Boogie on the beach for the teenagers in search of fame


A tour of Irish beaches to find the hottest dancers in Europe hit on Ballyheigue yesterday. Anne Lucey was among the hopeful hundreds

The beach at Ballyheigue did not live up to its reputation as Kerry's sunniest. The brightest colours on the car park overlooking the Atlantic were supplied instead by eager teenagers in fluorescent outfits who flanked a giant MTV stage.

The beat on the beach - or the HB and MTV party Shakedown Tour, to give it its full title - is organized by the ice cream company with the popular music channel MTV Networks Europe - the tour was joined by 2FM broadcasting live from the beach where an estimated 2,000 people boogied the afternoon away.

The winners are being asked to strut their stuff once more in Dublin at Dollymount Strand next weekend.

Heats are also taking place in Brighton in the UK; in Sopot, Poland and Istanbul in Turkey.

The winner of the European final, taking place in Portugal in September, is promised the trip of a lifetime to LA and the chance to appear in the music video of a mega-cool pop/rock artist (yet to be revealed).

There is even on-line tuition for those with access to the website where wanna-bees can learn the "Real Hi" and the "Real Low" from MTV clips.

"Moonwalking" and "Running man" are other moves in the can. The parties take place over weekends, with preliminaries in local nightclubs. This time it was Spiral's nightclub in Tralee where some contenders were turned away because they were underage.

Miriam Kellleher (17), from Cork, travelled specially for the show. She studies ballet and jazz dancing in the Cork Dance Academy and was initially anxious after not being allowed into the nightclub.

It's over 16s for the Shakedown competition itself so she was alright for that. Would she get a chance to strut her stuff on stage among the hot contenders?

She did in a red jacket, eliciting wow comments "for the girl in red".

"It was the chance of a lifetime," she said afterwards.

Dance Squads who were doing the checking also hit on her pal, Sophie Ho (16). "I was nervous. It was my first time out," Ms Ho said off-stage. An impressed Clarissa Garcia (16), from nearby Causeway in Co Kerry, said even a "Pattern Day in Ballyheigue never gets this kind of crowd".

Eilish O'Shea (16), from Tralee, has been learning dance for four years and put in plenty of practice before transfixing the audience with her gymnastics and body crunching moves.

"This is a great experience for Ireland. It's usually the UK and we are usually watching it on TV," she said elatedly.

The MTV cameras caught some big Mexican waves.

They may have failed to capture, however, the participant with the claim of having put in the most training. Mussels, a horse with his own "one-horse power" carriage (made from a 1903 Rolls Royce), had put in six weeks of training listening to pop music, his owner Pat Fitzgerald, aka Jack Jones, insisted.

"How else would you get a horse to stand for that music. I have been playing pop music for him every night," Mr Fitzgerald said.

At just €2 per head for a scenic tour along the beach, Mussels' business was down on other years.

"They are all going on foreign holidays, and there are too many holidays in the year, with Christmas, and Easter and everything," Mr Fitzgerald said.

Back close to the stage, it wasn't just teenagers who were having fun. Mary O'Neill, a grandmother from Bruff, Co Limerick, "would have enjoyed it in my heyday", she said as she stood watching on crutches after a knee operation.

Older teens who wanted to drink were coralled away from the main action.

Two weeks ago at Salthill, Galway, despite an appallingly wet day, 4,000 young people turned out.

Better weather at Strandhill in Sligo and at Tramore beach in Co Waterford, led to 10,000 turning up, according to HB marketing manager John Concannon.

A chance of fame, not matter how long the odds, is always a good draw.