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'Aghaderg Does Strictly'

09 June 2016

Bank holiday, May  weekend 2016 and the Canal Court Hotel Newry opened the doors of the Millers conference centre for ‘Aghaderg  Does Strictly’. This was to be the public demonstration of all the glitz and glamour developed over four months of fun, preparation and sheer hard work.

The organised practices in the Hall under the direction of chief choreographer, Claire Cunningham, were intense and often passionate. As the event approached many aspects of ordinary life were put on hold. As many as three training sessions per week were organised while a busy couple were observed practising their steps around the kitchen floor at 11 O'clock pm!

At 7 o'clock the Millers centre was packed with more than 800 expectant patrons. On time the comperes for the night, Donal Moran and Maureen Simpson in dazzling Eurovision style introduced the Aghaderg Does Strictly. To open the show  Donal invited the audience to participate in a warm up for the evening with Nathan Carter's “Wagon Wheel”. The audience responded as though it was Nathan Carter himself who was leading the show. Donal took a video on his phone of the audience in uproar to send around the world!
The fourteen dance couples in their red check shirts white jeans and white hats  put their rivalry aside for the introduction when they made a dramatic entrance through the length of the hall and the cheering hand clapping audience  to  give a spectacular, high octane display of dance and jive to  Cotton Eyed Joe and Timber.
The five Judges for the night were then introduced,  Bronagh Lennon, Brenda Rankin, Deirdre McGrath, Charlie Smyth and Brendan McGarrity. They were faced with the difficult task of selecting a winner from fourteen couples and in front of a very partisan audience.

The format of the competition included points for the introduction to the dance, the costumes and props with the majority of the points awarded for the execution of the dance itself. There were a number of creative introductions which allowed younger members and family to support the stars. Glamorous costumes and creative props were the order of the night.
Led on stage by a team of young camogs Barry and Aveen Armstrong had the nerve wrecking task of being the first couple to perform. Nevertheless they were not daunted and  a  high standard was set immediately as their Salsa and Jive allowed them to make  excellent use of the stage and were highly complimented by the judges. A high standard had been set by Barry and Aveen.
Next on stage were Laura Fletcher and Michael Fitzpatrick  in their matching blue costumes set off with Michael's pork pie hat. They too  impressed with their  dancing to Mambo no 5.
Una Hughes and Colum Conway were next on stage as and produced a high energy display with their modern Jive dancing to Shake a Tail Feather and Shake it Off  by Taylor Swift. They appeared to really enjoy their performance throughout  and the audience certainly showed their appreciation.
Damien Simpson and Olivia Goodman had a fabulous entrance to Gloria and  provided wonderful entertainment in their drama, comedy and dancing the Charleston to Bang Bang and Do Your Thing. Olivia's silver costume certainly reflected the  1920s and the era of jazz music, speakeasies and Flappers.                           
Gerard and Elaine Lennon did their dance  with a nice sense of comedy, dancing to  Let's Hear it for the Boys and Footloose. Elaine has realised her ambition to learn and perform the jive in the northern home of jiving. They will be out every weekend now!
Joanne Watson and Paddy Simpson were on next. Their comic entrance was loved by the audience. Joanne in her Imelda May mode was outstanding in her Olivia Newton John role opposite Paddy's, John Travolta.  They performed their  Waltz and Modern dance  movements  to Grease Lightening and We Go Together.  What did they do with that flashy red car??
Fr Colum and Anne Haggart received the loudest ovation of the evening when they arrived on stage to perform their Movie Jive in style to Pulp Fiction's Teenage Wedding and Pump it.

The first half of the entertainment was completed by Special Guests “Down Cheeky Ladies”. All dressed in the red and black of their county they  performed a high octane version of the Can Can.  A fantastic group of ladies who boast  27 children, 34 grandchildren and one great grandchild between them. They were not going to be left behind when the young dancers of the parish were preparing for their fifteen minutes of fame. Kathleen McGrath May McAvoy  Kay Lennon Jackie Cooney Mary Simpson Liz Fitzpatrick Kate McShane and Helen Lennon even surpassed Fr Colum's ovation at the end of their performance. Well done ladies. You left another fantastic memory from a night of memories.

