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About the Group

In 1958 Peter Paul McKenna, a native of Ardee, County Louth, Ireland formed a dance group that became the Sydney Irish Céilí Dancers. The dancers initially met in the Ulster Room at the Irish National Association’s Cultural Centre, 64 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills. It is now known as the Gaelic Club Sydney.

 

The focus was on céilí dancing with occasional two-hand dancing. In the early days, the dance group put on shows two to three times a week. There were singers as well as musicians in the group so they would provide great entertainment wherever they went.

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In 1989, following a trip to Ireland and the world-renowned Willie Clancy Summer School with Peter, Margaret and Bill Winnett began to research and teach Irish set dancing, the most sociable form of Irish dancing.

Following Peter’s sudden death in February 1992, Margaret and Bill Winnett became leaders and teachers of the group. Margaret has been a traditional old-style Irish step dancer since 1957 and, together with her sister and brother, began learning céilí dancing from Peter in the late 1950s. Bill joined the group in 1965 after moving to Sydney.

 

Since that first trip to Ireland with Peter in 1989, Margaret and Bill have returned regularly, attending summer schools, céilithe, workshops, classes and dancing with the locals to increase their knowledge of Irish set dancing.

 

They have a great interest in the two hand dances of Ireland, have collected many and teach them back here in Australia. Margaret and Bill believe in keeping alive all facets of traditional Irish dance. Consequently, performances by the Sydney Irish Ceílí Dancers embrace céilí, set, two-hand and solo step dances.

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