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Celtic Academy dancers line up with medals and trophies recently won at the Oireachtas Regional Championships in Toronto. From left, Kate Bester, Sadie Bester, Essery Silk, Jorja Shannon, Kiara Harris and Elena Dobson. Missing: Madalynn and Avery McGregor.

Hub Staff

Trophies, medals, national qualifiers and a proud coach were all things that Celtic Academy Canada dancers brought back from their recent entry in the Oireachtas Regional Championships in Toronto, December 7 to 9.

“It is a great honour to be teaching such an amazing group of talented youths," said Academy owner and coach Mary Foley. “Our dancers continue to wow on the competitive circuit in the Eastern Canada Region."

In total, the Academy entered 14 dancers in the competition into various age groups. "Our under 10 team brought home Silver medals and our under 12 team placed top five," she said, adding that four of the dancers also qualified for the North American Irish Dance National Championships which will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia July 1 to 5, 2019.

“It's a real accomplishment considering we're such a small boutique academy and we don't have 300 to draw from,” said Foley. “We put out our best in each age group and hoped for the best and we didn't have enough to enter every age but we did really well.”

Dancers from all over Grey and Bruce counties and beyond, including the qualifying dancers, travel to Saugeen Shores several times a week to train at the Celtic Academy.

At the regionals in Toronto, Walkerton twins Avery and Madalynn McGregor took 10th and 11th place in the under 11 solo rounds with Sadie Bester from Cargill finishing sixth in the under 9 solo round. Sadie said that she performed different dances in the competition. “We did a round which was a soft shoe dance and a hard shoe dance with louder shoes and then we did one of each,” she explained.

The hard work of 7 year old Essery Silk, who travels three times a week from Meaford to Port Elgin to train with Foley, also paid off. “She competed under 7 in the full solo premiere championship and won that...and then she competed in the under 8 hard shoe treble reel and she won that as well,” said Foley. “Our top scoring dancer ever since we brought Irish Dance to this demographic," she added.

Essery said she started dancing a couple of years ago and felt “happy” when she realized she had won first place. “I practised my dances and did drills,” she said.

The girls will now travel to Vancouver in the summer. “The North American Irish Dance National Championships are a qualifier for the Worlds and dancers from all over North America, the States and Canada compete,” explained Foley. “You also have dancers coming in from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland. They come from all over Europe. It will be the best of the best."

Foley said Port Elgin dancer Jorja Shannon also performed at the Oireachtas Regional Championships and finished third in the under 9s. “Her placing third in the solo premiere at Oireachtas does not advance her onto a Nationals as she is a grades level dancer at regular competitions,” explained Foley adding that Shannon has been dancing recreationally for five years.

“Her mother approached us last year and asked if she could be graded at the competitive end and so we thought let's try but we didn't realize we were going to have a third place champion in her first Oireachtas ever. Really phenomenal results for Jorja," said Foley.

“For a small academy we did really well, so we're pleased but the hard work has just begun,” said Foley. “To get anywhere like this in Irish dance they have to be training three to four times a week and they practice at home every day. This is a tough sport," she said.


Proud coach and Celtic Acadamy Canada owner Mary Foley stands with her students Sadie Bester (left) and Essery Silk who qualified at the recent regional championships and will now travel to Vancouver in July for the the North American Irish Dance National Championships.


Madalynn and Avery McGregor at the Oireachtas Regional Championships in Toronto after qualifying for the North American Irish Dance National Championships in Vancouver. Mary Foley photo