classes. It is never just the kids. She is always on the grounds. She is always there somewhere. She can always be called upon.

Margaret Hyland Cunningham talked about the way she has seen Heather McElligott Sparks’ school develop since its inception:
Heather is doing very well; [especially since] she brought in a girl from Ireland. [She] shapes things up really well, and she has a very, very large group.

Chris Locke talked about helping Heather McElligott Sparks design her costumes:
Heather knew what components she wanted for her dress. Heather had picked out the dress pattern, her fabric, the lining, the design, and the colors of the embroidery thread she wanted. What I did was I took her colors and I copied her design and I just played with coloring it in on different places with colored pencils and then she thought that was a good idea. We tried to find something to outline it with. I know she would have rejected my color placement if it didn’t fit what she wanted. Because I embroider a lot, I knew a lot more about different threads than she did, so we found a gold thread to outline it. Then I made what I thought she wanted. Heather is not a seamstress so I just worked with her on that. At that time, she had really six or so main dancers at that point in time, so for about four of them I made the whole dress and on one, I think on Ann Franevsky’s her mother did the embroidery and I sewed the dress, and then on Elizabeth Moore’s, I did the embroidery and she sewed the dress. It was similar in design to the Maoileidigh dress, so I had some experience, but it was really trial and error, trying to figure out how exactly to make a skirt stay in line. We had one real emergency.. actually the first time one of the girls wore the dress was at the Tucson feis and right after she put it on the zipper broke and the zipper was broken all the way down. Luckily the good thing about dance dresses is they have those long shawls. So we pinned up the zipper and kind of sewed it together, and then pinned the shawl over it. And so no one could really see and obviously we fixed the zipper [afterward]. I was extremely thankful that the dancer was really easygoing because that was one time when dancing results could have been blamed on the dress. I was never totally happy with the dresses. There was a lot about making the dresses that I didn’t learn for awhile and I’m still learning. Part of what I learned was the need to go out of my geographic area for materials. I eventually learned that I could order stiffer lining from Canada but not get it locally. When Tom Bracken arrived in Phoenix, I was convinced that it had to be possible to get his green satin and a similar blue material in the United States. After weeks of looking, I conceded that it really was necessary to order it from England.

Mary Doyle Lanz, who is the mother of former McElligott Sparks Preliminary champion dancer Eamon Lanz, talked about the expense of the costumes:
I made him a kilt when he first started and he wore it twice, and he outgrew it. And of course there are no kilt patterns out there, you can’t go to the local fabric store and get that. People don’t sell salvaged edged wool, that is appropriate for making kilts, either. That’s really hard to find. So after that I said ‘That’s it, when you’re done growing, I’ll make you another one’. So I have made him another one, but I also just

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ordered him one, and it was $500 dollars. The first one I found, they wanted $600, and I said ‘You’ve got to be nuts, he’s 15 years old’. That’s a lot of money.

Elizabeth Moore commented on the changes that dancing dresses have undergone in the past few years, as well as the practice of wearing spiky curlers:
[The first costumes] were so much more plain, back when we first started. I mean, a lot of school costumes were very plain. We had two panels that were in no way near, they always overlapped. You would have one panel, and then the edge would be on the other side of the other panel, and it would just hang., and we never really got them very stiff. Everybody embroidered their own, so there was no consistency in the embroidery style, and so everybody’s ended up turning out different, but now we have specific embroiderers, and we have updated with two panels and changed the sleeves, and just updated everything... I updated mine only because I had to for Oireachtas, and if we could would change it back, but [leave it] stiff, [I would]... But you know, you have to fit what judges will like, and you have to fit what teachers will like. I love flying with spikes. [That is the] funnest thing in the world. We went to Boston, and we took like three different flights, and each new cabin crew would look at us funny (I wonder if you can wear curlers in your hair now? [after Sept. 11th]), and this one crew was really mean, they were like, ‘Oh, don’t you look just adorable!’, and like pinching their cheeks, and someone was like, ‘Why do you have to wear those?’ We were like, ‘Oh, our cult leader makes us wear them’. I love messing with people’s minds because they know nothing about Irish dancing. It is so exclusive... [Before Riverdance, people] didn’t know [Irish dancing] existed. Every time I would say I was an Irish dancer, they would say, ‘Oh, kind of like clogging?’. Now I say I am an Irish dancer [and they say], ‘Oh like Riverdance?’. They had no clue. I would have to say I was an ‘ethnic’ dancer. And they would be like, ‘Oooooh, ok’.

Chris Locke compared the newer practice of wearing wigs to wearing curlers:
I find wigs to be a little weird, but I don’t find wigs to be any weirder than wearing sausage rolls for the night before, well, the day before. If you were really serious, then you would go to school on Friday with your hair up and you would keep it up for two days, to get those curls. That was one of your [Elizabeth’s] problems; you never kept it up for two days. Therefore, it was never quite as rigid. So I’m not sure I find the practice of wearing wigs any weirder than the practice of wearing curlers. It was better after they actually started using the foam ones because they dried better, as opposed to those rag curls, and then not everybody had enough hair, so some people would have really scrawny little curls and some people would have really big curls. It was really odd, though, when they first started with wigs. When everybody had really, really long wigs. It was like no human could ever have that length of hair. They would hair down to their waist in curls, and in order to have that length hair you would have to have it come down to your feet. But the wigs kind of made things even. Then no one had to suffer because they had really fine hair. ‘If you are going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some curlers in your hair,’ [was a] song sung by one of the boys about the Oireachtas where Sarah McNulty qualified for Worlds.

Kelly Sweeney talked about the advent of wigs:
Wigs were just starting to get popular, and a lot of kids in my school in Phoenix agreed that we didn’t want to wear them. We thought they looked ridiculous, they didn’t look real. And then a McTeggart from

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Denver was on stage dancing and she went to spin, and her hair blew off. And she was mortified. She didn’t even finish her dance, she just ran off the stage crying. I thought, ‘I can’t believe that, that is another reason that I don’t want a wig!’ But my mom ended up getting one anyways because she didn’t want to do my hair anymore.

Carrie Haney talked about Heather’s husband, Eric Sparks, and her family:
She has a beautiful family. Her husband [Eric] is very supportive of the school. He came in once, and he did this half hour talk on stage presence. It was great; it was so much fun to see him involved with the school in that aspect. He was like, ‘When you go out there on stage, you need to be proud! You need to have your head straight! You’re not looking at your feet, you’re not looking at the person beside you, you’re not looking at the sky!’. He would have us all dance, and make sure we were looking confident, and straight ahead. It was a great talk. She is more focused on her family, which is good. She has told me she has run into all these female dance teachers and adjudicators, and they are all divorced. She is like, ‘That’s not going to happen to me. I’m not going to get so wrapped up in my school that my family life suffers’... That’s why she doesn’t have as many dance classes as Tom, because she really values being a mom.

Elizabeth Moore also talked about Heather McElligott Sparks’ family:
[Heather’s family] was so sweet. Her parents just moved to Vermont, so we don’t get to see them anymore... They were so nice, and always so helpful in competitions.

Kelly Sweeney talked about the main local teacher with the McTeggart School, Sharon Judd, TMRF, who teaches classes except on those days when Maureen Hall comes in to teach:
Sharon Judd [was running the classes when I started (around 1995?)]. I have only been with her. Pat Hall had already been gone. [Maureen was still coming in once a month]. Sharon is really laid back. The positive kind of relaxed that sometimes that can be chaotic, but most of the time it works out all right. And she really likes figures. We are not really sure why. So we usually start with figures. Well, we warm up, and stretch, and walk on our toes and things like that. And then we do our figures, and then we run through our solos, just like you would do them in a feis, in that order, and we go over all of that. and then the beginners will be done and we will go into hardshoe after that. In the beginning it was everybody there at the same time, and then, ‘You get a break now, we’ll work with them,’ but, now, she is starting to separate them. They will either be on different days, or the same day and the first hour or so will be the beginners, and the next hour will be the advanced. I am pretty sure that everywhere [Sharon] teaches is at a parish hall. The Phoenix class is at St. Simon and Jude, and the Mesa class is at St. Bridget’s , and Flagstaff, I think is at a parish hall but it might be a school. And then every now and then we will have studio space at Cannedy Dance Studio, and she started having space a lot at Conservatory Ballet at 67th Ave. and Beardsley. So we have our set parish hall and then every once in a while we will have a studio.

