DMSF is proud to help every child strive to be the best they can be and dream BIG, and one of the ways we do this is by exposing them to new opportunities.

In 2020, Creative Manager and Lead Dancer in Michael Flatley’s ‘Lord of The Dance’, James Keegan, and Lead Dancer in ‘Lord of the Dance’, Mary Mirasola, helped bring something new to DMSF.

James is a multi-award-winning Irish dancing champion, and his achievements continue to inspire a new generation of artists. In 2019 and in recognition of his efforts, James was presented with the ‘B Inspired’ Award at the DMSF City of Champions Gala Dinner.

We caught up with James and Mary during their busy touring schedule for Lord of the Dance.

What’s your role within DMSF? 

In 2020 we were fortunate enough to get the opportunity to work with DMSF and bring something new to the foundation; Irish Dancing! Our role at DMSF is to introduce or present children with an opportunity to learn something they have most likely never heard of before, let alone experienced. We have thoroughly enjoyed our teaching experiences so far and can’t wait to get going in 2021.

How did you get involved in DMSF?

We are very good friends with Coach Denis Moran who is already part of the DMSF team. We teach Irish dance to his daughter, Orla, at our dance school here in Manchester, the ‘Keegan Academy of Irish Dance.’ Denis introduced us to Diane and Bex one cold Tuesday night at the Chorlton Irish Club when he invited them to come and observe one of our lessons. It was at that meeting that Diane told us the ethos of the DMSF foundation and that she would like us to work with the team in some capacity in the future.

Why did you decide to work with DMSF?

We opened the Keegan Academy of Irish Dance in 2011. Almost every student we have taught over the last ten years has been at dance class through their own choice or because their parents/guardians have decided to take them along. After talking to Diane and hearing about the work that DMSF does for children and communities, particularly in deprived areas, it felt like an exciting challenge to spread the word of our artform whilst giving these children the chance to do something completely different and new.

How many times a week do you coach at the Keegan Academy?

At the moment we teach 6-days a week in between our touring schedule for Lord of The Dance which hasn’t been a lot lately due to the pandemic. In the last few months we have worked at several high schools with DMSF along with other members of the team.

What do you enjoy most about the sessions?

Each session we do brings us a new challenge. Different ages, abilities and characters etc, but that’s what makes it fun and keeps us on our toes! It’s very fulfilling to watch a group of children that may never have heard of Irish dance or attempted any form of dance, be able to dance a routine to music after just a short session with us.

Where does your passion for sport come from?

Mary and I are both very active. Mary grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and I grew up in South Manchester. They are very different places but we both find common ground in sport and dance. I was a keen footballer growing up and Mary did too many sports to list! It’s in our DNA and we love every aspect of it from competitiveness, team bonding, training, the highs and lows!

Who have been the biggest influences on your career?

Our biggest influence has been our boss, Michael Flatley. He lives by the motto, nothing is impossible and follow your dreams. Michael is living proof that you can start with nothing and with enough hard work and determination, achieve your dreams. It has been a privilege to perform with him and learn from him throughout our careers.

What’s your proudest achievement do far?

We have both been fortunate enough to be honoured with the highest accolades in competitive Irish dance as well as going on to dance professionally. However, we feel that our greatest achievement has been the success and progress of our dance school over the last ten years and watching our students improve as dancers on stage whilst developing into kind and caring individuals off it. I was also bursting with pride to be recognised by Manchester City council and DMSF with the ‘City of Champions B Inspired award’ in 2019.

What’s the best advice you can give our young people?

Our advice to all the young people out there is to try everything once. Just give it a go. If you find something you are good at then dedicate yourself to it and who knows where it will take you. Nothing in life is easy and sport is the same, you just have to stick with it.

To date, DMSF has delivered these sessions in three schools reaching approx. 400 pupils, and we’re excited to see what comes next.

James’ energy and presence is compelling – he was the youngest ever lead in the history of Lord of the Dance and won all of the major titles in Irish dance, culminating in 2000 when he completed the ‘Grand Slam’ by winning every title in the same year.

At a young age he faced a life-changing decision [at the time he was considering life as a professional footballer whilst making a name for himself in the Irish dance sphere] and this decision determined his future career path. James’ dedication is inspirational. 

Life decisions can be tough to make but it’s important to remember that you have the power to make the right ones, and this is a message we want to pass on to our young people.

Diane Modahl

CEO and co-Founder, Diane Modahl Sports Foundation