Irish Dancing has been with us for centuries, originating before the time of Christianity. Over the years as the people of Europe migrated throughout the continent, so they brought with them their influences to this ancient craft. The Celts, the Normans and even the English all added their own flavor, to what is still an art practiced, taught, watched and loved worldwide.
Every story has a beginning, this one in the lush heartlands of North County Kerry. Michael Nagle, a native of Ballybunion and his wife Margaret Alien from Listowel left their homeland with their 3 children and settled in New York City arriving on Thanksgiving Day in 1974. With a strong history of dance and music in the family it wasn't long before all 3 children Alison, Jennifer, and Michael Jr. signed up for the locally renowned Peter Smith School of Irish Dancing. The rhythm was in their blood and each child enjoyed great regional and national success, the two girls progressing all the way to the world championships in Ireland.
After attending college, both girls entered the field of education, Jennifer as an elementary school teacher and Alison as a high school guidance counselor. Sometime in the early 90's the decision was made by the sisters to take the TCRG exam and become certified Irish Dance teachers. With support from their family and teacher, Peter Smith ,in 1993 the Denogla (Nagle in Gaelic) school was born. It began with 4 students in the Philadelphia area. Now almost a decade later there are 350 young boys and girls who are proud to call DeNogla their own. Alison recalls the early days when weekly trips from West Orange to Philly were commonplace, but no matter the miles or hours on the New Jersey Turnpike the passion to teach was always the driving force.
The DeNogla school is now firmly established as one of North America's finest competitive Irish Dance schools. The champion dancers have performed at Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the PNC Bank arena and the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City, as well as countless festivals throughout the Tri-State area.
Denogla now boasts a brand new studio in East Hanover, New Jersey where most of the classes are taught to students ranging in age from 5 to 22. Alison 8( Jennifer also teach in 2 other locations; locally in West Orange and Hightstown, New Jersey. At the time of writing, the Denogla School is preparing for the All Ireland Championships in Killarney, County Kerry where 10 dancers will compete in February and then it's off to the big one, the World Championships being held outside Ireland for the first time in Glasgow, Scotland during Easter week.
An impressive 13 dancers have qualified to compete in Scotland. The girls are working around the clock, "It's like an Olympic sport," they tell me, "if you want to compete at the highest level it's all practice, practice, practice for hours on end." "So what does the future hold!" I ask them, "Well right now, we want our dancers to do themselves proud at the All Ireland and World Championships and then get ready for The National Championships in Boston on 4th of July weekend, then our annual school feis (competition) which will be held on Saturday August 3rd, 2002 at Seton Hall University.
"How about the little ones!" I ask, "the future stars of the DeNogla School," Jennifer 's daughter ,Clara ,who is 6 is a keen dancer and baby Jack may even follow in mommy's footsteps, while Alison's daughter, Emily ,5, has great potential and has already competed at the regional competition. This past November, Emily was the youngest competitor at the regionals out of a field of over 2,000 dancers. and Kaitlyn who is almost 3 can't wait to join her sister and cousin.
As I leave the Denogla studio in East Hanover I can't help but notice the exhausted young dancers who are called to their feet once again. Behind them on the wall a banner reads "Ni bhionn tairbhe gan tribloid" "No reward without toil" and that's the key to this irish dancing success story.