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An Jig Gig

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Series 2

TG4's hit show returns with a mission to find the best traditional Irish dancers in Ireland

Last year An Jig Gig burst onto our screens with dancers of all ages, disciplines and codes, battling it out to become Ireland's best traditional dance act.

In a nail-biting final last December, Irish Beats finally emerged victorious to claim the title of An Jig Gig Champions 2009, triumphing over World Champion Clodagh Roper, Celtic Roots, and The Mark Donnellan Memorial Team.

Now it's time to begin the search for An Gig Jig Champion 2010!

Hosted by Róisín Ní Thomáin, the show will again see hundreds of acts, from all different styles of Irish dance, and all age groups, take to the stage.

Keeping a close eye on all the talented hopefuls are our 3 judges.

Breandán de Gallaí, former lead dancer with Riverdance, Breandán is used to working with the world's top Irish dancers. He is a hard man to impress and any dancer going on stage in front of him, aiming to be crowned the best Irish dance act in Ireland, better give the performance of their lives!

Dearbhla Lennon, also a former lead dancer of Riverdance, has experienced performing at the top level in Irish dance for years. Like Breandán, she is an expert in the field, and will quickly weed out the chancers from the talented dancers.

Labhrás Sonai Choilm Learraí, a champion Sean-nós dancer, and a fanatical supporter of the older styles of Irish dance completes the judging panel. Labhras, a man who knows what he likes, won't be pulling any punches with such a prestigious prize at stake.

All 3 judges are experts in the field of Irish dance, but will they see eye to eye with such a variety of styles on display? Or will the Riverdancers clash with the Sean-nós? Sparks are sure to fly again on An Jig Gig...

With all the incredible traditional dance talent in Ireland, no one can know for sure who will emerge victorious. Only one thing is for certain - one act will be crowned champion and will claim the title of best traditional Irish dance act 2010.

To apply to take part in the competition, please fill out the application form below. We will then contact you to arrange an audition.

Any style of Irish dance is eligible for the show. Also, there are no age restrictions on contestants. The number of people in each act is also not restricted, and can range from one upwards.


All applicants will be contacted to confirm a time and venue for their audition.

Auditions will take place on:
Friday 7th May: Dublin , 5pm - 9pm
Sunday, 9th May: Cork , 10am - 1pm
Sunday 9th May: Galway , 5pm - 9pm

**Additional dates and venues may be added.

Successful applicants will be invited to RTE studios in Dublin to take part in the show.

Dates for the recording of the series:

There are 10 "First Round" shows. The "First Round" shows will be recorded over the following dates:

Wednesday 26th May 2010
Thursday 27th May 2010
Friday 28th May 2010
Wednesday 2nd June 2010
Thursday 3rd June 2010
Friday 4th June 2010

One winner will be picked from each of the "First Round" shows.

**Please note, successful applicants will not be required in RTE on all of the above dates. They will only be required for one of the dates to record the "First Round" show they are in.

There are then 3 additional shows to whittle the 10 "First Round" winners down to 1 overall series winner.

The Quarter Final will be recorded in RTE, Dublin, on Thursday 10th June.

The dance acts to make it through to the Semi Final will return to RTE, Dublin on Thursday 17th June 2010.
Finally, the dance acts who have made it all the way to the Series Finale will return to RTE, Dublin on Thursday 24th June 2010.


'An Jig Gig' is on a mission to find the best traditional Irish dancers in Ireland. The first stop for auditions is this Friday in Killarney.

Our very own Dearbhla Lennon and 'An Jig Gig' presenter Róisín Ní Thomáin will be joining us on the sofa.

Dearbhla Lennon:-

Dearbhla is probably one of Ireland's best known dancers, having starred in four runs of "Celebrity Jigs N' Reels" and as a judge on An Jig Gig.

Dearbhla Lennon began dancing at the tender age of two under the expert tuition of her mother, the legendary Móna Ní Rodaigh. She comes from a family steeped in traditional Irish music and dance, her entire family talented in one or other discipline.
Having achieved multiple accolades at regional, national and World Championship level, Dearbhla went on to represent Ireland at numerous International & Celtic Festivals throughout the world, from Galicia to Zambia and many in between, dancing for both dignitaries and underprivileged, Presidents and orphans.

Aged just 17, she was invited to join the original cast of Lord of the Dance, where she subsequently performed as principal dancer (in both female principal roles) for over five years, touring in such places as North/South America, Europe, The Middle East, South Africa and Australia. Her first principal role was opposite the renowned Michael Flatley.