Sharon Judd spoke about her dance background, and the way in which she began to teach classes for the McTeggart school: 85

I took a lot of the modern [dance] classes and I auditioned into a lot of choreography finals that undergrads and grads had to do. At ASU, I was in a Chinese dance company, there was a woman there from Taiwan, who was working on her masters, and so I was in her company and I was also in a Ukrainian company. When we were out with the Chinese company, I saw Mary McCormack’s dancers were at the same festival, and I started taking class with her and I was like, ‘This is what I have been waiting for all my life’. So I kept taking classes with her and I went back east and I did the Irish summer schools in Milwaukee. Then, when Pat Hall couldn’t come in anymore, Maureen was coming in once a month. and needed somebody to rehearse the classes weekly, and so I did that. She said, ‘You know, you should have your certificate’. So I took the TMRF and started taking the TCRG.

Sharon talked about the teaching styles of the Halls when they come in, as well as whether or not the school has changed in recent years:
[Pat] runs [her classes] pretty much the way Maureen does. A lot of the classes, especially when they come in, are all ages and all levels, and the kids sit down, and they come up in groups, and they all warm up together, and she will do something with one group, and then they are off working on that, and then she will work with the next group, and then call them back for something else and look at what they have been working on, and then go on to different things. So they are very busy, when they come in. For Maureen, it is very important to her that the steps be on time and that they be strong, so those are the kinds of things that she emphasizes. She many times will have people do a simpler step because they can’t get the timing. It just makes her crazy. She’ll say to the little kids, ‘I’m a judge, you know, and we can’t have things off time!’ It is her thing as a judge. Whenever you get the feis results, you will see one judge that will pick one thing, and you can tell that’s the one thing that makes them crazy. Some of them, it’s the toes out, so you will see ‘Toes out, toes out, get your toes out!’, picking on everybody’s toes. Another judge will say, ‘Get those heels up to the ceiling!’. Maureen, I’m sure if you got [her results] you would see, ‘Timing, timing, get on time!’. Pat Hall still comes in for workshops, once in a while, for us here. Either Pat or Maureen comes in once a month, and then we gather everybody up. I don’t know how it goes in the normal weekly class. I don’t know if either of them is teaching a normal weekly class [now]. Both of them pretty much go in to classes that are rehearsed by other people: TMRFs and other people working on their teacher’s and stuff. I don’t know that it has changed so much [since I started]. I know that Pat had built it up and had quite a few students here, and they had faded out by the time she quit coming altogether, I think a lot because they weren’t having a lot of regular practices. And you always have some who come and go, and some that stay with it, and go all the way up to championship. But, you know, I don’t think it has changed that much since Maureen started the school.

Sharon also talked about one of the most prominent families in the McTeggart School, which includes the high kicking Open champion Kelly Sweeney and the 2003 Colleen, Erin Sweeney:
They’re fun, those Sweeneys. They are fun. I think this is the first generation of them that has taken dance. What is there, half a dozen of them or so? And they know everybody else, too. All the old St. Mary’s

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families. Maureen Mullins, and the Cunninghams, and all those people who used to go to St. Mary’s downtown, and still a lot of them are here. The Sweeneys are one of them, everywhere you go, ‘is that so and so, and so and so’s daughter’. It’s like being in a small town in the Midwest sometimes. Kelly’s dancing still, of course. Sean comes and goes. We usually see him around St. Patrick’s day. He likes to perform. Erin sings. Little Mary-Kate is getting ready to do a competition. She is 3 or 4. She has got her reel down and she is working on her light jig. And their cousins dance in California. Kelly [Sweeney] is the greatest help and inspiration for the other kids, and she just keeps working. I think she has been the highest level dancer [in the school] for some time. And still she is in class two or three times a week, and she will help anybody, anytime. She is just very self-motivated.

Sharon Judd also spoke about the way in which she runs her classes:
All of the kids [help to teach the classes], especially because they are in class together, both the advanced and the beginner classes. We pair them up with the new ones to work on threes, and that’s just a part of being in that kind of class, is that the more experienced ones help the new guys. Towards the feis we will rehearse everything in both classes. Between the [feiseanna], we will overlap the beginner and advanced classes, and we will alternate hardshoe and light shoe on different weeks. We don’t have a separate performing group in McTeggart. I think that if the kids are well practiced, they can be fit into choreography and that they should be given the opportunity... We don’t have a lot of rules about what people wear, or that kind of thing... They’re just expected to practice, have respect for each other, and come in, they can’t be running around... Unless they cross that line, there’s really not that kind of restriction. I think [self-discipline is] something they really need to learn.

Patricia Prior also talked about the discipline that Irish dance imparts to dancers:
Discipline is not taught in the lifestyle today, whereas it is taught in Irish dance. It is very much taught in Irish dance. You can see the discipline..

Kelly Sweeney talked about performances in the last few years:
We perform a lot. We do festivals in Phoenix, and then we go to some up north, in Flagstaff, because they have class up there too.

Sharon gave an anecdote about the way in which her daughter started competing:
Little Beth and Ken were both kind of funny when they first started dancing. Beth was tiny. She was three and a half. We were rehearsing for the feis. Maureen was in town, it was the rehearsal morning before the feis, so she was saying, ‘Come on girls, get your shoes on, because we have everything to do today before the feis. I want to see everything!’. And little Beth got up on stage and pointed her little toe, and she said, ‘I’m ready, do you want to see my reel?’. And so Maureen said, ‘Well, sure’. She put on the music, everyone else was still getting their shoes on, and Beth did her little reel. And Mrs. Hall said to me, ‘Is she

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registered in the feis?’. And I said, ‘Well, no, Maureen’. It wouldn’t occur to me to put a three year old in a feis. And she said, ‘Well, she knows her reel. She’s perfectly welcome to do it if she wants to do it’. And so Beth did her first feis, it was a Phoenix Feis, and she did her little reel and her two hand. And she’s been doing [feiseanna] ever since.

Kelly Sweeney talked about Maureen Hall’s serious style of teaching:
It is definitely different [when Mrs. Hall is there]. She is really tough and she kind of just tells you how it is. I mean, she tries to be nice, but a lot of younger kids kind of cry because they are scared and they don’t know what is going on. But you know when things like that happen, that she tries to say, ‘Well, I am not yelling at you, I am just trying to tell you what to fix’. So I think that people are a little more tense when she comes in to town, but it ends up working out for the best, because they either get their steps improved, or they learn new steps, or things like that. It always ends up being better. Lately, Mrs. Hall has been especially telling all the older kids, when she comes back from Ireland, she’ll say ‘I just judged at the Worlds, and those girls are getting this high off the ground, and their legs are this high off the ground’. She likes to compare us all to the World Championship dancers and try to get us to that level, in any and every way. Lately, she has been emphasizing the new techniques that are coming around, the new ways that steps are being danced. The new little techniques that are being thrown in... She can catch anything.

Sharon Judd talked about the workshops that the McTeggarts participate in during the summer:
She has the McCullahaney sisters come over from Ireland to teach the workshop, with her along with Peg McTeggart, comes many times too, and sometimes her nephew comes over there to teach the workshop. We teach class in the summer. We take off the week of Fourth of July, and we take off the week of the Denver workshop, Maureen does a McTeggart workshop in Denver, so we all go up there for that workshop. We take of that week. We take off Labor Day week, so we take a couple of weeks off here and there, but we teach class all through the summer. We have fewer classes and they are longer. You are [at the workshop] for a week, and you stay in a hotel. If the kids are alone, we can pair them up with families up there. It does [help to make the school more cohesive], and doing figures does as well. Then they aren’t always competing against each other, when they compete as a team, they are competing with each other. And it is fun for them to go to out of state [feiseanna] and see other McTeggarts. You have a lot of input, and the kids who go to the workshop can use those steps, too. We don’t re-teach those steps in the classes, so if they are in the workshop they use those steps, and if they aren’t... And steps evolve, but there is a basic pattern of McTeggart steps that build nicely one to another from Beginner 1 all the way up through Championship, but those steps evolve many times. If somebody can’t do one ending, we will change the ending for them and make the step their own. So some of the steps are very similar but not the same, that the kids are doing in Denver or here or in Fresno. Or if Pat Hall comes here and teaches a workshop, then the kids here have those steps, but the kids in Salt Lake don’t necessarily have them, because she didn’t go there. So some of the steps are the same, and some of them aren’t the same at all. And each region is doing their own figures, especially when it comes to Oireachtas teams and so forth, so those you will see different counts on chains or something like that, because those are rehearsed locally, and those have to be tightened up locally.

