The McGahan Lees Irish Dance Academy now holds classes all over the South of England.

The Academy was founded by Frances McGahan (BDCRG), now an experienced qualified teacher, adjudicator and grade examiner in 1996.

All our teachers are fully qualified with An Coimmisiun le Rince Galelacha – the largest of the governing bodies of Irish Dance with registered dance schools all over the globe.

During its history McGL has continued to support and develop literally thousands of dancers from beginners, onto national and international Champions, cast and leads in shows such as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance as well as creating life-time opportunities for many former students who are now qualified teachers (TCRG) and adjudicators (ADCRG)

Frances McGahan
Principal, ADCRG, BGCRG

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 be good physio for me for a rotation disability that I was born with. My father, John McGahan, who was from Mayo, along with my mother Doreen, also signed up four of my nine siblings and we all danced under Maguire O’Shea Academy. I stopped dancing myself at sixteen years old, when I started to help 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 25 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 so many of my former dancers are now active TCRG/ADCRG’s with 6 of those currently teaching alongside me at McGL. One of which is my sister Debbie and also my senior ladies World Champion, Cecily Charlton. In 2014 a friend of mine Marion Flanagan also joined our Academy and in 2021 we were joined by Fiona Mackey. I now am lucky enough to be teaching alongside some of the very best in the world and my closest friends. We all work together to help our dancers enjoy and develop into the best dancers they can be. Read more

Debbie McGahan
TCRG

Debbie started dancing at the age of four with the Maguire O’Shea Academy as a hobby as her older brother and sisters were already attending classes. Debbie went on to become a top 10 medal holder for the World, British Nationals, Great Britain, All Ireland and American National Championships both as a solo and ceili dancer. At 20 years old Debbie was offered a place in both Lord of the Dance and Riverdance the show. She then went on to tour most of Europe and Asia with Riverdance the show with the Liffey Company until she had her eldest son in 2002. Debbie feels so privileged to be a dance teacher at MCGL and loves nothing more than seeing new dancers fulfil their true potential and dreams.

Debbie teaches Irish dance classes at our Billericay class.

Marion Flanagan
ADCRG, BGCRG

Marion was born in Oxford of Irish parents. She was introduced to Irish dancing at the age of four and danced for the Anne Flood School of Irish Dancing in Oxford. She later went on to dance for the McDonald Academy and competed at the World Championships from the age of 15 until she retired from dancing competitively to start teaching.

Marion has been teaching Irish dance in Oxford for 24 years and is also a qualified adjudicator; she has recently judged such competitions as the World Championships, the All Irelands and various regional qualifying competitions. Her pupils have achieved titles at competitions all over the world, including the North American Nationals, Great Britains, British Nationals and European Championships, as well as winning World Medals and placing in the top ten at both the World Championships and All Irelands.

Along with Frances, Marion has also recently qualified as a Grade Examiner. Only experienced adjudicators are eligible to take this exam, so to have two of our teachers pass is a very prestigious achievement!

Cecily Charlton
ADCRG

Starting at the age of 9, Cecily was one of Frances’ first pupils here at McGahan Lees. Inspired by watching Riverdance, she instantly fell in love with Irish dance and quickly became the academy’s first ever champion. As she developed under Frances’ tuition, she won numerous championships and went on to become Southern England regional oireachtas champion and two-times Great Britain champion. Her passion and dedication paid off in 2008 when she was crowned senior ladies’ World Champion, in the Waterfront Theatre, Belfast. She then decided to hang up her competitive shoes and join Frances as part of the MCGL teaching team.

Frances’ drive has definitely been passed on to Cecily. So much so, that she successfully passed her TCRG exam with honours in 2008 and then her ADCRG exam in 2018. Her ultimate ambition was to teach and to pass on her knowledge and training experience to new students. She loves working with children so she truly enjoys every single one of her classes with them.

Cecily is a talented choreographer and has showcased her work on TV’s The Only Way Is Essex, Big Brother’s Little Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. She is also honoured to be head choreographer for the Southern England Regional Oireacthas Parade of Champions each year. Another talent she has is in stage makeup and hair. You will often spot her at feisanna fixing hair and doing makeup for many of the MCGL dancers so that they can go up on stage feeling their best.

Cecily continues to fulfill her dreams of imparting her skills to others. She believes strongly that ALL children have the ability to thrive in a fun and safe environment.

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Cecily Charlton
ADCRG

Starting at the age of 9, Cecily was one of Frances’ first pupils here at McGahan Lees. Inspired by watching Riverdance, she instantly fell in love with Irish dance and quickly became the academy’s first ever champion. As she developed under Frances’ tuition, she won numerous championships and went on to become Southern England regional oireachtas champion and two-times Great Britain champion. Her passion and dedication paid off in 2008 when she was crowned senior ladies’ World Champion, in the Waterfront Theatre, Belfast. She then decided to hang up her competitive shoes and join Frances as part of the MCGL teaching team.