The second half opened with another of our married couples Chris and Terri Sands. Their Dentist drill entrance to Wake me up Avicii was dramatic while their Rumba and Salsa to Merci and  I want to Dance with Somebody was  really professional, entertaining and enjoyable. 
Next on stage were Caroline and David Furnace. They were dressed to impress in matching white outfits and produced another high octane disco performance dancing to Letrak and Disco Inferno by Tina Turner. Caroline showed no ill effects from completing the Paris marathon recently and is hoping to convince Dave to join her in Paris 2017.  
The third member of the Fitzpatrick family was next on stage when Bronagh and partner Aaron McAvoy  displayed their creative pop dancing talents to Sorry by Justin Beiber and Play that Sax. They produced a high energy and confident display befitting a couple who had the experience of Jigs and Reels behind them but with different partners.
Mairead McGrath and Linus Murray returned to a country dance routine complete with the white stetsons and made great use of the stage when performing to Shut up and Dance and Honey I'm good.  Mairead smiled confidently throughout the routine.
It was just after 10 0'clock when Martin Donnelly and Paula Cairns made their dramatic entrance and unbelievably we were down to the last three contestants. Paul and Martin did not disappoint as they displayed an abundance of energy performing the Charleston to Rock Around the Clock  and This Old House. Paula's fear that Martin might do an impersonation of an Armagh full back and drop her during one of the tricky manoeuvres proved groundless.
The ovation for the penultimate couple certainly rivalled that for Fr Colum as Ollie Fitzpatrick arrived with his partner Aine Strain on a tractor and trailer borrowed from compere, Maureen Simpson's son, Cain and to the music of "Hit the Diff" The audience responded to the entrance and Maureen assured everyone that this was typical of this couple. They were the fun couple throughout the four months preparation. Their dance, a combination of Hip Hop and Novelty kept the smiles on everyone's faces. Their video on facebook was equally entertaining.
And now the final contestants as the Lisnavaragh Road couple of Andrew and Sharon Carr entered the stage,  both stunning in their matching pink blazers, panama hats and fashionable shades. They were confident and assured and gave a superb performance of Hip hop and Modern Dance to Uptown Funk and Runaway Baby. Their gestures, facial expressions and sheer enjoyment of the dances electrified the audience.

Now it was over to the judges - would it be one of the Fitzpatrick couples - one of the Charleston couples - Fr Colum and Ann or ???????? Everyone had their favourites - some family - some friends - some wildly impressed by the performance of the artistes but all 800 patrons had been entertained by the efforts and expertise of the dancers. Some dancers sang cheerfully the whole way through, others furiously counted out the steps but all managed to keep a smile on their faces. They survived those carefully orchestrated lifts and kept in time. Many acted out a drama on stage - dancing with their feet, eyes, arms and fingers. A night of inspired dancing and marvellous entertainment.
Now it was decision making time. The judges had scrutinised, they had checked their notes they had ticked their boxes and completed fourteen little sums. They had to reveal the winners. Comperes asked for the drum beat roll seeking audience participation as to who the winners might be. 

Judges choice winner was couple number 14        -  Andrew and Sharon Carr.

People’s choice winner was couple number 10     -   Mairead McGrath and Linus Murray

A special Teachers choice award was awarded to couple number 4 -  Olivia Goodman and Damien Simpson.

The prizes were presented by Adrian Strain, representing the main sponsor - Eagle Overseas.
Cathy Devine Co-ordinator of Strictly  conveyed the thanks of the Aghaderg Parish, Club and community to the participants, sponsors committee, audience and all those who gave freely of their time in preparation and on the night. Three winning couples were fittingly recognised on stage but  on the night we were all winners - the committee, the dancers, the sponsors, those working in the background and the audience.
Aghaderg Strictly - Thanks for the entertainment - thanks for the memories.