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Kelly Sweeney elaborated:
Excluding this summer, for the past three summers I have gone to Denver for dance camp. So I have gotten to meet pretty much all of the Colorado dancers, and then people fly in from Texas, Louisiana, Utah, and Arizona, pretty much that is a McTeggart reunion kind of thing. I meet a lot of people there, and those people come to Arizona competitions, and Phoenix McTeggarts go to their state competitions. We can talk, and it is like we are friends already, even it they are from different states. Occasionally there are people who we don’t really get along with, but that happens all the time. That’s just people. But, otherwise, I think we are pretty connected and get along. Plus, when we go to Denver competitions, especially, Mrs. Hall just throws all the people into a room, and she is just like, ‘Ok, you two are a two-hand, you are a four-hand’. So we may not even know our partners when we go on stage. We kind of just have to be prepared for anything. [The workshops] are really tough. I have to learn to walk again after them. There are couple of sisters who are friends of Mrs. Hall, that come in from Ireland and work with us. They have really good steps that they come up with; they just kind of make them up on the spot. The classes are separated. There is a beginner class that Mrs. Hall’s daughter Ann teaches, and she might have some of the champions help out with that a little bit, and then there is a Novice/Prizewinner class. Then one sister works with a Preliminary class, and one sister works with an Open [championship] class. Before, it was the two championships together, with one sister, and then Novice/Prizewinner with another sister. Over the past few summers, we have kind of gotten to work with everyone and see everyone’s styles of teaching. The steps always come out amazing, no matter who we are with. They are a lot of fun, and even though it is difficult and painful, they are fun, and we get really good steps out of them.

Elizabeth Moore talked about what she liked most about the feis experience, and the way in which she thinks that the dance community has changed:
[Feiseanna] were just the funnest things I had ever done. Then I would wait with bated breath for the ceílí. Now, I think the younger kids are starting to separate the different schools. Obviously we are still down with the whole ‘doesn’t matter what school you are in’. Kids now think that there is something wrong with being in the other school, and being friends. That is just so taboo now. It is like coming home when you go to a feis. You get to see all of your extended cousins or friends or relatives. It just seems weird. Hanging out. Laura [Donohue, from the Bracken School] came over to Amber [Balmer]’s house the other day, and I was there. I was like, ‘I don’t think I’ve seen you outside of a feis, ever!’ But then, we totally bonded and got tattoos!

Chris Locke talked about the decline of feis ceílís in the Phoenix area as the days of the feis became more complicated:
[At the end of the feis day] if you have made it through all of the politics and not had anyone yell at you then it is time to go home and have a glass of wine, as opposed to coming and [doing ceílí]. The bigger feiseanna are a lot more chaotic. No matter how hard you try to prepare, there are always glitches. With 300 or so families, most people take it as it comes. But with the larger group, the same percent of complainers is a bigger number. The ceílís were best when the whole community was there. It’s better to

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have more competitors and draw dancers from other schools but the ceílís are hard to pull off. I think the Phoenix Feis still has a ceílí.

Sharon Judd spoke about her perception of whether competition between teachers is very strong:
Diane Calderone was telling me that she read a book once on the history of Irish dance where they were talking about teachers getting into fistfights at [feiseanna]... I don’t think we’re that bad! At least I’ve never seen that at any feis I’ve ever been to. I really think that it is kind of an individual thing. I think there has always been that. And it is uniquely competitive. It’s not something you find between elementary schools, or little league conferences. You don’t find that kind of ‘our school, your school’ so much.

Mary McCormack continued to teach until 1998. Elizabeth Suit, one of her adult dancers, remembered the classes that the community of adult women attended:
I started at the last St. Gregory’s Feis, which was seven years ago, eight years ago, the twelfth feis, and I saw them all, all the adult dancers outside performing. And I started classes the next week. I started hanging out there and I danced with [Mary] for a couple of years. And then I sort of started dancing with Heather. Walking in they seemed very informal. It was only after looking back on them and realizing actually how much structure there was, because you would come in and do all the warm-ups together. She had a very specific set of warm-ups everybody would do that were a combination of ballet warm-ups and, you know, eights in a circle and that kind of thing. And she had a warm-up step that was a cut two three, cut two three, cut two three four five six seven, point hop back, point hop back, cut and stamp, point hop back, So everyone would do that. And I remember being astonished... She would occasionally work directly with somebody, but mostly it was everybody helping everybody else. If you needed to learn a specific step, you went outside, or you found someplace and you worked on it. And Mary had many more steps than the teachers do now. There were like nine jig steps, the killer jig. So you learned all the steps, and you would perform all the steps, you would never perform just two steps... It was really different from a structured dance class, but they were very intense. We would meet at seven and sometimes would be finished as early as nine o’ clock and sometimes we would go ‘til ten or ten thirty or eleven, if we had a performance or something else coming up. It was a really special time. I miss that. I didn’t realize what a gift that was until she stopped doing that. That was a really terrific thing, and especially for someone like me who had no dance background and no history, and she was able to help me with all of that stuff, which was fun.

Unfortunately, in April of 2002, Mary McCormack passed away.

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Chapter Seven Dancing Around the Turn of the Millennium
Kirsten Hahn talked about her experiences in the east coast and here:
My first class with Tom was the Callaghan boys’ last class with Tom before they went to California... I moved here in August of 1999. I really had no clue what to expect. I asked my teacher in New Jersey what to do, and she immediately said, ‘Go to Thomas Bracken’. I had never really heard of him because I was still fairly new to Irish dancing, and I didn’t know too many people’s names or anything. So I took her word for it and came out here. When I was doing some research, I noticed that there were only three schools in the whole state, which was kind of surprising to me because there are so many schools in New Jersey. I don’t even know how many– a lot. [Feiseanna] there are huge! [Feiseanna] there usually have a cap for entries at 1000, but they always go over, and you go to [feiseanna] where there are 1500 people. They are always one day [feiseanna], they are never full weekends like out here, and usually they will have 8 or 9 stages, and they just try to cram everybody into one day, which is usually fairly unsuccessful because the timetable is always off. People are always dancing later than they are supposed to, and sometimes you don’t get out of there until 9:00 at night, so it is pretty hectic. The Arizona [feiseanna] are definitely more organized, and [in comparison] they are always on time. They are spread out over a few days, and compared to the East coast there are hardly any people dancing on each day. There is a lot less craziness, there are a lot less people involved. When you think about an East coast feis with 1500 competitors, you have to add in all of those competitors’ families, parents and teachers and friends and everybody that is there. Out here when there are 500 dancers, it is a big difference; even when you add in all of their families, there are not nearly as many people around. Everybody gets to sit down. Here, because there are only three schools, there is a lot of interaction with each other, and we all know each other a lot better because, you know, any time anyone needs Irish dancers, there are only three choices. We all are exposed a lot more, on TV, or we hear about each other in parades. So we have a lot more opportunity to see people from other schools, and get to know people from other schools. In New Jersey there are so many schools and so many students, that you just kind of focus on your own school unless you happen to have a friend from another school, which I think is less common. There are just so many places to go. There are just so many people involved. I definitely know more people from different schools within the State of Arizona than within the State of New Jersey.

