A former Riverdance star and well regarded Irish dance teacher has said anyone found guilty of cheating and “feis fixing” should be banned from Irish dancing for life.
Kincaid Stringer, a teacher at the Celine Hession School of Dancing in Salthill, said everyone in Irish dancing knew that ‘dodgy’ things were going on, and this week’s revelations won’t be news to many.
Mr Stringer told the Irish Independent that he believes that the Irish dancing ‘system’ now needs to be reformed to protect it from cheating.
Originally from Dallas, Texas, he has danced for all of his life. He trained at the Celine Hession school in Galway, before going on to star in Riverdance in 2011.
He travelled the world performing in the iconic Irish dancing show. He now teaches children full time in the same school in which he trained.
Mr Hession said the revelations published in this newspaper this week had “unabashedly, 100pc” been an open secret.
“I’ve grown up dancing, I’ve always danced, and everyone knows that there’s dodgy stuff happening and it’s not really fair. There’s an inner circle of people that play those kinds of games, but we don’t get up to that.
“We teach dance, and we love it,” Mr Stringer said.
“I can’t say that I have any specific proof. Have I been around it? Have I seen it? Sure, we all have. All of this coming out, it’s news to other people but it’s not news to us who eat sleep and drink this.
“ There’s very much a … ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’. And not everybody is at it, that’s 100pc true. But those who are at it … it’s bad.”
He said he believed there are more teachers who are yet to be accused of cheating.
“I'd say when all of this broke, there was an extremely large group of people who were quaking in their boots, who weren't already mentioned.
“I can't say how many and I can't say who, but I'd say if you are one of those people, the damage is done. It's just a waiting game.”
Mr Stringer said that while his school has always been aware of those who have put pressure on judges for higher scores, his school had “never been willing and are never going to go down any of those roads”.
“When you start teaching, you have to hang up your shoes and make it so that it’s not about you and your ego, it’s about the child,” he said.
“If you only teach to win, you’ve already lost.”
The former professional dancer said he believed boycotting or suspending upcoming dance competitions in the wake of the scandal would only end up punishing children.
“The people who are guilty should be reprimanded and banned. I don’t think this should be soft, like a two year ban or a suspension. If they’re guilty they should be gone, for good,” he said.
“The people who are alleged to have done this, if they're proven to be guilty, they need to be dealt with to the highest extent possible. And then going forward something in the system has to change.”
Mr Stringer said he believed that a document used in dance competitions known as “the book” was being exploited by teachers and judges who wanted to cheat.
“The book” publishes the name of each competitor, and the number that they’ll dance under, ahead of any major competition.
Texts seen by the Irish Independent, which are part of the investigation into alleged cheating by judges and teachers in dance competitions, make multiple references to the book.
The messages appear to show a number of teachers sending their students dance numbers to judges ahead of events.
“The problem is these people have abused it, and they don’t need it. I think they need to get rid of it,” he said.
Mr Stringer said he believed that the alleged cheating scandal in Irish dance was a major betrayal of children, some of whom may spend more time with their Irish dancing teacher every week than they do with their own parents.
“It's betrayal, is what it is. Imagine thinking you have this relationship and this bond and integrity and hard work and work ethic and, you know, working towards a similar goal with your teacher, and then you find something out like that. It's devastating.”