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Taking a leap into the world of dance



Date Published: {J}

The energy radiating from the girls sitting in a semi-circle in the rehearsal room of Corrib Dance Academy in the city’s Briarhill Business Park could power the national grid.

The young ballet dancers from Galway are graceful and talented – and determined to make a career in the tough world of professional dancing.

Stephanie Dufresne, Mary Walsh, Rebecca Lee, Caitlin Langan, Brigitte O’Reilly, Gemma Brook, Jessica Nolan and Elspeth McKeever are all members of Youth Ballet West, (YBW) which was set up in 2007 to create a semi-professional Youth Ballet Company in the West of Ireland and to raise the profile of ballet locally. The company currently has 25 dancers.

YBW was born out of a frustration at the lack of training for dancers in the West and was the brainchild of sisters, Judith Sibley and Phyllis Hayes who had previously set up the Corrib Dance Academy.

Youth Ballet West would give the girls training and a platform, while allowing them to continue attending secondary school locally. The company would also be a springboard for the most talented, helping them to get places at dance schools in the UK and Europe, as there are no dedicated dance courses at third level in Ireland.

The talent is here in the West, says Judith, it’s a question of offering people opportunities.

That is exactly what has happened with these eight girls.

Stephanie Dufresne is in her final year of a BA in Dance at Rotterdam Royal Academy in the Netherlands while Mary Walsh will complete a BA in Ballet Education in London’s Royal Academy of Dance next year.

This year Rebecca was offered, and accepted, a place in the Royal Scottish Academy, doing Modern Ballet and Caitlin is going to the London Studio Centre, while Elspeth McKeever is on her way to the Northern Contemporary Dance School.

Gemma Brook has been offered fulltime training places, both by the London Studio Centre, Millennium Performing Arts College and Bird College of Performing Arts. Jessica has also been offered a full-time place at Bird College while Brigitte O’ Reilly was offered a full-time place by Ballet West in Scotland. But they have deferred for the moment, either for funding reasons, or because they are still at school.

“Doing something athletic and physical with your body is fantastic,” says Stephanie Dufresne, who at 21 is the oldest of the girls.

Stephanie was 14 when she started ballet, which was late – all the others were five or six. She had previously done ballet in France when she was four, but it wasn’t what she expected so she quit and did sports acrobatics.

Later, after teaming up with an acrobatic partner who was also a dancer, she began to think “it was cool” and did hip-hop first and then ballet.

She admits she “went a bit mad” playing catch up with her fellow dancers, but she had to. “I was competing against people who started at six.”

Because she had trained in gymnastics, she was fit and flexible, but ballet required a different type of skill which she had to learn.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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