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By Michele Gall
The Beacon News
October 17, 2011

For the third year in a row, local dancer McKimmon Engelhardt is a good bet to win at the Mid American Irish Dance Championship, set for Nov. 25-27 held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.

McKimmon dances with the McNulty Dance School headed by Barbara McNulty.

At 12, McKimmon, also known as “Mack,” is a versatile athlete who participates in football as well as traditional Irish dance. The Sugar Grove resident attends Holy Angels School in Aurora.

“I’ve spent six years Irish dancing,” McKimmon said. “This form of dancing started out with traditional team dancing and slowly evolved into solos and competition.”

McKimmon does both solo and team competition, and values each equally. “With teaming, I get to work cooperatively, with a team. With solo dancing I get to use all of the different techniques,” he said.

Spurred on by an older sister who danced ballet and wanted to do something more athletic, McKimmon was asked what dance meant to him.

“I dance four days a week,” he said. “I don’t know what I would do without my dancing.”

According to his dance teacher Barbara McNulty of the McNulty School of Irish Dance, “McKimmon is a very hard worker. He takes criticism very well. He will listen to you and go back and practice, work on what doesn’t work,” said his teacher, Barbara McNulty.

McNulty stresses the connection between early traditional Irish dancing such as the Irish jig and reel and the more modern, athletic forms of Irish dance as exemplified by dancers such as Guy Flatley in his “Lord of the Dance’ film and performances.

Usually, McKimmon does the team dance referred to as “Ceili.” American square dancing has its roots in Irish Ceili dancing. This kind of dance emphasizes height and extension, with the dancers on point. This is mixed team dancing, with two boys and six girls.

McKimmon started out winning regional championships and has participated in three National Championships, taking second place this year. In 2010 he placed 12th in the World Championships, held in Scotland. This year, he won a sixth place in competition in Ireland.

“You get nervous before a big championship — all of the buildup. The dance itself is a bit of a release. You can relax. It’s off your shoulders. You can talk to your friends about it,” he said.

When asked how he would incorporate traditional Irish dance into his future plans, McKimmon didn’t even pause for a breath.

“I want to win a major competition — National, All-Ireland, or All-Scotland. My lifelong goal is to pass the TCRG (Irish dance accreditation) and to someday become a teacher of Irish dance. … I would someday like to have my own studio as well.”

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