ARTS AND FEATURES — 14 March 2014

By David Hennessy

Established for over 40 years, The Maguire O’Shea Academy of Irish Dance holds a proud record as it boasts the only mother and daughter to both win World Championships in Kathleen and Ellie who have both won three each although Kathleen modestly tells The Irish World: “We’ve been lucky.”

But there is certainly more than luck involved as out of Michael and Kathleen Maguire’s six children, five have performed with Riverdance and before you think the other one might be an underachiever, we’ll point out their other child is the well known actor Sean Maguire who plays Robin Hood in Once Upon a Time.

Looking ahead to the forthcoming championships, Kathleen says: “We’ve got one boy, Owen Sherman, who could do it. He was second last year but he has just recently beat the world champion so we’re hopeful. And we’ve got three girls who could possibly do it. The standard is absolutely amazing now. It’s so hard to get a recall in the world championships, you need to be a champion over and over just to get the recall.”

Although she believes the popularity of Irish dancing is growing, Kathleen says funding still presents problems: “It’s extremely difficult. There’s so much expense involved especially if you’ve got a dance drama (The Maguire has two). You’ve got to get costumes and props and then you’ve got to get a venue to practice at that is big enough. It’s very difficult, we’ve come across a lot of problems.

“You probably wouldn’t put a junior and a senior dance drama if you had to travel far. Next year it’s in Montreal. You would nearly want to be guaranteed a medal to travel that far and you can never, never guarantee that.

“We’re running our Maguire O’Shea City of London Feis next weekend and it’s going to be held in Raines Foundation School, Bethnal Green so we’ve got hundreds of people coming from all over. We’ve got entries from Russia, Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand and that’s before St Patrick’s and before the worlds. Yeah, we’ve got a lot on at the moment to put it mildly.”

Last St Patrick’s weekend, the school were honoured to dance with Ant and Dec on their Paddy’s flavoured Saturday Night Takeaway: “I was really proud, Ellie got that together so that was really good.”

The Maguire O’Shea dancers performing at Wembley

Since then they danced on the pitch at Wembley when England played Republic of Ireland: “My eldest daughter organised that one and that was a huge challenge. The whole pitch at Wembley were all our dancers dressed in green, lovely feeling about it.”

Since Michael and Kathleen began teaching the early 70s, they have produced many All Ireland, World and major champions: “My husband Michael started teaching in 1970 but I was still competing at the time, I started in 1973. Originally he was Maguire School and then we got married in 72. Then the rest is history really. A lot of people don’t realise the history until they join and then there’s a bit of a buzz about it.”

Maguire O’Shea Academy teachers Ellie, Michael and Deirdre can be seen dancing with Riverdance at Trafalgar Square on March 16.

For more information, go to: http://maguireoshea.net/.

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