McTeggarts in the News
March 9, 2013
Online article about the performance at the Richmond Area Arts Council for their Irish Festival.
March 03, 2011
She Dances a Mean Jig
Lexington dancer to compete in world Irish dancing championship
Lexington, KY - Late
last year, Allison Asay Duvall, a head coach and performer with the
Kentucky McTeggart Irish Dancers, qualified for the World Irish Dancing
Championships, to be held in Dublin this April, with her Planxty Drury
To celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, the McTeggart
dancers will host Celtic Accents at 7 p.m. March 19 in the Singletary
Center for the Arts. For more information on the troupe, visit www.kyirishdancers.org.
How did you first become interested in Irish dancing?
easy answer is "Riverdance," but that's partially true. I remember
seeing "Riverdance" in '95 or '96 on PBS and thinking it was amazing.
But really, I had just quit figure skating (I developed a terrible fear
of falling on the ice), and one of my mother's friends told her about
the Irish dancing school her daughters participated in. I was interested
and started dancing at age 10.
How did you become involved with the Kentucky McTeggart Irish Dancers (KMID)?
was my first and has been my only dance school. When I started dancing
in 1997, we had only a handful of dancers, and classes were held in a
basement of a house in Andover, all ages, all levels in that basement
for one and a half hours a week.
My involvement in the school
increased throughout the years; I started coaching when I was 15. Now we
have classes three days a week; I'm in the studio 10-11 hours a week,
and cross-training at the gym an additional 5-6 hours per week. We've
come a long way from the basement days.
Now that you're a head coach with the dance troupe, what do you like most about teaching people Irish dancing?
thing I love the most, I think, is watching my students move from being
students to being amateur artists – watching them take the raw material
from the beginning of the learning process through to the point where
they know it so well it becomes them, where the veil between the dancer
and the dance disappears. It's really incredible to watch, and to feel.
What's the significance of dancing in Irish culture?
Irish dancing was social – people gathering at the crossroads with a
wandering musician to dance historic group dances and have a good time.
The social aspect of Irish dancing has subsided with the rise of the
competitive dance world and shows like "Riverdance" and "Lord of the
Dance," but the social aspect of dance – ceili dancing (pronounced
"kay-lee") – is the foundation for everything that followed.
step dancers today concentrate on solo dancing, but still compete on
ceili and figure (group choreography) teams. In our Mid-America region,
team dancing is very strong. And it is true that you cannot be a good
solo dancer if you aren't a good teams dancer, and vice versa.
What's the deal with those performance costumes?
perennial question. The costumes are another part of the rise of the
competitive dancing world. Irish dancers 50 years ago would look at us
today and wouldn't recognize what we wear as Irish dance costumes. The
costumes are insane, really. Once a dancer reaches a certain level, she
is allowed by her teacher to purchase a "solo costume." Every solo
costume is unique and custom-made; there are no two in the world alike.
It's meant to set the dancer apart on the competitive stage and make her
stand out. And, as much as I try to be a purist and appreciate good
dancing for what it is, I'll tell you – on a stage of 30 girls, fuchsia
stands out a lot more than brown, even if the girl in brown is superb.
Were you surprised you qualified for the World Irish Dancing Championships?
means so much. I have struggled a lot with my dancing – with feeling
inadequate, like I didn't have the talent to really pursue the sport,
that all my work was for naught. However, when I returned to the
competitive world in 2008, I made a vow that I wouldn't give up on
myself again. I had no idea that within two and a half years, not giving
up on myself would mean that I could qualify for the World
What were the dances you performed to qualify, and what do you plan on performing in Ireland?
you reach the championships, there are only four dances that you can
perform: reel, slip jig, treble jig and hornpipe. The dances at the
Mid-America Irish Dance Championships were pre-determined for each age
group, so I danced the slip jig and treble jig. When I recalled (placed
in the top 50 percent), I danced Planxty Drury, which is a specially
choreographed set dance performed in hard shoes to music of the same
I'll dance the slip jig and treble jig in Ireland, though
I've now switched my set to "Garden of Daisies." It's a killer – a lot
more demanding, physically. I'm still working on it.
KMID as a whole also fared really well at the competition. What does this say about the school?
says that central Kentucky can produce talented, athletic, graceful
Irish dancers. The girls did so well, they all had personal victories.
Their hard work and years of dedication paid off. For Brooke (my
co-coach) and me, it was a stunning moment.
When you're not dancing, how do you spend your time?
the Executive Director of Reading Camp, a remedial literacy program for
at-risk children that is a secular outreach ministry of the Episcopal
Diocese of Lexington. I'm also a pianist and a church musician; I've
been playing longer than I've been dancing.
For somebody so steeped in Irish culture, what's the best way to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day?
