‘It’s an unnecessary cloud because Irish dancing is a beautiful art form and culture’
Award-winning producer and director McColgan told the Sunday World that Irish dancing has been “tainted” by the scandal, but he predicts that it will recover.
“It does taint it, definitely,” he said. “It’s an unnecessary cloud because Irish dancing is a beautiful art form and culture.
“In the long term I don’t think it (the scandal) will be damaging, but if there are bad apples I think they should be rooted out. And there’s no doubt about it, what I’m hearing seems outrageous and seems entirely inappropriate in the world of young competitors.
“Something seriously root and branch has to be done to make sure that it doesn’t continue and that it doesn’t happen again.”
The allegations, which are now being investigated by a former Court of Appeal judge, are said to involve teachers and dancing judges colluding to fix results.
In one leaked text, it appears that sex is being offered as an incentive to give a pupil first place in a competition, with the judge saying to the teacher: “Isn’t it time you came to my room.”
An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG), the global body that governs Irish dancing and which has appointed the court judge, said its ethics committee has “received allegations, with supporting documentation, of several grievous breaches of our code of conduct”.
CLRG said that “such unethical behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated by this organisation”.
John McColgan says that the furore over the adjudicating won’t have any impact on Riverdance the show, which is one of the most successful dance productions to come out of Ireland.
He and his wife Moya Doherty remortgaged their family home in 1995 to stage their first Riverdance show at Dublin’s Point Theatre (3Arena) and hit the jackpot, going on to put Irish dancing on the world map.
Riverdance has since been seen by 30 million people around the globe and its worldwide success made John and Moya a fortune, estimated by Ireland’s Rich List to be more than €90 million.
Neither McColgan nor Doherty have ever been involved in the competitive side of Irish dancing, and the showbiz mogul said yesterday that he had been unaware of the shenanigans that came to light this week.
“I was shocked because I was never at the sharp edge. The whole competitive world is known to be hyper competitive,” John says. “I hadn’t heard a lot of the things I’m hearing in the last few days. It’s not anything I would have been aware of. I don’t operate at that sort of level. But it seems that it doesn’t surprise people in the competitive world from what I’m hearing on Joe Duffy and so on. It sounds terrible.”
Lots of Irish dancers who have gone on to perform in Riverdance and Michael Flatley’s Lord Of The Dance came up through the Irish schools and the competitive dancing system. “The kids that start Irish dancing at four really fall in love with it because it’s a great art form, it’s great exercise and there’s a lot of camaraderie,” John acknowledges. “I would imagine for the majority of people who go through the system that it’s a fantastic experience, and I accept the fact that for some people it might not be a great experience.
“They are very highly trained, but once you audition and you are in Riverdance that level of competition that is in the competing world doesn’t exist. They compete with each other within the show, but that thing of extreme competitiveness doesn’t exist.”
One caller to RTE’s Liveline this week told how Irish dancing had been her entire world from childhood, and she fell into depression and didn’t get out of bed for days when she retired from the scene. She said there was no support network in Irish dancing to help her cope with the fallout.
However, McColgan says that Riverdance has a strong and dedicated care of duty to their dancers, even when they leave the show.
“We have a very definitive culture of supporting kids, supporting young people right through the years and even the years after it,” John stresses. “We take very seriously the physical and mental health of our kids and there is a culture of minding what they call themselves ‘the Riverdance family.’ and I’m very proud of that culture in Riverdance.
“Our main man Padraic Moyles (Riverdance associate director) has a very clear culture of caring for and minding our dancers. We have mentors who are past pupils and when some of the younger ones are getting used to the system our alumni are assigned to mentor them and guide them and support them and look after them.
“If there is any unhappiness or whatever we take care of them, and that is very much part of the culture of caring that we have in the Riverdance family. We try to mentor them to be happy in their work
“There are times when they are not feeling the best because they have issues, and when they have issues we have people for them to talk to in complete confidence, either within the company or mentors who are normally alumni of Riverdance. When they leave us we continue that mentorship from our Riverdance alumni.
“The standard of care is much higher than it ever was and I know that when we take a break most of the dancers say they can’t wait to get back on stage. They love what they do. They love the dancing and they love the standards that they set for themselves.”