Kirsten Hahn talked about the differences between Tom Bracken’s style and that of her old teacher in New Jersey: 91

[Tom’s classes are] definitely different from Deirdre Shea’s. Deirdre’s classes were definitely a lot more laid back. Tom’s classes are definitely a lot stricter run. Tom knows what he wants, and he knows what we are capable of, and he pretty much demands that we give him everything we can, and show him really what we are capable of. When you are not meeting that standard, he’ll let you know. It’s not so much whether you’re good or bad, or if your feet are turned in, or if your knees are out. It is more that you are doing your best, and when you are not doing your best, and when you are dancing sloppily, if you are being lazy and not dancing up to your potential, that’s when he gets... frustrated, because he knows that you are better than what you are showing. I think he also thinks of it as a lack of respect, to not show him what we can do. He’s hilarious! He is so funny. While we have a very professional relationship, he is definitely... you know... He is sooo funny. And it is funny because no matter where I go or who I meet in the Irish dancing world, anyone who I tell that Tom is my teacher, they always just kind of laugh and say, ‘He is such a great guy, and he is so funny’. Everybody really enjoys his sense of humor. At [feiseanna] and at any kind of gathering of teachers and adjudicators, he is always telling stories and jokes.

Donna Gladysiewski remembered a story from the first time that her son, Julian, won the Oireachtas and qualified for the World Championships.
We had come out of the room that Julian was dancing in, because there were several competitions ahead of us, and, having the other girls dancing in different rooms, we had gone to see them, going back to the room that Julian had danced in to check the numbers. Obviously, they had made some sort of an announcement that the competition was moved, and never bothered to put up a sign saying the competition was moved, or where it was moved to. So we kept coming back, checking the room, the numbers were going down [and it seemed that he had] an hour left ‘til his competition, unknowing that at this time they had begun his competition. So Julian was up in his room, and Tom came swinging around the corner, looking like death warmed over, and he said to me ‘Where is Julian!’, trying to restrain his hands from my throat. And I, being taken aback, could not give a coherent answer. And he told me that the competition had started, and that Julian was in danger of being disqualified, so Sam, standing next to him, Sam Diggins, I said to him, ‘Sam, get Julian!’. And Sam ran off as fast as he could. It happened to be checkout time at the Hiatt, which meant there were no elevators to be had, and we were on the seventh floor. Unfortunately, Sam took off so fast that he didn’t hear where he was to make Julian go, so I had to stand between the elevators and the escalators, to see which one they would come down, and send them to the appropriate room, which was through the lobby, down the hall, past the pool, and into a tent. And I am waiting and waiting and waiting, getting more impatient. Finally, I see them coming down the escalator, and, in the middle of the beautiful Hiatt lobby, I am screaming, ‘Go to the pool! Go to the pool! It’s in the pool!’ All of these lovely people are standing around thinking that some madwoman has lost her mind, and these two young men sprint off, through the lobby, down the hall, past the pool, and go in to the tent that was set up down there. I managed to make it just towards the end, as I saw Julian go down the center aisle, around the piano and the musicians, as the other boy was coming off, the last dancer. I saw him step into his place and them start the music. Tom was standing next to me, still looking about as grey as he could. And Julian danced that set dance with about five dollars worth of change in his pockets, which you could hear occasionally tinkling, but he had no time to warm up, no time to think about it, he just ran in, ran around the stage, got onto the stage and danced. And he won the Oireachtas.

Julian Gladysiewski also remembered having trouble bringing home his trophy, as a result of the heightened post-September 11th (2001) security.

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[We had a lot of difficulty taking home the trophies after September 11 th]. We had to take the top off and put it into the box, and of course it wouldn’t fit in the box, so we kind of closed the box and then taped it all around.... when we got home it took us a half hour to put it back together.

Kirsten Hahn, who also has qualified for the Worlds several times, remembered Tom Bracken’s support during the Oireachtas competitions, including the 2002 Oireachtas, which was held in Phoenix. Arizona Bracken dancers who have qualified for the Worlds also include Marc Callaghan [Dragosz], Karl Callaghan [Dragosz], Caitlin Meaney, Sam Diggins, Amanda Harrington, Savannah Corral, Ansley Pray, Rachel McGregor, Kyren Lynch, Matt O’Leary, and Carolyn Quigley. Several of these dancers have also won the Oireachtas, and some placed in the top five (and higher) in the North American Nationals. Tom also has taken Arizona dancers to the Great Britain Nationals. In 2003, Caitlin Meaney, probably the most accomplished dancer that Arizona has seen thus far, was the first Arizonan girl to recall at the World Championships, after her first place finish at the Oireachtas. Kyren Lynch also brought home a medal from the 2003 Worlds. In addition, Tom has many other local champions.
That’s another story, when I was at the Oireachtas a few years ago, and I was totally stressed out because I didn’t think I got a recall, I danced horribly, and I had ever seen this side of him before. Now I know it is there. He took me outside and sat me down and talked to me for about an hour and a half, he gave me this major pep talk about how I shouldn’t be concerned with getting a recall, or dancing only to get a recall or to go to Worlds, that I should be dancing because it is what I love to do. And it is what I love to do, and I really do enjoy competing more than anything, and I just had to get it into my mind that it really didn’t matter how I ended up doing in the feis because competing in the feis [itself] was what I liked most about it, about Irish dancing. He just gave me a lot of support and told me how much everyone in the school cared about me and supported me. I felt so much better. Tom doesn’t show that side very often, but when we really need it, he is definitely there... [But it wasn’t a big deal in the end because] I ended up getting a recall and qualifying for the Worlds anyway.

Even though Kelly Sweeney is also an Open championship dancer, she also talks about being nervous at the big competitions:
Oireachtas was pretty big in itself. My first year, I was shaking so bad, I didn’t know if I could go on stage to do my steps because I was so nervous. I didn’t get a recall my first year, but every year after that I got a recall. Now, I kind of expect to recall, but then once I have to do my set, it could go anywhere from there, and I get really nervous.

Heather McElligott Sparks reflected on the increase in the skill of the dancers in the Oireachtas:
[The Oireachtas now is much] bigger [than it was when I competed]. I think the competition in it is [getting tougher every year]. [This is] just because in all competitions, as you get into higher levels, the competition is always [stiff], but, because of the larger numbers, its even more difficult to get to that level. I think that the dancers now are even more serious, and work even harder, and I’m not taking away from anybody on our level [in the past]. We all worked hard, too, but there are so many dancers that you have to be even more extraordinarily good to get even noticed. I think that there’s a lot more fine tuning done. I think the dancers have to push harder. I think the choreography has probably, as with all things that continue and progress and grow, [gotten] harder and more difficult and more challenging. If were still doing the same

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choreography we were doing back then, we would all be bored stiff. I think as with most good competitive sports and arts, it progresses and gets more difficult.

Julian Gladysiewski spoke about his first trip to the World Championships (2002), to which he returned in 2003:
[Worlds] was less stressful, believe it or not, I found it slightly less stressful. At Oireachtas when I came off from doing my first dance, my whole entire body was shaking, but when I came off from Worlds after my first dance, I was so nervous but I was much calmer. It was really busy. it wasn’t so busy that when you would get up people walking around you couldn’t walk around, but for the most part there were a whole lot of people in the auditorium. The stage was hard as a rock. Because of the lighting, you could just barely see the judges, but you could see the stage, and there would just be black in front of you. it looked like a regular size stage when you were sitting down, and when you are up there, but when I started dancing I realized that it was a whole lot bigger. I realized that I had to change the [pattern] of my dance. When we first got there, no one knew where anybody was, but after about the first day when we found everybody. We all pretty much got together and we would go out to dinner after someone danced and we would celebrate. What originally happened was we were backstage waiting when everybody was dancing, and this one boy, before he went out, he was really supposed to dance with someone else, but his nose started to bleed just before he went out and they had him dance later, so they put him with somebody else, and he went back and they tried to get his nose to stop bleeding. Of course, it did not stop bleeding, so they had to call the paramedics, and the paramedics couldn’t stop it bleeding either. It got so bad that they weren’t going to let him dance, so after the last person went it was just me and that other boy back there, because I was waiting to dance and they didn’t want to send me out alone, they wanted to see if his nose would stop bleeding. They couldn’t, so they held me back there for about ten minutes, and then they said ‘Go out’, so I went out there. Just as I went out there the musicians left to, later I learned, have a cigarette. So I stood out there, everyone was looking at me, I was out there with a big smile on my face and then, as the time went by, it was about four minutes, I stood up there all alone, and after about 15 seconds, my smile started to fade, because I was starting to feel stupid, smiling away. So finally, the musicians came back and gave me a cold look, [like] ‘Why are you here? What are you doing here?’, and of course they eventually figured out that I was here to dance, and they played the music for me and I danced. And then I danced and I went off, and I went to my seat, and about another ten minutes later that other boy came out and danced. It kind of shut down my charisma. My energy level went way down. As I was standing back there I was practicing, but of course when you’re out there on stage with everybody looking at you, you can’t very well practice.