Put down the Guinness and sign up for Irish dance classes!
March 13, 2011
Music, dance and food, mixed artfully and energetically with Irish
style and flavor, filled the Richmond Area Arts Council’s performance
hall Friday evening.
The evening started with the ethereal sound of youthful voices singing in the sweet melancholy of Celtic tradition.
One alto section and two soprano sections of the Kentucky Music
Educators District 10 Honors Chorus, from high schools in Harlan, Knox,
Laurel and McCreary counties, came to Richmond for the event.
The 19 singers were conducted by Deborah Kidd, who also is RAAC executive director and president-elect of KMEA.
Among their seven selections were “The Softness of My Mother’s Hands”
and “Think of Me” from “Phantom of the Opera.” Although not necessarily
Irish, both capture the themes and emotions Celtic music.
The exception was “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B,” with a
tempo more in keeping with the dancing that followed the singing.
The most poignant song was “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears,” that tells of
an Irish girl’s conflicted emotions as she was about to enter America
at the Ellis Island immigration center. She has hope for her new life,
but is still attached to the “isle of hunger and of pain” she “will
never see again.”
The singers concluded with a musical version of the “Irish Blessing.”
The McTeggart Irish Dancers of Lexington were next, but in between, the
audience was invited to sample the Irish stew prepared by several local
cooks. Each had his or her own style, ranging from mild to strong in
taste. Guests got to vote on their favorite, with Betty Murphy and Susan
Hatfield tied for best.
Others were Bruce Begley, Ed Chenault, Jayne Polivchak, Pam Powell and Sue Smith.
As the cooks were introduced, they summarized their recipes.
The dancers, ranging in age from 10 to 24, jumped, skipped, hopped and
kicked their way around the wood floor, solo and in pairs, as well as
groups of three and four.
The patterns and colors of their dresses — green, blue, red orange,
purple, silver and gold — were just as stunning as the artful
athleticism of their performance.
The dancing started somewhat quietly as the girls wore soft-soled
shoes. Both the sound and pace picked up, however, as they switched to
hard-soled, high-heels shoes for the remainder.
The energy level kept building toward the finale when all 12 dancers
came on stage and locked arms for an exuberant romp that drew in the
crowd, which clapped along to the rhythm. The sound of stomping and
clapping reverberated off the walls and ceiling.
The dancers were led by Allison Duvall of Jessamine County, who will be
competing in the world champions next month in Dublin, Ireland. Duvall,
24, has been dancing since age 10 and has been a coach since age 15.
She won one of five regional championships in the United States.
The McTeggart School of Lexington is one of six in this country
overseen by one of the two surviving McTeggart sisters, four of whom
started a dancing school in County Cork, Ireland, in 1936. Maureen
McTeggart Hall, 83, now lives in Fresno, Calif., and regularly visits
each of her schools.
This week is a busy one for RAAC. On Saturday, its Arts Caravan
traveled to Louisville to take in a performance of the musical “Les
Miserables.” On Monday at 6:30 p.m., RAAC’s Madison Youth Chorus and the
Gateway Youth Chorus of Mt. Sterling, both conducted by Kidd, will sing
in the performance hall, 399 W. Water St.
On Sunday, March 20, RAAC’s Madison Singers will present a concert of
Easter music at 3 p.m. in Richmond’s First Presbyterian Church, 330 W.
Bill Robinson can be reached at email@example.com or at 624-6622.
November 29, 2010
Lexington Woman Qualifies for 2011 World Irish Dancing Championships
Asay Duvall, who has been dancing with the Kentucky McTeggart
Irish Dancers (KMID) since 1997 and has been a head coach of the
Lexington-based dance school since 2003, qualified to compete at the
2011 World Irish Dancing Championships after placing eighth out of 26
competitors in the Ladies Over 20 division at the Mid-America Irish
Dance Championships, or Oireachtas, in Chicago from Nov. 26-28.
top nine finishers in Duvall's competition advanced to the world
championships, which will be held in Dublin, Ireland, from April 17-24,
are regional qualifying events for the World Irish Dancing
Championships. The Mid-America region is one of seven regions in
North America and consists of Irish dance schools in 12 states:
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota,
Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, western Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
competitions at Oireachtas consist of three rounds: a soft shoe
round, a hard shoe round, and a recall round. Only dancers whose
scores after the soft shoe and hard shoe rounds place them among the top
half of their competition participate in the recall round. Duvall
danced a slip jig in her soft shoe round and a treble jig in her hard
shoe round. In the recall round, in which dancers perform a
non-traditional set dance, Duvall performed Planxty Drury.
