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Cummins School of Irish Dance


Summer Camp for Irish Dancers

Noreen Donohue McAleer offers a few pointers on toe pointing.

Noreen Donohue McAleer offers a few pointers on toe pointing.

When there were no jigs and reels playing, the Irish Center’s cavernous ballroom echoed with little girl giggles. Last week, the Cummins School dancers were having their summer camp—a lot of dancing, which also served last-minute cramming for the five Cummins dancers heading to the national championships in Montreal next week, and, for the littlest ones, crafts involving glue and glitter and tie-dyed socks. Oh, and ice cream sundaes, the only thing that brought dead silence to the room.

The Cummins School has been teaching kids to step dance in this ballroom for the last 12 years; a second class, mainly for the youngest, is held at the VFW post in Glenside.

“We’ve been so lucky,” says Frances Cummins Donohue, who runs the school with her daughter, Noreen Donohue McAleer. Donohue started dancing herself when she was an 11-year-old in Dublin and scored a second in the All-Irelands. “Dancing was my life and I loved it and when I came over here, I instilled that in my girls, Kerri and Noreen,” she says.

The Cummins students learn more than beats, cuts, lifts and sevens. “Because we’re in the Irish Center, we’re also exposing kids to the Irish culture,” says Donohue. “The bagpipers [The Emerald Society Pipe Band] are here on Wednesdays and they love that. Then John Shields is in here with his ceili dancers and they enjoy that too. This space is amazing. We’d miss it terrible, we really would.”

Donohue is talking about the current financial crisis facing the Irish Center, a combination of an increased tax burden brought on by Philadelphia’s citywide reassessment last year and kitchen upgrades required by the city’s board of health—expenses estimated to total $100,000 or more over the next two years.

Cummins dancers will be participating in a fundraiser on July 19 at Maloney’s Pub of Ardmore in an effort to save their home.

But this week, it was all fun and games—except for the extra dance instruction from Donohue, McAleer, and teachers Brittany Kelly and Theresa McElhill. We stopped by on Thursday and took some photos of the fun.

Dance, News, People

Cummins Dancers Bring Home the Medals

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Some of the Cummins' School medalists.

Maggie Priole, 10, from Glenside, was ranked first in north America for her age in the treble jig round, earning two perfect 100’s from 2 of the three judges at the North American Irish Dance Championship, held July 3-7, in Chicago. Maggie, who is a student at the Cummins School in Philadelphia, placed fourth overall in North America . She attends 3 three-hour classes a week, plus 2-3 private lessons a week, and has a private strength-training session geared towards Irish dancers each week, proving that winning takes work. Congrats, Maggie!

Maggie Priole of Glenside who ranked first in North America in the treble jig.

Other Cummins School dancers also came back with medals. Mairin McDonnell age 10 from Jenkintown came in 25th. Mairin also competed in February at the all Ireland champs in Dublin. Ellie Lynch, 9, from Oreland was franked in 35th place. Katie Donnelly, 16 from, Manayunk came in 56th place. This is the first year Katie qualified for North American competition. She also received a medal at the All Ireland’s in February.

The Cummins School is located at the Irish Center in Mt. Airy.

Editors’ note: How did your dancers do? Email us with the information at and we’ll let everyone know. Pictures welcome!