Sunday, July 14, 2024

Singapore-based Irish dancers prepare for inaugural Fleadh event

In what will be a first for a Fleadh Cheoil event, a large delegation of Singapore-based Irish dancers will be competing in various competitions throughout Mullingar during this year’s festival.

Co-ordinating the task of bringing eight dancers and their families on the 11,000km journey to Fleadh ’23 is Mullingar native Marie Gray, who has lived with her family in the Southeast Asian city-state for the past number of years. It was when her family moved to Singapore that Marie wasted little time in getting her children involved in Irish dancing and the local dance school, Irish Inspirational Dance, Singapore.

A keen Irish dancer herself, Marie dances with the adult group in the school.

“I danced when I was a child and when we moved to Singapore I contacted the school to get my own children involved in Irish dancing. It was then that I discovered that they had an adult class as well. The adult class has grown steadily and we now have about twelve adults dancing.”

With almost one hundred students, Irish Inspirational Dance, Singapore is comprised of students from around the world, from countries including Ireland, the United Kingdom, USA, Australia, South Africa, Russia, Singapore, Cuba and South Korea.

In preparation for their performances in Mullingar, Irish Inspirational Dance have collaborated with the successful Singapore Trad Collective. This is to allow the dancers to become accustomed to dancing to live music. “The collective are a group of individuals comprising just one Irish musician,” says Marie. “The rest of them are all Singaporians who all self-taught themselves to play an instrument. The dancers are not used to performing to live music. They’re used to dancing to music from an iPhone! They’ve been rehearsing with the Collective, which will prepare them for the competitions.”

Fleadh ’23 marks the first time a group of this size from Singapore will be travelling to a Fleadh event. It will also be the first time a group from Singapore will be officially entered into a Fleadh competition. Accompanying Irish Inspirational Dance on their travels to Mullingar from Singapore will be Irish Ambassador to Singapore, Sarah McGrath.

Being a native of Mullingar is what sparked Marie’s interested in sending a group to compete in this year’s Fleadh. “We got great feedback from last year’s Fleadh. We decided that if we can get a group to Mullingar for Fleadh ’23, we should do it.”

After putting their plans together in the form of a business case, Marie and her husband Simon approached The Ireland Funds, an organisation which has proved crucial in bringing Irish Inspirational Dance and their families to Mullingar.

Following the appearance of Irish Inspirational Dance at this year’s Fleadh, Simon hopes that it will lay the foundations for a branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann to open in Singapore.

“This is part of a broader initiative. We’ve both been involved in some aspects of Irish society in Singapore since we moved there in August 2019, ranging from Dancing, the GAA, and St Patrick’s Society, Singapore. We’ve always thought there should be something like Comhaltas in Singapore. That’s what got us in this mindset. There’s about 5,000 Irish people in Singapore. The Irish community is quite strong.”

With accommodation scarce during the Fleadh, Marie’s house in Mullingar will be accommodating a number of the dancers. “Some of the dancers will be staying at the Annebrook House Hotel, with another bunch in our house in Mullingar. Our house will be the Singapore hub throughout the Fleadh!”

Ahead of their visit to Ireland, one of the dancers at Irish Inspirational Dance, Leah Calzado, spoke of her excitement about her visit to Ireland. Leah’s mother is Australian and her father is Cuban.

“It means a lot for me too be able to have this amazing opportunity, and I am very grateful I get to dance in the competition as it has always been a dream of mine,” she said. “I am also very excited and happy that I get to go with my brilliant fellow dancers and team that have put this trip together for us.”

Bringing Irish Inspirational Dance to Mullingar for Fleadh Cheoil was made possible by sponsorship from The Ireland Funds (main sponsor), St Patrick’s Society, Singapore; Writech (Mullingar); MINT Building Services; Aero Inspection and DHL.

Irish Inspirational Dance will be performing on the Gig Rig on Wednesday, 9 August at 2.30pm and in Mullingar Arts Centre at the Overseas Concert on Thursday, 11 August at 8pm.

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