Celtic Academy Canada Owner and Director, Mary Foley (back, right) and Instructor Quinn Held stand with John Lonergan and their students at Fitness Corner in Port Elgin.

Hub Staff

It's not every day a member of the world famous Irish dance giant Riverdance travels to Saugeen Shores but cast member John Lonergan did just that, making his way to Fitness Corner in Port Elgin on May 26 to train dancers from Celtic Academy Canada.

At 26 years of age, Lonergan has an impressive resume. He has performed with Riverdance since he was 19 and he is a 10-time winner of the World Irish Dance Championships, including six solo titles. He is the lead instructor for the Riverdance Academy's Summer School in Dublin, Ireland and Boston, US, that attracts students from all over the world; and has recently started his own school, The John Lonergan Academy.

“He's in high demand but he's dedicated to work with us,” said Celtic Academy Owner and Director Mary Foley May 26. “I'm honoured and elated and just want to welcome him to Saugeen Shores," she said. Cork, Ireland is hometown to both Foley and Lonergan.

Lonergan worked with the small group of dancers, aged 6 to 12; half of the students from Celtic Academy Canada's Guelph studio while the other half were from the Saugeen Shores studio. They were in Saugeen Shores for one day, May 26, having spent the rest of their time at the University of Guelph's Athletics Centre. Foley said the dancers came from points north and points south, but that the group was the "cream of the crop."

“It's really a four day intensive workshop,” said Foley, adding that she is working with Lonergan to bring together more workshops.

“We have a project ahead of us," she explained. "It's hard work but I think [Lonergan is] instilling a good work ethic in them. Like what does it take to become a world champion,” said Foley, adding that the dancers see Lonergan as a celebrity.

With it being the 50th anniversary of the World Irish Dancing Championships as well as the 25th anniversary of Riverdance, Foley said that 2020 was going to be a busy year for Irish dance. “It's a huge year next year so we just wanted to get training now on that next level,” she said.

Twelve year old Kate Bester, a dancer from Cargill who trains with Foley in Saugeen Shores, said it was “super exciting” to be training with Lonergan. “We're learning new steps and we're learning new movements,” she said. “There's a lot of work but it's definitely worth it,” she said.

Guelph student, Kiara Harris agreed. “We're getting a lot of new steps," she said, adding that it was “amazing” to be training with the Riverdance celebrity.

Lonergan said that the dancers had been doing great. “They're dancing for so long and learning so much and it's obviously very strenuous on them and they're very tired but they've really improved the last couple of days,” he said.

Although not able to spend much time in the area, Lonergan said that Saugeen Shores was gorgeous. “I love the lake," he said. "It's really beautiful.”


Celtic Academy students Elena Dobson (right) and Kate Bester pay close attention to the footwork of Riverdance's John Lonergan as they trained with him in Saugeen Shores, May 26.


Celtic Academy Canada dancers take a quick break from their intensive four day training with Riverdance's John Lonergan who was in Port Elgin, May 26.