Julian Gladysiewski also remembered his reaction to dancing with the Chieftains:
Dancing with the Chieftains was scary because we had to learn those five treble reel steps and then present them later that night. I thought it was kind of neat because well when we danced, I didn’t know how actually big they were, because I thought they were this really good Irish band that was playing, but I didn’t know that they had won any of the awards or anything until afterward. It was like, ‘Wow’.

Rosemary Browne talked about trying to connect the Tucson Irish dancing and music scenes, and strengthening the latter:
There are two Irish bands in Tucson, Round the House with Sharon Goldwasser, and Trim the Velvet with Mick McQuaid. So we dance a lot with them.

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We’re trying to get Irish music going, and it’s really not going that great, but I used to let the studio out for free, and try and have seisiúns, and get kids down there, and it fell apart after four or five months. We have Lynn Soper, who’s a fabulous violinist. We took over the feis, which was the McTeggart feis originally. It didn’t go for a year, and then we took it over. Actually that same year, the NAFC rules mandated that you had to have a second type of competition that was not dancing. Basically, they spelled it out that they liked music. It was in an effort to promote music. You know, some people do the bread and the essays and the posters, and all that stuff; it’s a lot less work. But, anyway, since they clearly stated that they preferred us to do music competition, we’ve always done a music competition. The first year I asked Sharon Goldwasser to try and organize- I didn’t know anything about the Irish music really other than the music we dance to. So I said, ‘Look, I don’t know, you show me something, and we’ll do it’. So she went on the internet and got all the Fleadh rules, and she sent them to me, and I condensed them into very simplistic categories, and simplistic rules, and the Phoenix Feis totally, with our permission, lifted it, and their music rules [are] exactly what I put together five years ago. The very first music competition, we had five kids, Winnie Hennessy, who plays the squeeze-box, was the judge, and it was a very small deal. It is still not that big, I think we had between 20 and 30 at the most, the last two years. So, anyway, the first two years it was sort of like that, and then Mick McQuaid took over the music competition. He’s a New York musician, and he knows all these famous people, and he’s a flute player; he’s part of Trim the Velvet. He used to compete Fleadh when he was a kid, so he took my simplified rules, and expanded them back, into the huge Fleadh categories. So now we have ten kids, and we have sixty categories, so guess what, every kid gets first, and no one is against each other. I [thought it was] pretty silly, but he was like, ‘This is not authentic, it’s not right’... So, anyway, he expanded it all out, and then he came up with the idea two years ago to get Joannie Madden to judge the feis, and he thought that would be really huge PR, and, it would be fabulous. His idea was to have her come in and give a workshop, so that she could tell everyone what they needed to know, and then to come back and judge the feis. And he organized this without the absolute authority of the feis committee, and there was a little bit of a problem there, but, anyway, it all ended up happening. She came out, she taught the workshop, Joannie Madden last year, she gave a concert, it was fabulous, and then she came back and judged the feis. If the Emerald Isle Society hadn’t funded us, we would have all gone in the red. But it turned out to be a very nice thing, and it more than doubled the music competitor numbers, but it still, I don’t think at 25...Anyway, that happened under sort of difficult [conditions], and I asked the Emerald Isle Society for the extra $3,000 to cover it. So it all worked out, and it was nice. So this year, I kind of put the semi-kibosh on the whole thing. We separated the music workshop from the feis, and so Sharon Goldwasser started calling around to all the musicians that she thought a lot of, and Liz Carroll bit. The feis funded her coming out to give a workshop, which was really nicely attended. I think they had between thirty and forty students, and it paid for her ticket and everything, which was great. It paid for itself. And then we had a lovely ceílí at the Quigley’s house that night, which also raised money for the feis and to cover the cost of having Liz Carroll there, and it was really well attended, I mean, a McElligott came down from Phoenix... That was a great event. I just said, ‘There’s no way we’re affording to have someone else come out twice’, and I just said, ‘Pat King knows as much about Irish music as anybody, and he’s coming out anyway to be at the feis,’ So I asked him if he would judge the music competition on Friday night. He said he would... Pat did a super job. Apparently, he wrote really nice things for everyone, and then he gave an oral adjudication at the end.. Everybody was absolutely delighted with what he did, and he actually offered [to do it again] next year. I have personally always tried to promote music, but I don’t know how to do it, so I have always said to the musicians, ‘Bring me a proposal, and I will get the Emerald Isle to fund it’.

Around the turn of the millennium, a large number of new classes were started. Brandy Johnson taught for Tom Bracken and then on her own. 95

For most of high school, I taught my own classes [for Tom], and then now I teach, I took over Dara’s classes. And now it is not even like I am tied to any school, I just contract out, which is kind of weird, not being Bracken or Maoileidigh. What I think is different about these kids is a lot of them are dancers, other types of dancers, like they do ballet and tap and jazz, and then they wanted something extra. A few just come for Irish, but not as many. It helps that they have somewhat of a dance background, but they are also not as dedicated or gung-ho. This is just a fun class for them to do.

Patricia Prior remembered the difficulties that people had maintaining a class in Northern Arizona.
[Dara] was asked to [teach a class for Tom Bracken in Northern Arizona], and she started teaching some kids that were going to come down to her, and they couldn’t get it right. The Irish Foundation just started in northern Arizona about two years ago. They are getting going, and the Irish language started up there. There wasn’t anything Irish up there, just this one family wanted their kids to have Irish dancing.

Sharon Judd talked about teaching class in Northern Arizona:
When the Irish Foundation started the Flagstaff class, they wanted Irish dance, and there was one of our dancers that had danced with Pat Hall. It was years before, and she hadn’t danced since she was about 11 or 12, and now she is in her 20s. They told her that they wanted an Irish dance class, and she told them, ‘You know, I’m not certified. All I can teach them is what I remember from 8 years ago!’. They said, ‘If that’s what we’ve got, that’s good enough’. So they had her start teaching that class. So she taught it, and then she was graduating from college, and she called me, and had me start teaching that class. [That was about 1998 or 1999]. A lot of them are in church halls and a lot of them are in studios. Up in Flagstaff, we are using the American Legion hall.

Asa Markel had already moved into the area:
When I was up in Flag’ I helped Sharon Judd teach, and she’s with McTeggart, it’s just that I was the most experienced dancer there, so all the little girls would ask me questions about stuff. If there was anything to be done on the side it was me that did it, like coaching or whatever. I guess that’s natural, I think the term Sharon used, that maybe gets used a lot in Phoenix, was just ‘senior dancer’ or whatever, just these people that just help younger people, not really a big deal.

Sarah Houghtelin has also started her own classes under the name the White Mountain Academy of Irish Dance and has passed the TCRG exam very recently. She has been teaching in the Phoenix area and in some more remote locations. Along with Ann Franevsky and Kirsten Hahn, she has been teaching dancing in the Irish Cultural Center. Previously, she had run a Renaissance Festival group called Celtic Fire. Sharon Judd spoke about the new classes in Tucson, held by the Hall School: 96

Gwynette is working on her teacher’s down in Tucson. She is married now. Pat Hall is going in there once a month, rehearsing that class, and she has the class the rest of the month. I don’t think they have [competed] yet. I don’t know if they are going to wait until after Gwynette takes her teacher’s.

