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Readers' Forum.

IS HE REALLY WORTH WATCHING?

I just got my latest issue of Dance Magazine over the weekend. I'm one of the many Irish dancers who receive Dance Magazine to finish out a subscription to Irish Dancer after that magazine ceased publishing. I keep hearing that Dance Magazine is working toward including more Irish dance material, but this Shawn Bowen snippet [in "25 to Watch" in January's issue] is the first I've seen, and it's not even terribly accurate and certainly not representative of competitive Irish dance.

It is true that Shawn placed third in Open Championships at his first feis and that he went on to his regional Oireachtas and according to those who've seen him dance, he's definitely showing promise. But he placed third out of only three competitors. Further, another dancer placing third of three in Open Champs would have earned the right to be there by working up through levels of competition, including a grueling stint in Preliminary Championships. The fact that Shawn did not place at the Oireachtas indicates that he very likely may not belong in Open Champs just yet and should be earning his way up like everyone else.

Dancers like myself can't help wondering why, when there are so many top-notch champions around, you would start covering Irish dance with an unknown dancer who placed last in his only competition at the time of writing.

Laurie E. Miller Minneapolis, Minnesota via email

P.S. Oireachtas is pronounced more like "o-ROCK-tus." Imagining people going around saying "o-RACK-tus" had a bunch of us in giggle fits. Kudos on spelling Oireachtas right, though.

A FAN OF IRISH DANCING, BUT ...

I am a competitive Irish dancer from the Midwestern Region. I was very disappointed to read the article about Shawn Bowen. It was misleading and gave a false impression of his abilities and accomplishments. You would do better to concentrate your attention on some of the legitimate young champions who have actually earned their way through the six levels of competition. I urge you to get in touch with some of the officers of the Irish Dance Teachers of North America, such as Dennis Dennehy or Tim O'Hare, for accurate information about rising stars. I look forward to seeing more articles about Irish dancing in Dance Magazine, but also hope that you will take the time to learn a little more about our community and the art form we have grown to love.

Emily Consaul Battle Creek, MI

STARVED FOR IRISH DANCE NEWS

I had a subscription to Irish Dancer magazine. based in Wisconsin. When it got cancelled I received a letter from Irish Dancer explaining that I would be receiving the rest of my subscription from Dance Magazine. The editor, Suzanne McDonough, told us all that Dance Magazine would in turn provide at least one column or article about Irish dance in their publication per issue. So far all I have seen from the Irish dance world is dance floor ads, one with a touring show and the other with an Irish dancer who is either not an Irish dancer or was told to pose as she did by the photographer, in ridiculous stereotypical clothing. An article about Irish dance was written by, no doubt, a venerable old dance expert; however, it was degrading, as he did not mention its long history and called it a flash in the pan! The next example was not even an article on Irish dance, but one on Scottish! I read it only because I was so starved for some Celtic content.

Last, but definitely not least, was your article in this last issue, where you spotlighted up-and-coming dancers. You chose (and we were amazed you took Irish dance into account) 13-year-old Shawn Bowen from New York. There were some gross factual errors in the article. One, as far as I know from inquiries and online databases, there is no Niall O'Leary school of Irish dance in New York. Two, one cannot have progressed from beginner level to open championships, transcending five levels of competition, if their first feis was in September! Three, Oireachtas is pronounced Oh-ROCK-tus, not O-RACK-tus.

If you don't feel the need to cover all dance forms indiscriminately, go ahead, keep doing that. But change your name to the Ballet-Jazz-Modern Dance Magazine.

Aubree Walker South Jordan, Utah via email

DARRAH CARR RESPONDS:

There is a Niall O'Leary School of Irish dance. O'Leary, a native of Dublin, has been a registered teacher with the Irish Step Dance Commission in Ireland and America since 1996 and teaches at five New York City locations. He also has served as chairman of the Manhattan branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, an organization that promotes Irish music, song and dance.

Pronunciation of "Oireachtas" varies widely. In America, it's commonly said with an "o" sound in the second syllable. In some areas of Ireland, the second syllable is pronounced with an " a " sound in the second syllable, as was stated in the profile.

Shawn's years of previous training in other forms of dance enabled him to learn Irish steps quickly, transcending several years of training and several levels of competitive dancing. The decision to have him enter an Open Championship at his first feis was made at the discretion of his teacher, O'Leary. This is not a usual progression for an Irish dancer, but that is precisely the point: Shawn is exceptional.

Many Irish dancers could have been profiled as "up and coming." Shawn was chosen because he is one among these many. Also, Riverdance and Lord of the Dance have greatly increased public interest in Irish dance and have brought students to the field from nontraditional backgrounds. Shawn is a good example of this phenomenon.

Editor's Note: Darrah Carr grew up in the world of competitive Irish step dance, competing for ten years for the Tim O'Hare School. Her extensive research into the social history of Irish dance was selected for presentation at two conferences of the Congress on Research in Dance and has been featured in a lecture series at New York University's Ireland House. Carr recently served as the assistant choreographer for the Irish dance sequences in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical James Joyce's The Dead.

Send your letters to Readers' Forum, Dance Magazine, 111 Myrtle St. #203, Oakland, CA 94607, or email us at editorial@@dancemagazine.com Letters must be signed with name, city, state, and include a weekday telephone or fax number for confirmation. Letters become the property of Dance Magazine, which reserves the right to edit them.
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Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Words:1089
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