A local Irish dancing group is preparing to show its European counterparts that they are the ‘reel’ deal by representing Ulster in two French festivals.
On August 18, twenty dancers and three musicians from Carrickfergus’s Royal Tara Dance Academy will fly to the south of France to take part in festivals in the towns of Felletin and Montoire.
Dancers from the academy have previously travelled to festivals in Holland, Spain, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Portugal at the invitation of host towns and cities.
Royal Tara’s Director and Dance Teacher Ruth McCalmont-Long told The Times: “The girls all enjoy the experience-they get to see other countries,the hosts show us around and they meet other people.
“Sometimes they dance in front of small groups, sometimes it can be crowds of up to 25,000 and they are on television.
“They dance, learn languages, make friends and learn to interacts with people from different cultures. Some of the other dancers don’t speak any English but the girls always find a way to communicate.
“It’s a great bonus for their CVs and their education.”
The Royal Tara Dance Academy is well known for producing prizewinning dancers, including CRDM World Champion Rachel Morrow from Larne, who will attend the French festivals.
However, Ruth says that the focus of the summer festivals is on having fun rather than competing. She explained: “The girls compete all year round and that’s enough-this gives them a breather and it’s great fun and gives them the chance to build great friendships.
“It’s more relaxed and takes the edge off the competition all year round.”
Senior Irish dancer Jade Morrow, from Larne, added: “If you didn’t have dancing we would never leave Larne, but we have been to places like Milan, Malaga and Berlin. It’s like going away with all your friends and your second family.”
Fellow dancer 16-year-old Keira McKay was featured in a Spanish newspaper after attending her first Irish dancing festival in Spain at the tender age of three. She added: “It’s really fun, and now that mum doesn’t have to come with me it’s even better!”
Mayor of Larne Martin Wilson gave the girls a plaque to present to the Mayor of Montoire on behalf of the people of Larne. He commented: “The girls are good ambassadors for Larne and Northern Ireland and this is setting them in good stead for the future. Nothing broadens the mind like travel. They are also exporting a little bit of our culture to France. It’s important we have people like these girls going out as good ambassadors to promote Northern Ireland in a positive way.”