Team members from O’Neill School of Irish Dance Photo credit Vincent Mortimer and Irish Dance NZ

Excellence for Irish dancers

by Ann van Engelen

Students from the O’Neill School of Irish Dance excelled at the Traditional Irish Dancing Association New Zealand National Championships recently taking away nine first places and several World Championship qualifying spots.

Sisters Jorga and Erina Rakich won the under 14-year-old and under 11-year-old national titles, and Rolleston’s 14-year-old Hazel Collishaw placed sixth and qualified for the World Championships, which will be held in Dublin in 2020.

“West Melton student Iris Liu placed third in the under eight-year-old section, and other pupils did exceptionally well,” says teacher Sean O’Neill.

“We are proud of our dancers and how well they placed in the competitions with 26 qualifying for the World Championships. They represented the school with pride and reflected our values at a very tough competition.”

The school’s dancers won nine solo titles and six team titles in total. “A high standard of Irish dancing has spread across the world, and you have to be the ‘best of the best’ to qualify. There are three rounds including ‘hard shoe’ like River Dance, soft shoe similar to ballet and a solo athletic style with a specific set of complicated routines.

“My parents were Irish, and my wife Cathy and I have been teaching preschoolers to adults for 31 years. Our senior students performed in The Rhythms of Ireland and The Taste of Ireland shows that toured the country.

We are now preparing for our Christmas show on December 6 at the Christchurch Town Hall.

“Our next term in Rolleston starts Saturday, October 19. Lynley Bowler and Tammie Cookson previous dancers of ours also teach. Follow us on Facebook at O’Neill School of Irish Dance NZ.”