Carrie Haney talked about the impetus behind her the beginning of her class at ASU:
When I was away at college, I started an Irish dance group there, because Riverdance was so popular... It was an all women’s college, but we were able to get some men to come over from the colleges around the way, because it was St. Paul, Minnesota, so there were about 5 private colleges. It was hard for me because I was teaching all beginners, so I never really advanced at all through college in competition, but I came home over the summers and danced with Heather. That was a lot of fun. I showed her some of the figure dances I was learning in St. Paul. [In St. Paul] there was a ceílí almost every weekend, and it was a ceílí where you danced the whole time. It was so funny when I came home, and I tried to help out with the ceílí for the Phoenix Feis, I taught one dance and I remember they immediately left the floor after one dance...They sat down, and I was like, ‘This is a ceílí! You dance the entire evening!’. That was just not a concept here in Phoenix. I was ending my last year, and Heather called me up. She knew I was going to be coming home in a couple of months. She was like, ‘Just throw this around in your head. How about you take over my figures classes, because I don’t have any, and I try to work them in during solos’. I thought it over, and I said that I did have time for that. I guess it was before that, back in January, that I emailed ASU, and I said, ‘I’m an Irish dance teacher, and I will be living in Arizona as of the fall of 1999. Do you offer Irish step dancing yet, or would you like to offer it?’. I turned in my resume, and they offered the course. The reason I thought I had enough experience to do that was because I had been very involved in teaching clog dancing... When I was seventeen, I started Irish dancing [again], but I was still clogging. I was getting my certification to teach as a certified clogging instructor. Usually, you work your way up as a clogging instructor. You teach local workshops, which I had been doing, then you started teaching a little more regionally, then you teach nationally. Well, Riverdance had hit at this time and as soon as they found out that I knew Irish step dance, and I could translate it to clogging terminology, they asked me to teach at their national convention. They paid my way, and it was amazing. Because I taught at the national convention right off the bat, my part time job during college was flying to different states and teaching workshops on how to teach cloggers how to do Irish dance. [It was] ‘Riverdance with Carrie Haney’. It was just being in the right place at the right time, and being able to translate for a clogger.

Carrie talked more about some of the specifics of her class:
I haven’t advertised at all... Maybe if I start losing classes because of the numbers, then I will start doing that, because the Riverdance hype has just started to fall away. There are still a good amount. That’s the great thing about the Irish culture. So many people are Irish , or love Ireland, or go to the Irish pubs and see it, so you don’t have to advertise too much. I was very intimidated in the beginning, because I think I started teaching there when I was 24, and I remember one guy in my class was finishing his doctorate, and I was like, ‘I’m grading you?’. I’m finally resolved to the fact that I am a good teacher. I know I am because people have asked me back. I can teach

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reasonably well. I have done a good job and gotten complements. I am going with the focus that these aren’t people that want to compete, these are people that want to appreciate the culture. I added in the history of Irish dance, because I had researched that already for my senior honors project at college... I get a lot of good feedback on the lectures. They want to learn more about the history and the music. I invited musicians from the community such as Doug Rutherford [and] Kevin King. A lot of the course is demonstration quizzes, but it is very simple demonstration, like just having their foot on the ground at the right time, and their weight on it, at the right time. If their toes aren’t turned out, they’re not crossed, they’re not pointed, all of those are extra credit. I give tons of extra credit in my class... That way they are relaxed, but they are trying for the extra credit... For the ceílí dances, they don’t have to have the footwork right at all, they just need to get to the right spot, and not get in anyone else’s way. That’s pretty much the obligation for passing. They have to know the correct terminology and the order of the dance... It’s even more fun when they mess up.. At a ceílí, in a relaxed environment, you just laugh and roll with it. The first and second class, we would have parties on the weekends. We would go over to people’s apartments [and watch] Lord of the Dance for part of their assignments. We would bring food. Now, I’m getting a little more separated in age from the students who are taking the classes. We started a club up second semester, with just alumni from the group. We don’t really advertise to people who have never taken the class. We threw some costumes together, and started trying to do little shows together when possible... As soon as someone asks us to do a show, I’ll send out an email, ‘Does anyone want to do a show? Ok, we’ll practice tomorrow!’. So it is very laid back... For the level two class, we try to work on one choreography piece the whole semester, and try to audition that for a dance department production, and use it for shows. It was really fun, last year (2001), when the three of us did the Colleen Pageant, we all got in the top five. (Meg Hill won first).

Sharon Judd talked about the beginnings of the Arizona State Championship Feis:
[We decided to start the Arizona State Championship Feis] to have our own feis, and to have another one in between the early summer and when school starts. We wanted to do a feis in Phoenix that was when school wasn’t in, which is getting harder and harder anymore. They keep squishing up the kids’ summer. It is dangerously small anymore.

Kelly Sweeney also commented on the Arizona State Championship Feis:
All the other states have had McTeggart [feiseanna] for a while. Mrs. Hall just decided it was time to have one in Phoenix, and we all thought she was crazy when she chose the date. We said, ‘That is the middle of summer, are you sure?’ But she wanted us to have one, and so every class she would come in and work with us. She actually came a little more often the first year that we had the feis, and we would have meetings, all the parents, and her, and we would get things organized. We have had a lot of help from the Denver class, because that is where her daughter Ann lives and runs all the Colorado schools, so they helped us out a lot the first year. This year, there is a family in Denver that

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started a program called ‘Feis Worx’, so they are running all of the McTeggart [feiseanna] now. They did a lot of work, pretty much all of the work for us. That was really helpful. Now everything is kind of done, you just need to put it together at the time the feis comes around. We know what it is supposed to be like.

During this time, some dancers (especially from, but not representing, the McElligott School) decided to form a performance group for the Renaissance Festival. Elizabeth Moore talked about her experiences in this:
I am in Gaelic Thunder. Gaelic Thunder got started because a group got together to do Ren Faire. Then Ann wanted to consolidate it and make it more professional for Faire. She brought all this choreography, and we would go every Sunday to practice. There are so many personalities and so many strange Faire personalities. [Not everybody] meshes together [very] well. But we all dance well together, that’s, I think, the most important part. And they are all so new. Ann and I have been dancing, them together, they have been dancing less time than Ann or I. Collectively, they have been dancing for like a year, each, and then, Ann and I, seven years and 8 [or 9] years. So it is a lot of inexperienced dancing. They are a fun groups to be around though. There are 12 dancers, 5 musicians.

Carrie Haney talked about Gaelic Thunder:
I love the Wednesday nights over at Bandersnatch and at Rula Bula, those have gotten to be so much fun, and I think that has been helped by the ASU dancers going out there. Now Bandersnatch is taken over by Gaelic Thunder, on Wednesday nights. A lot of them from the renaissance festival are going out there. They are not mainly ASU, but there are about four ASU dancers with them.

Kevin Horton is also a new addition to the area. He continues to dance for the famous Tully-O’Hare school while he is working on his undergraduate degree at ASU. He has placed extremely well at the World Championships several times and is an excellent dancer. It is yet to be seen whether he will stay in the area to live or teach, and what affiliations he will make.

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Summary
Margaret Cunningham Hyland, originally from Chicago, moved into Phoenix when her father was ill with tuberculosis in 1942. Her family was instrumental in developing Irish community ties within the valley. Mrs. Hyland was one of the first dancers in the valley, having learned from an Irish girl named Mae Cooney, who was the niece of John Hanifan. The Cunninghams were involved in the creation of the Irish-American Social Club, and began the organization of Irish cultural events in the valley. Mrs. Hyland was also involved in other forms of dance and taught Irish dance for a short period. She and her brother Father John Cunningham also performed as a musical group, and she and Father Cunningham often offered assistance to various dancing teachers and events throughout the years In 1963, Mary McCormack and her family moved to Phoenix. She had previously taken class with the Baron School in New Jersey, and her daughters were pupils of Una Ellis in the 1950s. After being asked to teach, Mrs. McCormack began a small school in 1964 named the Donegal Dancers. She continued teaching until 1998 and perpetuated Irish dancing culture in Arizona throughout that time. Mrs. McCormack made lessons very inexpensive and taught classes out of her enclosed porch. Her dancers performed at Mayor Margaret T. Hance’s Brown Bag Lunches and on the “Bedpan Circuit” as entertainment for invalids and other patients. Marshall Rakowsky, Sterling Briggs, and, especially, Sol Rudnick were musicians that often performed with the group. Notable dancers from this time period include Linda Sheedy, Maureen Mullins, Mary Doyle Lanz, and Sheila Martin. Mrs. Lanz eventually was the first teacher of Irish dance in Tucson from 1982 to 1984, leading the Emerald Isle Dancers. Around the late 1970's, Mrs. McCormack began to encourage three women who had extensive dancing experience, Kathleen McCafferty Dobyns, Nora Pearse, and Dottie Flynn Wood to teach classes. Mrs. Dobyns and Ms. Pearse had been contemporaries on the championship scene in the east coast, while Mrs. Flynn, also an easterner, was slightly older. All brought new techniques and a more advanced level of dancing to the area. Probably the most prestigious of these was Mrs. Dobyns, who had been the National champion and who won the Overseas Award at the World Championships. Dottie Flynn had also been a notable teacher already and had studied under Professor McKenna. However, none of these women was a fully certified teacher, although Mrs. Dobyns had been awarded a conditional TCRG, as (it seems) had Dottie Flynn. Mrs. Dobyns was also the first teacher to take dancers to competitions in California, and even had dancers competing in the Nationals. However, none of these teachers were especially enthusiastic about exposing their dancers to the cut-throat world of Irish dancing competition. Notable dancers from this time include Sarah McNulty, Leisl Shaughnessy, Heather Stewart, and Tanya Lloyd, all of whom rose to prominence later. 100