I returned to the competitive Irish dance world in 2007 after
a four-year hiatus, my ultimate goal was to dance at the world
championships," said Duvall. "However, I didn't expect it for another
two or three years at least. The only commitment I made to myself when I
returned was never to give up, and never to stop my training. It has
been an uphill battle, at best. We dance in the same region as Illinois,
Wisconsin, and Ohio dance schools - which produce some of the world's
strongest Irish dancers. In that regard, we are a small, hard-working
underdog amidst giants. So it really is quite incredible that this
happened at all."
Oireachtas was an historic one for KMID on many counts. The school sent
six solo dancers, the most in its history, along with its first
traditional set dancers, and its first eight-member Senior Ladies'
Ceili team (a traditional team choreography competition). Of the
six solo dancers who competed, four recalled, giving the school an
outstanding 67% recall rate.
unprecedented representation at Oireachtas illustrates the school's
growth and progress over the past 15 years. The school began with one
class a week for several dancers in a family's basement. The school
subsequently outgrew church halls and for several years has held its
classes at ArtsPlace in downtown Lexington. Students study under the
direction of Mrs. Maureen McTeggart Hall with weekly coaching provided
by Allison Asay Duvall and Brooke Harris. The school's champion dancers
attend class two or three times per week, practicing and training an
average of six days per week. McTeggart dancers also travel the country
for other competitions.
About the Kentucky McTeggart Irish Dancers
mission of the Kentucky McTeggart Irish Dancers is to build healthy
bodies through traditional Irish dance, cultivate confident spirits
through accomplishment, and foster a sense of heritage through
cultural enrichment and community service. A 501(c)(3) organization,
KMID is a member of LexArts and is based at ArtsPlace in Lexington,
Ky. Additional information is available at kyirishdancers.org.
For more information, please contact:
John Cooney, KMID Board Secretary (859) 552-2215
Allison Asay Duvall, KMID Coach (859) 321-2200
the chieftains: sean keane (absent from last night's performance), paddy moloney, kevin conneff and matt molloy.
The rocky road from Dublin stretched far from the Singletary Center
for the Arts last night. With Ireland’s foremost musical ambassadors,
The Chieftains, as tour guides, it wound through Canada to pick up
several intensely spirited Ottawa Valley stepdancers. It rolled through
Nashville, offering obvious links between Celtic music’s animated past
and the string music we today view as bluegrass. It dipped down to
Haiti to welcome a wide-eyed children’s choir that discovered one of
the most basic and joyous means of communication. Irish tenor Ronan
Tynan climbed aboard, too. So did the remarkable Scots Gaelic vocalist
Alyth McCormack. And by the time the party arrived back onstage, it had
teamed up an entire pipe band and a team of Irish dancers, all from
In the end, it was Alltech president Pearse Lyons’ party. Serving as
emcee, the evening was designed as the centerpiece of the Alltech
Fortnight Festival, the extensive parade of stylistically diverse
concerts that have been running concurrently with the World Equestrian
But Lyons’ involvement with last night’s show obviously went deeper
even than the WEG. The 20-plus children making up the Haitian Harmony
Choir were living symbols of his work at bringing sustainable commerce
and education to an impoverished country further battered by last
January’s horrific earthquake.
The choir entered at the end of the first set, sang a few songs in French and offered the unity anthem He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
with the levels of innocence and openness that only children can
summon. But the most touching aspect of their performance had nothing
to do with music. After being introduced by Lyons and joined by Tynan,
several children broke through the language barrier and waved to the
audience. The audience waved back. And the kids erupted with smiles
that could have lit up the back row.
And The Chieftains? They were typically brilliant. Whittled down to
a trio - founder/piper Paddy Moloney, percussionist/vocalist Kevin
Conneff and flutist Matt Molloy - the group surrounded itself with a
battalion of aptly billed “friends” and a global stew of music
They called upon Nashville guitarist Jeff White to toss Wabash Cannonball into the mix, enlisted the gorgeous McCormick to sing the stark Foggy Dew
and weaved a set of reels for step dancers Jon and Nathan Pilatzske and
Cara Butler as well as the local McTeggart Irish Dancers to sail
brightly to. And with Moloney firing up the engine room on the uileann
pipes (which he lovingly referred to at one point as “The Octopus”),
The Chieftains also held very tightly to traditional roots.
Aided by Irish harpist Triona Marshall, the band served up a ballet-like version of Carolan’s Concerto that paid tribute to one of The Chieftains’ most lasting influences (the 17th century Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan) as well as one of its craftiest alumnis (the late harpist Derek Bell).
For pure physical drama, though, the showstopper had to be The March to Battle, a solemn processional from The Chieftains’ recent San Patricio
album that enlisted the Kentucky United Pipes and Drums Band. Trust me,
hearing a battery of bagpipes playing majestically within the
Singletary walls hits one in the heart almost as solidly as it does in
the chest. You can bet this one was heard last night all the way down
in Port au Prince.