This year has been a very exciting, productive, and fulfilling one… beyond all of the smiles, fun, friendships and lasting memories, we achieved some amazing results that cannot go unmentioned. We brought home a Title and five Top 5 placements from the 2011 North American National Championships! We were awarded 7 titles and 18 Top 5 placements at the 2011 Regional Championships, with 21 soloists qualifying for the World Championships! The World Championships brought us a 3rd place in the U12 boys, 9th and 24th in the U14 Girls, 11th 17th & 23rd in U15 Girls, 27th in U19 Girls and 11th 12th and 17th in the Ceili competitions! Congratulations to each dancer that has performed on stage throughout the year in cities all across the world — we are very proud to have you represent the Mulhern School!
In addition to all of the placement successes our school has achieved, we have expanded into the Minneapolis, Minnesota area! We are now teaching classes in St. Louis Park, MN. We have an excellent and growing class up North. Please welcome our new family members.
We look forward to the continued development of each dancer in our school. Their hard work and positive attitude will assure much fun and contentment. W e thank all of the parents for sharing your beautiful children with us and the sacrifices your family makes to allow them to dance with us. We know we are very blessed to have you a part of our school family and we appreciate your commitment to this form of dance — Irish dance — and the Mulhern School!
Congratulations to Conal Mulhern O’Kane of the Mulhern School of Irish Dance who placed 3rd in Boys 11-12 at the 42nd World Irish Dancing Championships, hosted by An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (the World Irish Dancing Commission). The competition draws 6,500 dancers annually.
Winners earn a traveling trophy, shown here, which is theirs to keep until a new winner is crowned at the following year’s competition.
This year Worlds were held in Belfast, Northern Ireland starting March 31st, with a panel of esteemed adjudicators from Australia, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States tasked with the difficult job of selecting the best competitive Irish dancers in the world today. Other results can be found here.
Next year Worlds will be held at Hynes Convention Center in Boston, MA — its only the second time that the annual meet has been held in the United States, and the first time for Boston. Twenty cities competed for the honor of hosting the 2012 event.
Once again, Mulhern sent a number of dancers to the international competition. Congratulations to all Mulhern dancers who competed.
Their parents, Brian and Bridie Mulhern, emigrated from Ireland and enrolled all seven of the Mulhern children in lessons. But Coleen and Eileen, the youngest of the brood, were different—unlike their siblings, they never outgrew the sport. “We were the ones in the family that went the furthest with it,” says Eileen. Continue reading …
(Hinsdale Central High School Devils’ Advocate, 12/15/11) — Thanksgiving is usually a time for two things; family and turkey –– unless, of course, you are an Irish dancer. In that case, practice starts at five in the evening, and by the time it ends, hopefully there is still turkey left. As with any sport, incredibly large sacrifices must be made to reach an elite level, but for those who do make the commitment, the light at the end of the tunnel is a trip to Belfast, Ireland for the world competition.
Central will be represented by three students for the individual competition in Belfast this April. Senior Katelyn Dunn, Juniors Emily Russell and Claire Sullivan, and Freshmen Caitlin O’Rourke and sisters Mary Kate McCarthy and Meghan McCarthy, all qualified out of the Oireacthas competition, a regional qualifier in which only the top 10% of dancers advance. This year, approximately 150 dancers fought for those 15 spots.
The Oireacthas begins with a hard shoe round of Irish dancing in groups of three (the hard shoe is similar to a tap shoe), and is followed b] a soft shoe round (similar to a ballet shoe). Based on evaluations of these rounds, half of the dancers are recalled for a final evaluation. “If you get recalled, you then dance, once again in front of the three judges, but this time all by yourself in your hard shoes so they can hear your rhythm. Thii is the set round; the round to show off what you’ve got,” said Russell.
Last year, Russell missed qualifying for the world competition by one spot. “Everything about it is just really stressful,” said Russell. Adding to the stress is a point system in which each individual starts with a perfect score, but then receives deductions for the smallest of mistakes. “Irish Dance takes a combination of flexibility, strength, and grace. You are constantly jumping, leaping, and exerting tons of energy while at the same time focusing on keeping your dances neat and elegant,” said Russell. Maintaining that high level of physical exertion and focus on form is what makes retaining that perfect score extremely difficult.
