2012-03-15 / Business

Reel great dancing: Rince Na Tiarna Irish Dancers make major strides

by JULIE HALM
Reporter


Kevinah Dargan, an internationally ranked dancer from Rince Na Tiarna, performs at the National Championships in Nashville, Tenn. Dargan recently took seventh at the All-Ireland Dance Championships. Kevinah Dargan, an internationally ranked dancer from Rince Na Tiarna, performs at the National Championships in Nashville, Tenn. Dargan recently took seventh at the All-Ireland Dance Championships. Rince Na Tiarna is a Gaelic phrase meaning “lord of the dance.”

It is also the well-earned name of an Irish dance school, which has turned out numerous internationally ranked dancers, presents more than 50 shows in the St. Patrick’s Day season alone and will soon have one of its dancers featured on TLC.

Perhaps this laundry list of accomplishments could be expected from a school based in a city abundant with people of Irish descent — think Chicago or Boston — but Rince Na Tiarna calls Western New York home.

The school of Irish dance is based in Orchard Park and has six locations, including Amherst and East Aurora.

Founded in 1986 by Mary Kay Heneghan, the school is having one of its most exciting years thus far. In February, Heneghan and eight of the school’s top competitors attended the All Ireland Dance Championships in Killarney. Each of the girls returned to the U.S. as internationally ranked dancers.

While much is made of the luck of the Irish, Heneghan attributes the school’s success to a variety of factors, including, primarily, the families and dancers who chose Rince Na Tiarna.

“We’ve been blessed with amazing dancers,” she said. “They are just hardworking and dedicated.”

Another feature that sets Heneghan and her school apart is that teaching dance is her full-time job. She spends her entire day immersed in the Irish dance scene.

Being a member of the An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha adjudicators, the Irish dancing commission, also helps Heneghan stay on top of what is going on in the world of Irish dance.

Whatever it is that Rince Na Tiarna is doing right, it is now capturing the attention of more than just the dance-savvy and Irish dance insiders.

Recently, Heneghan was approached by TLC, a TV channel owned by Discovery Communications.

The channel is producing a show that will look into the world of Irish dance and is interested in featuring a Rince Na Tiarna dancer.

No decision has yet been made as to who the lucky student will be, but three RNT dancers recently traveled to New York City for casting.

The channel will first produce a two-hour special on the World Championships, which will be taking place April 1-8 in Belfast, Ireland. Following that, it will begin the show that focuses on specific dancers.

Heneghan said she is hopeful and optimistic that the show will give people the opportunity to better understand Irish dancing without trying to paint parents as overzealous or sensationalize the traditional artform.

But portraying a participant from Rince Na Tiarna in a positive light should not be too much of a challenge, according to Heneghan.

“All of our best dancers are also ‘A’ students who participate in other sports,” the teacher said.

While TLC is at the World Championships filming, Heneghan will have her hands full, as 12 Rince Na Tiarna students qualified this year.

While trophies and TV shows are great accomplishments for individual dancers as well as for a school, there is more to dance than just that.

“You make so many great friends and memories dancing,” Heneghan said.

A number of Rince Na Tiarna alumni in the area continue to dance together, even after having aged out of lessons.

Some have even begun dance groups at their colleges, allowing for new relationships and experiences long after leaving Heneghan’s tutelage.

“It might not be what gets you a scholarship, but it’s a great skill and memories for a lifetime,” she said.

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