The First Lady of The Dance
Biljana Pajic Dance Teacher of Erin’s Fiddle Dance School in Belgrade Serbia, winner of a 2012 Main Award
“I started Irish Dancing in 2004 and two years later established a dance group in Belgrade. I could only dream about meeting and learning from one of the stars of Lord of the Dance. I could not imagine this at all seriously because in the land where I live Irish Dancing isn’t that famous and familiar to people. Still, my dancers and I worked a lot and achieved a lot too. Everything we’ve achieved until now wasn’t a gift from anyone. We had no financial support or any other support from any institution that could help us in any way. That’s the main reason why I was so delighted when I first found out about the Marie Duffy Foundation. I thought it was a great opportunity for anyone who does Irish Dancing and needs some kind of support. I applied for an award hoping to have a little luck, and, surprisingly I had it!!! When I got the answer from Marie and Mike, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing- an offer for Bernadette Flynn to host an Irish Dance Workshop. The Dancers were euphoric – none of them could believe it at first, but finally on Friday 4th May Bernadette arrived in Belgrade and the unforgettable weekend began.
Words cannot describe how thankful we are and what this has meant to us. It’s hard to find support for what we do, but it has surprised us when we least expected it- and even from someone who has never met us personally and seen us dance live. We really appreciate it and it was a pleasure and honour to be a part of all this”
Cathal Keaney, winner of the Award for Excellence in Innovative Irish Dance Choreography, Reflects on the experience
“The Vanishing Lake set dance completion was one of the highlights of my dancing career and I really enjoyed the whole experience. The event gave me the opportunity to be creative and do something different. As a dancer who makes up all my own steps this was the perfect opportunity to be creative whilst giving an opportunity to compete against other senior dancers without any other distractions of costume; just pure dancing- dancing at its best. I really enjoyed this.
I felt amazing when I was called out as the winner as I was not expecting it and the standard was so high- just to be taking part was great. Winning the competition has helped my confidence in competitive dancing and encouraged me to push myself harder and develop more intricate steps.
The Award has enabled more to participate in more competitions, attend more classes, and receive physiotherapy treatment when I was injured- it has and will help me to achieve my full potential in the future.
Overall I think the competition was a great experience and another step in the right direction for Irish Dancing and we are all truly indebted to the Marie Duffy Foundation for its conception and execution”.
Only once in a blue moon do we have the honour and delight of crossing paths with someone of the calibre of Marie Duffy Pask. That has been my privilege in recent years, as Chair of An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, where Marie and I have often talked the talk, but more importantly, she has always walked the walk! For that is the character of Marie Duffy. As a renowned Irish dancing teacher, adjudicator and examiner of many years’ standing, Marie has brought, and continues to bring, a wealth of experience, integrity and personal commitment to all her work, both as a teacher and long-standing member of An Coimisiún. For the past 15 years approximately, Marie has also been a wonderful ambassador for all areas of our Irish culture, as she has been one of the driving forces behind highly successful shows such as Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames etc. It was indeed fitting that she was chosen as the first ever honouree of An Coimisiún at the 2011 World Irish Dancing Championships which were held in her native Dublin. Without doubt, Marie is THE FIRST LADY OF THE DANCE!
Sean MacDonnchadha (Chair, CLRG)
Can I just say that I was very honoured and humbled to be asked to be a part of this wonderful innovation which is so typical of Marie Duffy Pask. Throughout her dancing career, Marie has always illuminated the correct pathway, whether it was through her unrivalled competitive career with both Inis Ealga and the Marie Duffy Academy of Irish Dancing, or her ground- breaking work with Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames and Celtic Tiger. As Seán MacDonnchadha, the chairman of An Coimisiún said at the dedication of the 2011 World Championships ‘Marie Duffy Pask truly is the First Lady of the Dance’.
James McCutcheon (Vice Chair, CLRG)
We have both known Marie Duffy for many years and have shared countless great moments together. She is a determined and courageous person and a true lady, but most of all she is a friend. We love you Marie, we’re proud of you and we’re with you all the way.
Michael and Niamh Flatley
Marie Duffy’s dedication to perfection in Irish Dancing has helped transform this art form into a worldwide phenomenon. Her work remains the bar to which all else is compared and she continues to set new standards for aspiring dancers and artists.
Eimir Ni Mhaoileidigh
Both Damien (O’Kane) and I have worked closely with Marie since the beginning of Lord of the Dance in 1996. It has been a very special journey and an honour to have worked and learned so much from one of Irish dancing’s most respected. We have also gained a very special friend with whom we’ve shared many amazing memories. We’d like to thank Marie for everything, for the wonderful opportunities, incredible experiences and the lifelong friendships. Here’s to you Marie and many more good times shared together.
Marie is an inspirational woman that I have had the privilege to dance with since I was three years old, right through my Lord of the Dance days. I now get to pass on what she taught me to my own school in Tennessee. Thanks a million, Marie!
Aoibheann O’Brien Barbera
Marie, congratulations on your lifetime achievement award. There is no person more deserving of such a distinguished accolade. Wishing you continued success in the future.
We want to tell you how proud we are of you for your lifetime achievement award. We could not imagine a more deserving winner! You are an inspiration to us all.
I’ve had a wonderful time working with you for the past four years in LOTD Troupe one. You truly are the Queen of the Cross Keys.
Few gain legendary status but Marie’s crown has certainly been well and truly anchored. There hasn’t really been a time when Marie was not part of my dancing life. In my competitive days I remember her as a revered powerhouse in Irish dancing, setting standards and churning out champions. Later on in the shows, I got to experience first hand her genius and choreographical foresight that sets her apart. Marie’s integrity and character has been inspiring. Luckily for me not only do I get the privilege of working professionally with Marie but I also have the fortune to share a great friendship!