Dearbhla debuted as principal female dancer with "Riverdance- the show" in 2005 and traveled extensively in this capacity, performing in theatres across the Far East, Europe and Egypt.
Dearbhla graduated with a first class honours degree in Journalism and Media Communications in 2004. She was also awarded "Student of the Year" at Griffith College Dublin.

Later that year Dearbhla worked with Riverdance director John McColgan in his highly acclaimed production of the play 'The Shaughraun' for the Abbey Theatre Dublin. During her time at college, she worked as both a fashion model and dancing teacher, having obtained her TCRG exam in 2001. She continues to teach dancing alongside her mother and sister Ciara; their school being one of the world's most successful- last year alone, they took home 17 Gold World Medals; the success continued this year with the schools highest ever medal count.

Some of the highlights of Dearbhla's dancing career include performing on The Academy Awards, performing for Prince Charles at The Royal Gala in The Royal Albert Hall, The opening of the 2003 Special Olympic Games (in front of an 80,000 strong live audience), The BBC Proms in the Park (where she performed as a soloist), winning RTE's 2007 'Celebrity Jigs N' Reels' with her partner Gavin O'Fearraigh and representing Ireland at the 2008 Eurovision Dance Contest.

After a brief period as a print journalist, having had a number of magazine cover stories, Dearbhla began working in television in 2005, both in front of and behind the camera. Currently working as a roving reporter for RTEs "The Afternoon Show" she has also recently been involved in an Irish language series for TG4 where she is being followed as she learns to play the concertina!
This is Dearbhla's second year as a judge on An Jig Gig.

Róisín Ní Thomáin

Roisin was brought up in Galway City. Her mother is from the Gaeltacht in Gweedore and was very keen for her children to be fluent in Irish. Her father however is not fluent in Irish.
Roisin believes that she would not be working in TV if it wasn't for her fluency in Irish.

Roisin has presented Pop4 and An Jig Gig on TG4, JAM on RTE TWO and presents her own radio show on Spin 103.8 on Saturday mornings.

You were a professional dancer - how old were you when you started dancing? Was this something you wanted to do or was it just natural as your mother had a dancing school?

I have no memory of starting to dance. I think I was about 2 ½ but was at class from when I was a baby. I have early memories of being in Gaelic League halls, being in the back of my Mum's car doing my homework on the way to class... I wouldn't say we had much of a choice (my sister & I) it was just something we did. My mum is a legend in the dancing world and we just sort of took it from there.

You have had huge success in your dancing career and you joined Lord of the Dance and Riverdance - what venues around the world did you perform in?

I was successful on a competitive level (top ten in the World) but it wasn't until I went into show dancing that my dancing really took off. I was 17 when I auditioned for and got accepted into the original company of Lord of the Dance. I would have tried out for Riverdance prior to that but my parents wouldn't allow me as I was doing my Leaving Cert.

I was in the middle of my first year in DCU studying International Marketing & Languages when the whole thing kicked off. We performed on the Royal Gala in the Royal Albert Hall and then finally opened the show in the Point in the summer of 1996. Within about a year I was made principal dancer and I danced in both principal roles until I left the show in 2001.

Some of the highlights of the tour were doing a long stint in Radio City, performing at the Oscars in LA in 1997 (magic!) travelling the world to cities I had only seen on maps prior to this. I travelled to roughly 48 states in the USA, all over Canada, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Israel, Australia, all over Europe, Scandinavia etc. Two longer spells were spent in both Orlando (dancing in Epcot, Disneyworld) and Biloxi Mississippi (Beau Rivage) where the show was resident for some months.

During my degree, I was able to perform with the Riverdance Flying Squad and we toured to many cities dancing on TV shows, at corporate events etc. In 2003 I was fortunate enough to dance at the opening of the Special Olympics in Croke Park - definitely one of the highlights. I was very aware of how huge this was for everyone involved but especially for Ireland - it was a very proud night to our little country.

Having completed my degree in 2004, Riverdance invited me to tour with the Corrib company to Japan & Taiwan. I also performed at the Gaiety theatre in Dublin, which was particularly special as many friends/family could come to see me dance.
I'm really very fortunate to have been as lucky as I was.

When you were young was Irish dancing cool or was it Riverdance that made it sexy?

Dancing was not cool when I was growing up, and even less cool for any guys who danced. Riverdance certainly made it ok for boys to dance and it also raised the profile of what we had spent so long learning & perfecting. Irish dancers were always the poor relation when it came to performing. You were asked to dance at every event going and were never paid for performing- you might be lucky enough to get a packet of Tayto, but that was on a really good day. All of a sudden, we were being paid real wages for doing something we loved - it was pure Nirvana.

