The Australian family making Irish dancing history

The Aussie Irish dancing family with three world titles between them
The Aussie Irish dancing family with three world titles between them Photo: Fiona Gaye Moore

An Irish dancing Sydney family made history this year becoming the only mother/daughter/son combination to win the The World Irish Dancing Championships. And now, with their competition days behind them, the Moores are giving back to the community - performing at McHappy Day this weekend to help Aussie families in need.

Mum Fiona-Gaye Moore began the trio's jig into the history books back in 1980. When she took out the title, Ms Moore became the first female dancer outside the UK to win. It was a remarkable achievement and helped put Australian Irish dancing on the map, setting the stage for her children to follow in her footsteps.

And that's precisely what they did.

Fiona Gaye Moore won the World Championship in 1980.
Fiona Gaye Moore won the World Championship in 1980. Photo: Fiona-Gaye Moore

In 2014, Ms Moore's then 19-year-old daughter Ceili took out The World Irish Dancing Championships after a second place finish in 2013. Four years later,  not to be outdone by his sister, younger sibling Jonty, also 19, walked away with the crown, winning the competition on Good Friday this year.

"In the Championship's 49-year history there has never been a Mother/Son/Daughter, all three in the one family achieve these title wins," Ms Moore says. "Not even the Irish at their own game."

It's a sentiment she tells me is echoed by her husband, former Bulldogs coach Kevin Moore. "He often says, 'How did a little family from Sydney end up doing what the Irish couldn't do?'"

The simple answer is more than just the luck of the Irish: passion, commitment - and a lot of hard work.

Just like their mum who began studying Irish dancing as a child, both Ceili and Jonty started young - at around three years old. "We were very fortunate that the kids absolutely loved it," Ms Moore says. "It was huge passion."

But they didn't just want to dance - they wanted the title too.

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"When he was about seven or eight, Jonty said '"I want to win the Worlds too, Mum,'" Ms Moore laughs, adding "it doesn't just happen." In fact, in 2017 Jonty placed sixth, making his win twelve months later even more impressive. 

But while they might have left the Irish completely "wowed", Ms Moore says she had a feeling this year would be Jonty's. "When we walked into the studio in January, I said 'Mate, I think we can do this. I think we can make this happen'."

The proud mum says Irish dancing has brought her family more than just three world titles - it's made them extremely close knit. "There are not many families that can say their 19-year-old son happily flies with his mother to the other side of the world for three weeks," she laughs adding that with Jonty deciding to stop competing after his win she'll miss their trips, and time together. "We've been so fortunate to have so many memories created together and we've travelled to some wonderful places because we've all done Irish dancing."

Now, the talented family, has turned their focus to fostering a love of irish dance in the next generation, through their school in Sydney's South West, The Fione-Gaye Moore Academy of Irish Dance. "Jonty's win has been the closing of one door and opening of another," she says.

And while most of their students have Irish heritage, the school draws a mix of students - in part due to Emma Wiggle "and catchy songs".

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Canada bound! ✈️💫🍁 #wigglytour

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For Ms Moore, Irish Dancing isn't just a passion - it teaches you valuable life lessons.  "You learn friendship, sacrifice, happiness for your friends," she says. "You learn to dig deep when you think you've dug as far as you can. You learn time management and how to juggle school and dancing."

As well as sharing their love and knowledge with the next generation, Ms Moore says she and her children like to teach their students to give back to the community. It's why they're performing this weekend at Padstow McDonald's as part of McHappy Day, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC)'s biggest annual fundraiser. "A group of dancers aged from four to 22 will be taking part in what's become a tradition.

"Our dancers have done this for the last three years," she says, adding that her students love dancing to support such a good cause.

McHappy Day, which began in 1991, raises much-needed funds for the charity, which helps keep families together while their seriously ill child undergoes treatment. There are now 16 Ronald McDonald Houses in Australia and more than 360 houses worldwide.

To get involved, simply:

  • Buy a Big Mac from your local Macca's. Two dollars from every Big Mac sold on McHappy Day will go directly to Ronald McDonald House Charities. For the first time Big Macs will be available all day following the launch of McDonald's all day menu.
  • Pick up a pair of $5 McHappy Day socks or $2, $5, $10 or $50 Helping Hands 

  • Make a gold coin donation with one of the Bucket Brigades 

For more information visit: https://www.rmhc.org.au/mchappyday