John Egan explores how one Irish dancing championship links the Isle of Man, Ireland and Coventry
Cumann Rince Dea Mheasa (CRDM) is the third largest Irish dance organisation in Ireland. In recent years it has expanded its membership and affiliation base to take in dance schools in Britain and abroad.
It came into being just 13 years ago and in that time it has grown from seven to the present 60 teachers. It has confidently gone forward in developing its structures, its standards, its regulations and its annual calendar.
It is now one of five organisations to stage its very own world championships. This is no mean feat for such a young organisation. Last year it also added another major event to its quiver by staging its first British Championships, or to give it its full title, Ellan Vannin CRDM British Championships.
I found it interesting that Ellan Vannin, meaning Isle of Man in the Manx Gaelic language, should find its way into the title of an Irish dancing oireachtas, albeit a British based one. It all stems from the fact that the championships were the brainchild of dance teacher Sharon Rye of Scoill Daunse Yernagh Ellan Vannin, which I guess translates to Isle of Man School of Irish Dance.
Sharon danced from the age of six starting with genres of ballet, tap, aerobics and modern. At the age of 11 she trained in Irish dance under the tutelage of Danny Doherty (An Coimisiun) at Corpus Christie Church in Coventry for almost a year. She retained her interest and returned to Irish dance nine years ago to take her teacher diploma with CRDM in Dublin.
Originally from Coventry but living in the Isle of Man for 16 years, Sharon opened her Performing Arts Dance School 12 years ago but soon incorporated Irish dance.
Most of her dancers are Manx and although the island has strong links with its larger fellow Celtic neighbour, not all have Irish antecedents. But music, dance and a struggling Manx Gaelic language still form three pillars of its culture and it isn’t difficult to attract kids who see Irish dancing as a cool activity, which is also closely related to their own culture and ethnicity.
The dance school has developed into a successful multi award winning school and has many successes including a CRDM All Ireland Championship title.
The championships, a qualifying oireachtas, were hugely successful and were attended by dancers and parents from 27 schools around England, Ireland, Scotland and of course, from the Isle of Man. Many of these dancers will go on to compete at the CRDM All Ireland and World Championships next year.
Although not an aboriginal Mancunian, Sharon had no difficulty in titling her dance school to reflect the growing interest that young people on the island have for their native language which had been largely abandoned by previous generations.
The language, whose origins were influenced from the early ages by the sister languages of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, is growing in usage, but admittedly from a very small base. Preservation of the language is very much on the political and education agenda of the island where Manx is taught as a second optional language.
Perhaps it has learned from the retrograde experience of Ireland whose own language revival attempts were not endeared to schoolchildren because of the attendant sanctions and compulsory nature of its teaching.
Interestingly enough, an early attempt to help in the preservation of Manx was via the work of the Irish Folklore Commission who was sent there in 1948 by Eamon De Valera to make recordings of the language for posterity.
And who knows, maybe one day there will be Irish dancers from midway across the Irish Sea who will be able to converse with Gaelic speakers from Connemara and from the Islands & Highlands.
The similarities in all three vocabularies surely make this a distinct and interesting possibility.
Just three years old, Bayley Needham (O’Dwyer Acad) was delighted with his second place.