10 April 2020 No Comments by The Northern Standard

By Veronica Corr

The 50th Irish Dancing World Championships were due to take place in Dublin’s Convention Centre this week, so this reporter caught up with a former colleague, Blathnaid McCaul, who is one of three siblings who run Scoil Rince Clann McCaul. Her co-founders are sisters Sorcha and Maria.

Being the 50th anniversary of the event, huge celebrations were planned around the 2020 competition. The championships themselves, have now be cancelled and will resume in 2021 due to the global Coronavirus pandemic.

There was a lavish launch in Guinness Storehouse, featuring all of the world champions to date, including Sorcha and Blaithin (Mohan), her niece, which would have given the 50th championships special significance for Clann McCaul.

Nine students would have contested the 2020 competition, including Blaithin who was going to defend her world title. Clann McCaul were also hopeful that others would finish in the top five in their age-groups too.

All Irish dancing competitions have been cancelled and nothing will happen until 2021. COVID-19 containment measures may have robbed students and their teachers of their time in class together, but thanks to Zoom, nothing is impossible.

Blathnaid complimented all of Clann McCaul’s students on their resilience and thanked parents for adapting to online classes for the short-term. Dancers need wooden floors and whether it was a piece of chipboard or lino, nothing was going to stop these determined young people from getting their practice in.

Blathnaid said that herself, Sorcha and Maria were as gutted as their students that the world championships would not be going ahead in 2020: “We’re as devastated as they are to be honest. We’ve invested so much, it’s something you work towards every year. You want them to peak at this time,” she explained.

However, she did go on to note that practice continued regardless and the dancers would get to complete next year — by which time they would be even more proficient in the craft.

The dance teacher felt that there wasn’t enough recognition or appreciation of Irish dancing outside of the sport, noting that the cancellation of the Olympics had made the headlines. Irish dancers are athletes, who attend three-hour dance classes (often after school) and have to be mindful of nutrition too, she added.

Although the worlds would have taken place on home turf, Clann McCaul would still be in Dublin for the week. Instead they were all getting to spent Easter week with their families. Blathnaid had attended the world championships in some capacity for as long as she could remember, as she and her sisters were competitors themselves before they became teachers.

Irish dancing can be an expensive activity, but thankfully the cancellation of the 2020 event was predictable at least, meaning that most of the students hadn’t purchased their dresses or outfits for the championships.

Consolation could also be found in the fact that everybody was in the same boat. Blathnaid observed that there was camaraderie between dance teachers now in a way that there wasn’t before, perhaps because Irish dancing on the world stage was just so competitive.

One dance teacher in the US has created an online forum exclusively for Irish dance teachers where they can ask questions, just vent, or admit they were having a hard time with the global lockdown and the implications of it. Blathnaid is tech-savvy so she had no issue with learning how to adapt to teaching online until this crisis is resolved, but those who are not could also avail of online support to enable them to continue running their dance schools. Having said that, Blathnaid felt that it was nice to have that resource on tap when required.

Zoom has been a Godsend because Blathnaid admitted that she and her sisters were missing the kids as much as they are missing them, because they spend so much time together. Clann McCaul are utilising Zoom to teach everyone from tiny tots to older students who compete internationally.

“It’s funny how you get back to basics and the love of dance, it doesn’t matter what you wear, where you’re from or what you do. It’s just your love of dance… everyone just wants to get through this,” she concluded.

The dance school can be contacted through Facebook by searching Scoil Rince Clann McCaul or by calling: 0876493745.

Blaithin Mohan U11 World Champion 2019 is pictured with her teachers, her mam Maria and two aunts Sorcha and Blathnaid in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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