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Get Ready to Dance!

A place to learn skills and culture, have fun, and make friends

A feis, a traditional Gaelic arts and culture festival, took place in Morristown over the weekend of June 18th. Over 500 competitors from all over the tri-state area came to show off their Irish dancing skills and win awards at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

“Every year, we host a dancing competition and dancers from all the different schools in the tri-state area, and even those further out like Connecticut and upstate New York, come together,” says Jennifer McGovern, who owns DeNogla Academy of Irish Dance along with her sister, Alison Nagle.

Although the Irish dancing community is like a family and a place where long-lasting friendships are made, it’s also highly competitive. There are minor competitions - or local competitions – plus regional championships and national championships. Qualified dancers then go on to compete in the world championships held in Ireland every year.

When Jen and Alison were children, they danced twice a week. Today, there's a lot more emphasis on training. “Our best students, and even our intermediate students, dance four to five times per week,” says Jen. “They also do yoga, play sports and take ballet - anything to make them better. These kids are extremely fit.”

Jen and Alison, certified Irish dance instructors, have been teaching the art of dancing and Irish culture for almost 30 years. The school has produced many regional, national, and world champion dancers.

“In our school in Verona, which is our main base, students come from as far away as Philadelphia and New York,” says Jen. Although many people think Irish dancing is only for those of Irish descent, people from all backgrounds take part.

She believes the interest in Irish dancing has increased over the years due to the popularity of shows like Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. “It put Irish dancing on the map.”

For Jen, Irish dancing is a real family affair. Her children took lessons from a young age (kids often start as young as 4) and her oldest, Ciara, actually owns her own school, O’Riain Academy of Irish Dance, with her fiancé. Her other daughter, 16-year-old Maggie, was among the competitors in Morristown.

“Dancers have the nice costumes and shoes from Ireland, and they perform like they’re in the Olympics,” she says. “But, we don't push kids to be competitive. It just comes naturally.”

Students compete on their own and in groups. “Groups are really amazing because that's where the choreography comes in and where kids really learn to work together. It builds a lot of friendships.” And, of course, it’s really fun!

To find out more and enroll in classes, go to or