The 45th annual World Championships of Irish Dancing held in Montreal during Easter Week saw a Campbell River woman recognized for her outstanding contributions to Irish Dancing in Canada.
As the World Championships were being held for the first time in Canada, The Irish Dancing Commission (An Comisiun Rinci Gaelacha) honoured eight “Legends of Canada” as being at the forefront of Irish Dancing in the country.
One of those was Margaret Mullen, director of Campbell River’s Tara School of Irish Dancing.
More than 5,000 dancers from all over the world competed in the nine-day event. The majority of dancers were from Canada, the United States, Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, but there were also dancers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Mexico, Russia, European mainland and other far-flung countries.
Since the advent of Riverdance, Irish Dancing has become a truly international art form.
As the daughter of Irish parents living away from home, Mullen was sent at the age of five to one of the first Irish Dance classes held in Coventry, England. Mullen started teaching at age sixteen for St. Brendan’s Irish Club in Coventry.
Mullen, husband Matt and daughter Jackie emigrated to Canada in 1964, living first in Uranium City for two years and then making Fort McMurray home. The call of the dance returned and Fort McMurray soon became a huge part of the pioneer days of Irish Dancing in Western Canada, and the Tara School of Irish Dancing excelled in solo, ceili and figure dancing. Over 100 dancers travelled regularly to competitions in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
There were 13 Fort McMurray dancers who qualified at the first Western Canada Oireachtas (Qualifying Event for World Championships) in Edmonton in 1975 and all travelled to dance at the World’s at the Mansion House in Dublin, Ireland the following Easter.
The Tara School of Irish Dancing continued to flourish in Fort McMurray, competing at the World level until Mullen moved to Kamloops in 1983. Once there, Mullen and daughter Jackie established The Tara School of Irish Dancing in Kamloops shortly after the relocation from Fort McMurray.
Choosing to be non-competitive at this time, the school had a community performance focus and produced many stirring dance shows in Kamloops.
When Mullen relocated to Campbell River in 2005, despite Mullen’s best intentions to hang up the dance shoes, within six months she opened a branch of The Tara School of Irish Dancing in Campbell River, continuing the community performance focus. Audiences in Kamloops and Campbell River enthusiastically welcomed the dancers, and Irish Dancing is now enjoyed and appreciated in both communities.
Mullen earned her TCRG (Teacher’s Certificate) and ADCRG (Adjudicator) in 1975 and became a Grade Examiner in 2010. She travels extensively to adjudicate dance competitions and conduct Grade Exams.
Returning from the World Championships, Mullen brings newly inspired choreographies to the Tara School of Irish Dancing’s May 23 Tidemark Theatre Show, “Come Dance with me in Ireland.”