I started dancing at a very young age after one of my consultants at Great Ormond Street hospital, in London, suggested to my parents it would good physio for me, for a rotation disability that I was born with. I danced under Maguire O’Shea Academy until I was 16, when I started helping teach classes. Although competing wasn’t my passion, teaching certainly was.
I took my TCRG examination in 1996, at the same time as marrying my husband, Guy McCoig-Lees. I started the McGahan Lees Academy straight away, with Guy’s support. I was lucky enough to have some very loyal students from the beginning and became quite a successful school quickly.
Over the past 21 years I have been lucky to teach many loyal dancers who have now grown up to be trusted personal friends. I am especially proud that no fewer than 15 of my former dancers are now active TCRGs with 7 of those currently teach alongside me at McGL. In 2014 a friend of mine Marion also joined our Academy along with her co-teacher and student Liz McCarthy. I now am lucky enough to be teaching alongside some of the very best in the world and my closest friends –
- Cecily Charlton, one of my World Champions, Senior Ladies 2008 and my first open champion.
- Debbie McGahan, my sister and former ‘Riverdance’ dancer, who won numerous championships throughout her career.
- Leanne Gray, one of my All Ireland Champions and our European teacher who also won many other major championships.
- Isabel Yorke, one of my beginner dancers achieving as high as 4th in the World & All Ireland Championships.
- Siobhan Forrest, a former Ceili/Figure World Champion for the Carey School. Also a North American National Champion.
- Amy Kingham, one of my dancers achieving as high as 4th in an All Ireland’s. A multiple champion and medal holder.
- Marion Flanagan, a judge and examiner who originally ran the successful Marion Flanagan School
- Liz McCarthy, a world class dancer who danced Lead in ‘Dance of Desire’.
- Caroline Gray, MCGL’s most successful dancer to date, a World Champion who has gone on to play both female leads in ‘Lord of the Dance‘ and is now the female dance captain.
I am also very proud of my other dancers who are now teachers including Stephen Brennan (Brennan Lucey) MCGLs first male World Champion, Jessie Leach our former All Ireland Champion, Danielle Arthurs (Reel Eire) former McGL dancer and World top 10 medal holder, Ferne Turner (Turner School) former MCGL SER Oireachtas winner who teaches alongside her sister and another former MCGL dancer Adele Turner.
Although the name of our academy was created using my Mayo born father’s name, John McGahan and part of my married name, it is very much a big part of all of the teachers in the Academy, especially as so many have grown up learning to dance, competing for and now teaching for the Academy.
Over the last 21 years the academy has won
numerous World, All Ireland, Great Britain,
North American National, British National, All
Scotland, European and Scottish National titles.
Along with hundreds of other championships.
I am proud to be qualified adjudicator and grade examiner for CLRG. My highlights have been judging 2 All Ireland Championships in 2010 & 2014, along with a day at the World Championships and the North American.
Along with the running of the Academy I have been on the Southern Regional Council for 10 years, being chair of the SER Oireachtas and the Great Britain Championships in 2013, following on from my husband Guy who had ran event for previous 4 years and was responsible for the events transformation and move from Brean Sands to Bognor Regis. I was also a member of CLRG for 8 years serving on both the Rules and Oireachtas Committees at various stages.
I am also a proud mother to my wonderful son, Cian. I know how hard it is to juggle everything but I will be eternally grateful to my parents who manage to raise 10 children, 5 of us in the irish dancing world. They took us to classes 3 times a week along with feiseanna at the weekend.
I am very lucky to have had such supportive parents along with my number one supporter, Guy and now 9 of the most amazing colleagues and friends to teach alongside.
Irish Dancing has given me so many special memories such as winning our first Championship, with Cecily in Corby 1998 onto multiple World Championship titles, the most recent being 2017 with Ashton Canty, seeing former students Stephen Brennan and Caroline Gray take leading roles in Riverdance and Lord of the Dance but overall it’s the lasting friendships and bonds of your co teachers and fellow teachers and adjudicators around the world that makes Irish Dance so special.