As a result, the sport requires immense preparation. Sullivan’s experiences with Irish Dancing began at age four, and she has remained with the sport for the past 12 years. “We have practice twice a week no matter what time of year it is. Before regionals we had practices on Sunday for six hours. It’s a long day,” said Sullivan. Tlie schedule has limited flex- ibility, as demonstrated by the Thanksgiving practices.
Russell, Sullivan, Dunn ,and the McCarthy’s all take lessons from an Irish dance program taught by sisters Colleen Mulhern Malloy and Ei- leen Mulhern O’Kane. They participate in the top level of several classes, which includes about twenty students from both the local suburbs and downtown Chicago. “They can push you really hard at times, and it is stressful, but in the end it is worth it,” said Sullivan. Russell has also seen her share of tough lessons in the program. “Sometimes their’constructive criticism’ is pretty harsh, but you have to be pretty tough to be an Irish Dancer because you face a lot of rejection and disappointments,” said Russell.
And when it comes to Irish dancing, both Malloy and O’Kane have done more than just teach. O’Kane won the regional title for 11 con- secutive years and was twice named the national Irish dance champion. Malloy was a national champion as well as a world medal holder. “My coaches are some of the most talented teachers in the Irish dancing world today,” said Dunn. “They prepare us both physically and mentally for competitions and make sure we never step on stage unprepared. They can be tough on the dancers but it is worth it because only hard work can result in ‘big’results.”
Russell, Sullivan, and Dunn also participate in other types of dance. All three are on the poms team and as distinct as the two forms of dance are, some overlaps in technique do exist. “The major factor that it helps is my flexibility. Being on the poms team helps me to kick and click my legs over my head, which is what our dance teachers are looking for, flexibility-wise. Poms also helps to make spins and such easier because we work on core and spotting,” said Russell.
For Dunn, Irish dancing is just one aspect of her dance life. “I dance at the American Dance Center 11 hours a week studying ballet,jazz, tap, modern, and contemporary dance,” said Dunn. “1 feel that some aspects of Irish dance line up with ballet such as turn out, flexibility, and pointed toes while others like landing flat-footed from jumps in ballet and land- ing on your toes for Irish dance totally contradict each other.”
During a competition, Irish dancers are evaluated byjudges based on several criteria. “The top five tilings that they are being judged on are rhythm and timing, carriage, feet placement, athleticism, and style. It’s an art form, beyond the technicalities,” said O’Kane. A significant amount of raw strength is necessary for a dancer to complete her steps. “If you are not as strong or athletic, you have a harder time getting through the routine. Like any sport these days, the level of sheer athleticism required has increased,” said O’Kane.
In the weeks leading up to the Oireacthas, the frequency and duration of practices increased significantly. The dancers had practice four to five times per week, for a total of 12 hours. Practices could also go until 11 at night, upsetting a dancer’s usual pattern of school, homework, and sleep. By the sixth hour of a Sunday practice, or when the clock in the studio strikes 11 p.m., Sullivan, Dunn and Russell are exhausted. And as for the difficulty of these practices, Dunn might go as far as to call them back- breaking. “I even fractured my back last year due to the intensity of class,” said Dunn.
But the ultimate payoff is just around the corner. All three individuals will compete in the solo portion of the world competition in Ireland this spring. “The competition will be super tough because it is the top dancers from every region,” said Russell. Russell, Sullivan and Dunn all share a goal of a recall at the world competition. “Our goals are very individual. Some girls just want a recall, and others want to finish in the top 10%. Last year we had two from our program that placed 9’1’ and 10’h at worlds individually,” said O’Kane. Only half of the competitors receive a recall, and have the privilege of participating in the awards ceremony.
One of the great benefits of the world competition is the chance to meet dancers from other countries. The most represented countries include the United States, England, Australia, South Africa, Ireland and even Russia. “It’s the best of the best – the best of each region competing for the world championship title,” said O’Kane.
After all of the hard work that has gone into qualifying for a trip to Belfast, Dunn, Sullivan and Russell feel more excitement than anxiety for April. After a decade of training, these three Irish dancers can finally show off the incredible level of performance they have acquired. Looking back on 11 years of work, Russell has no doubts about her decision to remain with the program: “I am so happy that I have stuck with it for so long, because all of your hard work really pays off, and it feels awesome when it does!”
— Ted Owens
Two of the nation’s top Irish dancers have expanded their championship-level dance school – The Mulhern School of Irish Dance – with a new studio in St. Louis Park.
