Dancing the Disney Dream

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Declan during his solo routine

When most young Irish dancers join their new dancing school, little do they know that professional stardom across the Atlantic can await those with great talents, the basics that they learn from their passionate teachers can often shape careers and change lives, whether that be on or off the international stage.

Two such dancers who could only have dreamed of such experiences are Lauren Gittings from Birmingham and Declan Magennis from Newry, Northern Ireland, both of whom now perform in Raglan Road in Walt Disney World, Orlando Florida! The Harp spoke to both performers last month as they were preparing for a very busy festive season, Lauren told us that Raglan Road has just celebrated their tenth anniversary and is still going strong with live performances from house bands and dancers seven nights a week, the shows run all year round allowing Raglan to cater for all Disney enthusiasts.

Lauren Gittings on stage in Disney

Lauren Gittings on stage in Disney

The current dance troupe has an array of talent from the United States, Ireland and England with Lauren sharing the stage with three fellow English dancers, Emma Deane and Charlotte Howarth who both danced for Glendarragh in Nottingham and Conor Ryan, a fantastic talent from the Ceim Oir school in London.

Lauren tells us she started dancing and learnt her first steps at the age of 7 for the Doyle Davis Academy under the guidance of Jean Davis, “Jean was the sole reason why I fell in love with Irish Dance and I am forever thankful for all her encouragement over my dancing years and through all my competitive days; still now her opinion always matters.”

Joe Harrison,  Kelly Witherspoon, Leona Dowling, Charlotte Howarth, Lauren Gittings, Declan Magennis

Joe Harrison,  Kelly Witherspoon, Leona Dowling, Charlotte Howarth, Lauren Gittings, Declan Magennis

Lauren is one of 8, and speaks about her mother Annie, “I owe so much, as it was my mom who opened the doors to my greatest passion.”

24 –year- old Declan from Newry in Co. Down started dancing at the age of 6, his passion wasn’t immediate so he quit to play football, returning at the age of 8, his greatest achievement was winning second place at the World Championships in 2011 and 2013, at the same time he graduated from Queen’s University with a first class Law Degree! Declan always knew he wanted to perform on stage having been inspired by Riverdance and Michael Flatley’s Celtic Tiger, he comments, “The best thing about Irish Dance is the friends you make and you get immersed in an environment which instills dedication, discipline and focus from an early age”.

When asked where does Declan see himself in the coming years, his answer was resolute and clear, “I would like to pass my TCRG examination and teach Irish dancing in America and fuel the next generation to love dance as much as I do, whilst also working in the legal sector, another aspect of my life, I am deeply passionate about.”

Gillian Monaghan, Declan Magennis and Lauren Gittings

Gillian Monaghan, Declan Magennis and Lauren Gittings

So what is the best thing about living and working in Florida? The answer appears simple- “The lifestyle; there are so many things to do in Orlando, we guess getting into Disney free is an added bonus!”

It is clear Irish culture transcends across the globe, with passionate performers such as Lauren and Declan it is easy to see why traditional Irish music and dance continues to thrive, and where better than performing night after night where dreams really do come true.