Mrs. Flynn and others were excited to begin a local yearly competition. After holding a festival in 1983, the Phoenix Feis was started in November of 1984. In the same year, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held. Pat Hall, ADCRG, also began her classes in Tucson in 1984. She had been a champion dancer under the tutelage of her mother, Maureen Hall, ADCRG, who is at the head of the McTeggart School in America. Pat Hall was thus the first fully certified teacher to work in Arizona. She established a school that continues to this day in Phoenix. Mrs. Hall originally taught at George O’Leary’s mobile home park, and then classes were moved to different locations. Ms. Hall was the first teacher in Arizona to place an emphasis on competition, and her dancers were certainly among the best of their time in Arizona. Prominent dancers of Tucson in the middle 1980s include Una Hennessy and Charles Flint. Leisl Shaughnessy qualified for the World Championships around that time under Pat Hall. Around 1985, the Tucson Feis was started, and Tucson also began its own parade after holding picnics. Pat Hall began to hold classes in Phoenix after Kathleen McCafferty handed over her school in 1985. For a time she would be the most prominent teacher in the area, and, in 1986, the Arizonan competitors in the Phoenix Feis were almost entirely McTeggart students. However, around 1987 Ron Plummer began teaching classes in the Phoenix area. Mr. Plummer is also an ADCRG and a prominent Irish-born champion and teacher, who lives in Canada and teaches around North America. His California dancers would often compete in Arizona feiseanna prior to his classes in the area. He taught in Arizona for a few years, encouraging students such as the McNultys, the Daughertys and Meghan Murphy. Doireann Maoileidigh was a young TCRG (later ADCRG), living at the time in California. She is also a former champion from Ireland. She began teaching in the Valley about the same time, because of the encouragement of the Houghtelin family and because of the request of Nora Pearse, who was leaving the area. She began teaching some of the dancers from the Pearse school, such as Mary and Tricia Cunningham, as well as newer dancers such as Laura Donohue. Later the students from the Plummer school were absorbed by the Maoileidigh school and the McTeggart school. The Arizona branch of the Maoileidigh School grew and eventually qualified Sarah McNulty for the World Championships. In 1991, Maoileidigh school parents such as Karen Masterson and Stephanie (Murphy) Sphenonious began the Feis in the Desert, to try to expand the opportunities for competition in the area. Another significant student of the time was Heather McElligott, who began dancing about the time that she won the Colleen Pageant in the early 1990s. She passed her TCRG exam around 1995 and began to found a solid school in the Phoenix area. In the beginning of the 1990s the McTeggart School began experiencing some difficulties as personal issues made it difficult for Pat Hall to continue her classes in Arizona. Maureen Hall began to teach monthly lessons in both Phoenix and Tucson, and Sharon Judd was encouraged to take her examinations. Mrs. Judd is now a TMRF. Although Gwynette Vath had some notable successes during the early 1990s, including qualifying for the World Championships, the Tucson branch of the school began to decline. This effect was exacerbated by the early death of Erin Rogan, who had been a good 101

friend to many and a strong dancer around that time. While classes eventually ended in Tucson, the school continues in Phoenix. After teaching for slightly less than a decade, Doireann Maoileidigh wanted to transfer her Phoenix students to someone who had a background similar to hers but would keep a permanent residence in the area. She was able to encourage Tom Bracken, TCRG, ADCRG, to move to Phoenix. Mr. Bracken had been a three-time All-Ireland champion and, around the time that he moved to the Phoenix area, in the mid-1990s, one of his students won second in the World Championships and then another won first place in the Worlds. Soon after Mr. Bracken moved to Arizona, Rosemary Browne, MD, who had moved into the area from the East coast and whose children had begun to dance in the McTeggart School, passed her TCRG exam and began to teach with Mr. Bracken. The Bracken School was thus bolstered in both metropolitan areas. This period coincided with the extreme global growth of Irish dancing, from which Arizona certainly was thankfully not sheltered. The three remaining Irish dancing schools in the area (Bracken, McElligott, and McTeggart) began to grow exponentially, as did outside interest and performance opportunities. During this period the Phoenix area would grow into one of biggest metropolitan areas in the United States. Irish dancing in Arizona was no longer as isolated as it previously had been. Arizonan Irish dancers began to place significantly higher than they had previously placed in local, regional, national, and global competitions. The first of this new wave of champions were the Marc and Karl Callaghan (Dragosz), who both competed in the Worlds. Following them, dancers from the Bracken school who qualified for the World Championships were Caitlin Meaney, Sam Diggins, Julian Gladysiewski, Amanda Harrington, Savannah Corral, Kirsten Hahn, Ansley Pray, Rachel McGregor, Kyren Lynch, Matt O’Leary, Hunter Terrell, and Carolyn Quigley. Caitlin Meaney and Kyren Lynch, both 2002 Western Regional Oireachtas winners, have the unique distinction of being the first dancers from Arizona to bring back medals from the World Championships (2003). Also during this time Ann Franevsky from the McElligott School qualified for the World Championships. The Bayley sisters also have performed well at the Oireachtas level. In addition Kelley Naumann recalled at the 2003 North American National Championships. Another notable dancer from this time is the long-legged Kelly Sweeney from the McTeggart School, who is a local favorite. New feiseanna were also started in this time, including the McElligott Christmas Feis (1998) and the McTeggart-run Arizona State Championship Feis (2001). In addition, the Feis in the Desert and the Tucson Feis switched over to being run by the Bracken School. The Phoenix Feis Committee maintained its status as an independent community-based group. Thus, options for competition have expanded significantly into the present era. All three of these schools have continued strongly into the present day. In addition, Sarah Houghtelin, who had been a Preliminary champion in the Maoileidigh School, has recently passed her TCRG exam. Gwynette Hall née Vath is also trying to become certified, and has begun holding class in Tucson under the Hall School. Kirsten Hahn has serious plans to take her teacher’s exam after she finishes her competitive and performing career. It is very likely that as other dancers in the area mature they will also be interested in teaching. In addition, Kevin Horton, a Tully-O’Hare World qualifier, has recently moved into the Phoenix area to attend Arizona State University. 102

Glossary of Unusual Terms ADCRG- Judge and teacher (certified). An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha- The primary global Irish dancing organization that sets rules and certifies teachers, especially in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, as well as Ireland, England, and Scotland, and other miscellaneous areas. The other large Irish dancing bodies are An Comhdháil Múinteorí na Rincí Gaelacha and the Festival Dance Teachers’ Association, but neither of these has the global reach of An Coimisiún. Ceílí- Group dances or a social gathering that features them. Feis- Irish dancing competition. Feiseanna- Plural of feis. Fleadh- Specific type of Irish music competition. Seisiún- Irish music session. TCRG- Dance teacher (certified). TMRF- Teacher of ceílí only (certified). An Rince Thé- the best translation available for “The Hot Dance.”