Siblings Eileen Mulhern O’Kane and Coleen Mulhern Malloy – both former North American National Champions in Irish dance and former students of dance legend, Michael Flatley – founded The Mulhern School of Irish Dance in Illinois in 2001. A decade later, the Chicago-based school has amassed an impressive collection of trophies and titles in national and international competition.
At the most recent Regional Championship in Chicago, the school took home 7 Regional titles, had 15 soloists in the Top Ten and qualified 21 students to compete at the World Championships! The World Championship takes place in Belfast, Northern Ireland the first week in April. The school will also be taking their 42 soloists who qualified to the North American National Championship this coming July.
The sisters began their teaching careers after achieving their own impressive list of Irish dancing honors.
Coleen won the Mid-American Oireachtas consistently with the exception of one year. She is a North American National Champion and World medal holder. Coleen has adjudicated at many competitions throughout North America including the 2010 North American National Championships and most recently the prestigious 2012 All Ireland Competition.
Eileen was the undefeated Mid-American Oireachtas Champion for 11 years in a row. She was the 2 time North American National Champion and placed at World’s every year she competed.
Both sisters have also performed with The Chieftans on Chicago newscasts, for Mayor Richard Daly and in concerts all over North America. Both are also accomplished fiddle players who were taught by Chicago’s, Liz Carroll.
The youngest of seven children, Eileen and Coleen were first exposed to Irish dance when they went along to lessons with their older siblings. Their parents, Brian and Bridie, emigrated from Ireland and all seven children took Irish step dancing lessons with Chicago legend, Pat Roche.
As the two youngest advanced, they went on to dance with great success under the tutelage of Dennis and Margie Dennehy. They also danced with Michael Flatley when he opened his school in Chicago after winning the World Championships. When Flatley closed the school to tour with the Chieftains and ultimately Lord of the Dance & River Dance, June Butler of the Butler Academy in Toronto, Canada took over the school and commuted to Chicago.
Coleen and Eileen received their TCRG’s in 2001 and began teaching in their home town of Hinsdale, Illinois. They opened their new dance studio in 2006 in Westmont, Illinois and continue to provide instruction at studios in Hinsdale and Chicago. They have consistently developed their students from beginner all the way up to World Championship level. They have achieved titles at the Regional, National Championships, Great Britain Championships in addition to numerous medalists at the World Championship, All Ireland, British National and All Scotland Championships.
Classes are held on Wednesdays at Balance Pointe Studios, 5808R W. 36th Street, St. Louis Park. Students are now being accepted for all levels. Depending on the child, students may begin instruction as early as age 3. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
School website: www.mulhernschoolofirishdance.com
Anna Geraghty- 48th Place
Kate Gallo -1st Place
Caroline Cofoid- 10th Place
Katie Guinan- 23rd Place
Elizabeth Bogs- 35th Place
Mary Kate McCarthy- 3rd Place
Meghan McCarthy -17th Place
Morgan Mulhern – 13th Place
Elisabeth Greve- 44th Place
Enya Ward- 17th Place
Emily O’Leary-41st Place
Brittany Was- 35th Place
Meghan Mulhern- 14th Place
Conal O’Kane- 5th Place
Rory Ward- 2nd Place
Ceili U13- 6th Place
Ceili U16- 12th Place
Gianna Levato (injured)
Rory Ward – U18 – 9th Place
World Medal Holder
Mary Kate McCarthy – U11 – 14th Place
World Medal Holder
Kate Gallo – U10 – 16th Place
World Medal Holder
Morgan Mulhern – U13 – 41st Place
Caroline Cofoid (injured)
Congratulations to the following Mulhern dancers who qualified for the 2009 World Championships:U11 – Caroline Cofoid, Kate Gallo, Mary Kate Guinan
U12 – Mary Kate McCarthy, Meghan McCarthy
U14 – Morgan Mulhern
U19 – Rory Ward
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL MULHERN COMPETITORS!
MULHERN SCHOOL OIREACHTAS TOP 10 RESULTS:
1st Place: Caroline Cofoid – U10 Girls
2nd Place: Mary Kate McCarthy – U11 Girls
Conal Mulhern O’Kane – U8 Boys
Nicole Schaff – U8 Traditional Set
3rd Place: Rory Ward – U18 Boys
4th Place: Meghan McCarthy – U11 Girls
5th Place: Morgan Mulhern – U13 Girls
6th Place: Katie Guinan – U10 Girls
9th Place: Kate Gallo – U10 Girls