How many hours a day did you have to train?

As a competitive dancer we worked extremely hard. From a very young age- we attended classes 5, maybe 6 days per week. As we got older and started taking it even more seriously, we used to practise before school. Mam would get us up at 06:30 and we'd do our dancing before school. This was even worse during lent, when we had to dance, then go to mass, then school!

In the beginning of Lord of the Dance, we spent 3-4 months in Digges Lane studios in Dublin choreographing the show from 9am - 6pm. These were killer days- you would go home at night and soak your legs, blisters were awful too. Once the show was up and running, there wasn't as much physical rehearsal, more lining up and making sure everyone knew what they were to do on the night. Every now and again there would be a drilling session but generally it wasn't too tough.

Did you have to watch your diet?

We were so young & we were dancing for over two hours every night- it didn't take much to stay thin. There was a lot of peer pressure though and as one of the taller girls in the show, I certainly felt it.

We partied pretty hard though - there's no doubt about that! The social side to dancing in a show like that is almost as exciting as being on stage- opening night parties, VIP clubs - ah the memories! All seems so long ago..

Why did you decide to give up dancing professionally? When was that? Do you miss it?

I left Lord of the Dance in 2001 to go back to college. I had initially deferred for a year but that didn't work out..

I had been on the road for 5 ½ years and at 23, I just felt like if I didn't go back to the books then, I was never going to. It was a really tough decision to make as I was leaving a really good job with very nice perks. But I wanted to get a degree - it would have been so easy just to continue on dancing- very tempting, but I knew in the end, I'd need the books, so I bit the bullet and headed for home. I was really fortunate then to be invited back out with Riverdance - it was like a top up of the fix!

Last year you were a judge on An Jig Gig - you were surprised at how much talent there was out there?

I wasn't surprised at all. In fact, there's much more untapped talent out there - that's why I'm on TAS- to appeal for anyone who has talent to come and show it off! I grew up with dancing and traditional music all round me. My mum has an incredible appreciation for music and dance - all form of Irish dance, not just the style that we do (Step dancing). She instilled this in me.

This competition is really different in that it features lots of different forms of dance competing against each other. Many of the contestants will have competed before always against other dancers of the same discipline. Now they have to compete against other forms of Irish dance, so it's intriguing.

Some of the styles that featured last year were step (that's what I do) sean nós (old style), brush dancing, set dancing, festival dancing and freestyle Irish dancing.

What made last year's winners Irish Beats stand out?

They were three incredibly talented dancers. They were sharp, precise, clever, smart, sexy and above all they had amazing technique. They had really intelligent routines and they used the music really well.

Their routines were complex, fast paced and exciting but had moments of light and shade, so it didn't get boring. I thought they were amazing. But I also thought the group that were 2nd were fab too. They were a little group of set dancers from Clare called the Mark Donnellan memorial team. 4 guys, 4 girls and they were so lively and natural. They had real x factor and they were so young. The 4 little guys were like 4 wee old men in disguise.

Is there an age limit in this competition?

As far as I'm aware there is neither an upper or lower age limit. There was a lovely lady last year who was 74!

What will you be looking out for?

I look for a number of things but it's very difficult to say which one is of utmost importance. I think technique is vital - this is a dancing competition after all. But it's not all about technique. You have to have personality and it should come across, I would also like to see people thinking outside the realm of what they've seen in the past to try something new.

Confidence is important - if you don't believe in yourself, why should anyone else take you seriously? Interpretation of music is important, as is the use of space - it's nice to see people using their heads as well as their feet!


How did you get involved in this project?
I worked with Adare productions before and they asked me to take part in this series.

Did you ever do Irish Dancing yourself?
I did in Galway. After Riverdance in 1994 I went back to dancing for about two years and then I realized I wasn't up to the standard to succeed.

Who impressed you the most last year?
There was one family from Connemara and one of the girls was only six - she was so cute. One of the weeks they performed a Popeye sailor version of Irish dancing.
One group from Clare was also great as they were doing brush dancing. The group that won were amazing as they were using real modern music like Daft Punk and it was great to see that.

Do you have to do a bit of counselling to the acts when they don't get through?
Oh yeah sometimes people are crying and you have to console them. It can be so hard for them. When they reach the quarter finals and their hopes are raised and they don't get through that can be so tough. You hate to see children getting upset and you hope they enter it for a bit of fun.

Is there any age restrictions?
No there is no age restrictions.

When will the series air?
Next September.

Will you be down at the auditions?
No - I am there for the LIVE shows.