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O’Connell, Maureen. “Stepping lively and lovely; 3 Tucsonians to face best in world at Irish dancing championship.” The Arizona Daily Star. Downtown Neighbors. Friday, March 9, 2001, sec B3. O’Brien, George L. “Irish Dancers Descend on Tucson.” The Desert Shamrock. July/August, 2001. Irish community documents (personal collection)*: Bracken School of Irish Dance. Sixth Annual Feis in the Desert [Program]. Chandler, February 1 and 2, 1997. Bracken School of Irish Dance. Seventh Annual Feis in the Desert [Program]. Chandler, February 7 and 8, 1998. Bracken School of Irish Dance. The Annual Feis in the Desert [Program]. Phoenix, February 4- 6, 2000. Bracken School of Irish Dance. Eleventh Annual Feis in the Desert [Program]. Mesa, February 3 and 4, 2001. Bracken School of Irish Dance. Twelfth Annual Feis in the Desert [Program]. Mesa, February 2 and 3, 2002. Bracken School of Irish Dance. Thirteenth Annual Feis in the Desert [Program]. Phoenix, February 8 and 9, 2003. Bracken School of Irish Dance. Reel Newsletter. Phoenix, February 2001. Bracken School of Irish Dance. Reel Newsletter. Phoenix, December, 2001. An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha. Liosta Oifigiúil na Moltóirí Cláraithe agus na Múinteóirí Cláraithe. Dublin, 1997. An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha. Liosta Oifigiúil na Moltóirí Cláraithe agus na Múinteóirí Cláraithe. Dublin, September 2000. Cullinane. Dr. John P. Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing in Ireland, England, New Zealand, N. America, and Australia. Cork, 1987. Cullinane, Dr. John P. Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing in North America, The Central Remedial Clinic, Cork City, 1997. Cullinane, Dr. John P. Further Aspects of the History of Irish Dancing (Ireland, Scotland, Canada, America, N. Zealand and Australia). Ballineaspig Publications, Cork, 1990. 106

Féile Rince Tucson. Eleventh Annual Tucson Feis [Program]. Tucson, May 17 and 18, 1997. Féile Rince Tucson. Twelfth Annual Tucson Feis [Program]. Tucson, May 16 and 17, 1998. Féile Rince Tucson. Thirteenth Annual Tucson Feis [Program]. Tucson, May 15 and 16, 1999. Feis in the Desert Feis Committee. Fifth Annual Feis in the Desert [Program]. Phoenix, February 3 and 4, 1996. Gaelic Thunder. Auditions!!! Gaelic Thunder Irish Music and Dance [Pamphlet]. Phoenix, September 1, 2002. Gladysiewski, Donna. A Reel Irish Coloring Book. Phoenix, 2001. Irish American Social Club. First Annual Feis in the Desert [Program]. Phoenix, January 26, 1991. Irish Dancing Teachers Association of North America, Inc. Constitution, By-Laws, Standing Rules, Code of Ethics. United States, March 1998. Irish Gift House. Want some more Irish entertainment? The Irish Gift House Presents...[Flier]. February, 2000. Irish Stepdancers of Tucson, in association with the Bracken School of Irish Dance. Féile Rince Tucson; The Fourteenth Annual Tucson Feis [Program]. Tucson, May 19, 20, and 21, 2000. Irish Stepdancers of Tucson, in association with the Bracken School of Irish Dance. Féile Rince Tucson; The Fifteenth Annual Tucson Feis [Program]. Tucson, May 18, 19, and 20, 2001. Irish Stepdancers of Tucson. Féile Rince Tucson; The Sixteenth Annual Tucson Feis [Program]. Tucson, May 17, 18, and 19, 2002. Irish Stepdancers of Tucson, in association with the Bracken School of Irish Dance. Féile Rince Tucson; The Seventeenth Annual Tucson Feis [Program]. Tucson, May 16, 17, and 18, 2003. Locke, Chris. Feis in the Desert Update. Describes feis status. October (1995?). Locke, Chris. News of the Maoileidigh Bracken School and Feis in the Desert. Describes feis and school status, especially concerning dancers at the Oireachtas that year. December 1, 1995 Locke, Chris. Surprise Party for Heather McElligott [Flier]. Details gift donation and memory book for party on Saturday, September 23, (1995?).

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Maoileidigh Irish Dance Foundation of Arizona. Third Annual Feis in the Desert [Program]. Phoenix, February 6 and 7, 1993. Maoileidigh Irish Dance Foundation of Arizona. Fourth Annual Feis in the Desert [Program]. Phoenix, February 4 and 5, 1995. McCormack, Mary. Letter to author describing dance schools at the Phoenix Feis from 1984 to 1999. Phoenix, March 25, 2000. McCormack, Mary. Donegal - The Pride of it All. Informational letter to parents describing performances. February 20, 1975. McElligott School of Irish Dance. Third Annual McElligott Christmas Feis [Program]. Phoenix, December 9 and 10, 2000. McElligott School of Irish Dance. McElligott Christmas Feis [Program]. Phoenix, December 8 and 9, 2001. McTeggart School of Irish Dance. Arizona State Championships and Feis 2001 [Program]. Tempe, August 4, 2001. McTeggart School of Irish Dance. Arizona State Championships and Feis [Program]. Tempe, July 27, 2002. McTeggart Irish Dancers of Tucson, Inc. Fifth Annual Féile Tucson [Program]. Tucson, May 6 and 7, 1989. McTeggart Irish Dancers of Tucson, Inc. Tenth Annual Féile Tucson [Program]. Tucson, May 6 and 7, 1995. Phoenix Feis Committee. Phoenix Irish Feis 1984 [Program]. Phoenix, October 27 and 28, 1984. Phoenix Feis Committee. Phoenix Irish Feis 1985 [Program]. Phoenix, October 26 and 27, 1985. Phoenix Feis Committee. Phoenix Irish Feis 1986 [Program]. Phoenix, October 25 and 26, 1986. Phoenix Feis Committee. 5th Annual Phoenix Irish Feis 1988 [Program]. Phoenix, October 29 and 30, 1988. Phoenix Feis Committee. 6th Annual Phoenix Irish Feis 1989 [Program]. Phoenix, October 28 and 29, 1989. Phoenix Feis Committee. 9th Annual Phoenix Irish Feis1992 [Program]. Phoenix, October 28 and 29, 1992. 108

Phoenix Feis Committee. Tenth Annual Phoenix Irish Feis [Program]. Phoenix, October 23 and 24, 1993. Phoenix Feis Committee. Eleventh Annual Phoenix Irish Feis [Program]. Phoenix, October 22 and 23, 1994. Phoenix Feis Committee. Thirteenth Annual Phoenix Irish Feis [Program]. Phoenix, October 19 and 20, 1996. Phoenix Feis Committee. Annual Phoenix Irish Feis [Program]. Phoenix, October 18 and 19, 1997. Phoenix Feis Committee. 15th Annual Phoenix Irish Feis [Program]. Phoenix, October 17 and 18, 1998. Phoenix Feis Committee. 16th Annual Phoenix Irish Feis [Program]. Phoenix, October 16 and 17, 1999. Phoenix Feis Committee. Phoenix Irish Feis [Program]. Phoenix, October 19-21, 2001. Phoenix Feis Committee. The 19th Annual Phoenix Irish Feis [Program]. October 18-20, 2002. Phoenix St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee. Nineteenth Annual Colleen Pageant [Program]. Phoenix, February 9, 2002. Phoenix St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee. 20th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade [Newspaper/Program]. Phoenix, March 15, 2003. Venable, Elizabeth. “Inventing Tradition: The Global Development of Irish Dance.” 34th International Conference of the Congress on Research in Dance; Transmigratory Moves: Dance in Global Circulation. New York University, New York, October 26-28, 2001. Western Region of the Irish Dancing Teachers’ Association of North America. Western U.S. Regional Oireachtas [Program]. Phoenix, November 22-24, 2002. Western U.S. Irish Dance Teachers Association. Western U.S. Regional Oireachtas [Program]. Phoenix, November 20 and 21, 1993.
* All sources and titles are listed as they were originally in the document. Any year to year inconsistencies reflect decisions of those bodies which issued the documents.

Photos 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 courtesy of Mary McCormack. Photo 6 courtesy of Janet Corcoran. Photo(s) 7 courtesy of Peg Cunningham. Photos 8 and 9 courtesy of Kelly Daugherty. Photo 18 courtesy of Ellen McCarthy. Photo 19 courtesy of Laura Donohue. Photo 23 courtesy of Debbie Markey. All others are from documents in my personal collection. My sincerest apologies to the unnamed artists who created the three pictures I obtained from the internet. 109