Victoria takes an old style step into history
Victoria Breathnach from Gorta Dúbha stepped onto the stage in Cork City Hall at the weekend and became the first West Kerry person "ever in history" to win the senior sean nós dancing title at Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan.
West Kerry is by no means a stronghold of the freeform sean nós dancing style that is most often associated with Galway, but 19-year-old Victoria is the exception and her mother, Eileen, is in no doubt that history was made in Cork.
Victoria started Irish dancing when she was a mere five-year-old but by the age of 11 she was getting fed up of its 'hands by the side' formality. But about five years ago she chanced to attend a sean nós dancing workshop given by Roisín Uí Mhainnín in Feothanach hall during Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh and a whole new perspective on dancing opened up to her.
"From the first moment I loved it. You feel free; you can express yourself - and it's great craic," she said.
Victoria, who is a member of Lixnaw Comhaltas, gets huge support and encouragement from Pat and Mary Dennehy and Bridie Stack. Galway sean nós master John Joyce offers advice as well, but at the end of the day it's up to Victoria to come up with her own steps and stomps in a dance style that's all about individuality.
"It's not easy.. you want to have your own style and its very hard work to get up to a high standard," said Victoria who practices at home in her bedroom or maybe in the kitchen. It looks like she can't put a foot wrong because so far she has won three Kerry regional finals at underage level before taking a leap forward with last weekend's senior title at the Munster fleadh.
Victoria comes into Irish dancing with considerable 'form'. She is a grandniece of the late Joe Kavanagh from Gorta Dúbha who, aside from rowing around Ireland in a naomhóg, was a much admired dancer with a style that might not have been entirely sean nós in form but it was noted for great flair and individuality. Her grandmothers (on her mother's side) were champion dancers as well with several All-Ireland stepdancing titles to their names.
Victoria would love to see more people getting into sean nós dancing in West Kerry and she'd be more than happy to host workshops. In the meantime she'll be working on her own steps… there are bigger stages yet to come on the road to Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.