Riverdance and teacher's accent led group to step it out Irish-style


Keltic Dreams, a group of 32 Hispanic and African American children from Public School 59 in the Bronx, New York, performed Riverdance-style for President Mary McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday.

They also presented her with a pair of Irish dancing hard shoes.

The children, aged between seven and 12, are on their first trip abroad and appeared on The Late Late Showlast night.

They will perform at Dublin's St Stephen's Green shopping centre at 1pm tomorrow.

They arrived in Ireland on Thursday and return to the US on Tuesday.

The group is led by their music teacher, Caroline Duggan from Crumlin in Dublin and a graduate of Trinity College Dublin.

Their interest in things Irish was aroused by her accent and a Riverdance poster she had in her classroom when she began teaching there five years ago.

She told them about Ireland and showed them a Riverdance video.

They were fascinated by the dancing and she taught them how to do a few steps. "I couldn't believe how quickly they picked it up," she said.

She was also inspired by President McAleese's theme of "building bridges" and so she organised Irish dancing classes at the school twice a week and the Keltic Dreams group was born.

They have performed at the Lincoln Center and at other venues in Manhattan, as well as for Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the St Patrick's Day parade.

Some of the children were never in Manhattan before these appearances.

They won the first "Building Bridges Award" at the Irish Connections Festival near Boston last June and also went to see a film (Cars) together. It was the first time some of the children had been in a cinema.

Caroline Duggan originally intended staying in New York for a year but "fell in love with the children and community" at the school, she said.

Assisted by the Irish consul in New York Tim O'Connor, the group received $33,000 towards their trip to Dublin from the American-Ireland fund and $10,000 from John McColgan, producer of Riverdance and The Pirate Queen. He is making a documentary about the group.