Frances’ drive has definitely been passed on to Cecily. So much so, that she successfully passed her TCRG exam with honours in 2008 and then her ADCRG exam in 2018. Her ultimate ambition was to teach and to pass on her knowledge and training experience to new students. She loves working with children so she truly enjoys every single one of her classes with them.

Cecily is a talented choreographer and has showcased her work on TV’s The Only Way Is EssexBig Brother’s Little Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. She is also honoured to be head choreographer for the Southern England Regional Oireacthas Parade of Champions each year. Another talent she has is in stage makeup and hair. You will often spot her at feisanna fixing hair and doing makeup for many of the MCGL dancers so that they can go up on stage feeling their best.

Cecily continues to fulfill her dreams of imparting her skills to others. She believes strongly that ALL children have the ability to thrive in a fun and safe environment.

Isabel Yorke
TCRG

Izzy started her Irish dancing career aged 9, after a family holiday to Ireland where she was inspired by watching dancers ad-lib with a traditional Irish folk band. Back in Essex, she quickly joined McGahan Lees and was taught by Frances from day one. Her achievements include becoming Southern England regional champion three times, placing in the top five at the Worlds and All Irelands for two years in a row and gaining a total of seven world medals across her career.

Izzy has always enjoyed working with children and started helping out in classes at the age of 16. She qualified as a TCRG in Limerick, 2013, and teaches alongside her career as a postdoctoral researcher in child and adolescent mental health.

Izzy teaches Irish dancing in Balham.

Siobhán Forrest
TCRG

Siobhán started dancing at the age of 4, following a trip to visit family in Ireland.  During her dancing career Siobhán achieved numerous consecutive World Medals, as well as winning the North American National Championships and placing 2nd at the British National Championships.

Whilst at university, Siobhán joined the Carey Academy in Birmingham where she found a passion for Ceili and Figure dancing, alongside her competitive career as a solo dancer. Siobhán competed in both mixed and girls’ teams and was fortunate enough to add several top 3 World Championship placings for both Ceili and Figure to her list of achievements.

Siobhán obtained her TCRG qualification in June 2014 and has since become a registered member of RCCEA.  During her teaching career she has been privileged to not only work with our dancers in the UK but has been fortunate to work with our McGahan Lees Europe contingent for over 4 years, sharing her knowledge and passion for Irish dance with our dancers In Czech Republic and Poland.

Amy Kingham
TCRG

Amy learned her love of Irish dance at the age of 5 after catching a glimpse of Michael Flatley’s show, Feet of Flames live in Hyde Park a very long time ago now!  She joined the McGahan-Lees Irish Dance Academy when she turned 10.  During her early competing days Amy learned the true love of Irish dance and thoroughly enjoyed the team spirit that is instilled in to the classes through Frances’ passion and own love of the sport.  Amy has so many fond memories of the fun competition of St Patrick’s Day, teaming up and touring around Essex, Kent and London to perform for crowds of people celebrating Irish tradition and raising money for future events, being able to travel and attend local, national and international competitions with friends from your class and being able to do so by being involved in great fundraising activities such as bag packs, bootcamps and bootsales – to name a few!

Amy was very fortunate to achieve some amazing successes in her dancing career, her proudest being Top 5 at the prestigious All Ireland Championships. She also had the success of winning multiple local championship titles, countless world medals at the World Irish Dance Championships and attending all major feisenna for over 12 years.  She also had the opportunity of competing as part of a Ceili team for McGL and qualifying for the World Championships – a huge achievement which brought the whole school closer together.

Amy teaches Irish dancing in Leigh on Sea.

Fiona Mackey
TCRG

Fiona started dancing at the age of four with the Maguire O’Shea Academy.  She won the Southern England Regional Oireachtas three times and went on to become a top 10 medal holder in the World, British Nationals, Great Britain and All Ireland Championships.

Fiona passed her TCRG in 2001 and teaches in Finchley and Winchmore Hill, North London.   From a young age, she knew she wanted to teach, to pass on her passion for Irish dance to the next generation of dancers.  She hopes that all students will love Irish dancing, form life long friendships and keep fit whilst doing do.

Niall Forrest
TCRG

Niall started dancing at age 5, following in the footsteps of his older sister, Siobhan, who also teaches at the McGahan Lees academy.  Having joined McGahan Lees at the age of 14, Niall’s competative career had an accolade of achievements. Niall won 8 Major Titles including the Great Britains, the British Nationals and the All Scotlands. He also won 6 Regional Oireachtas Titles and five Top 5 world podium placings as well as numerous world medals.

After retiring from his competitive dance career in 2018, Niall completed all 12 CLRG grade examinations and went on to obtain his TCRG qualification in Dublin in April 2022

Niall loves working with the next generation of McGL, passing on his experiences both on and off of the stage.

Ashleigh John
TCRG

Ashleigh began dancing when she was 4 years old in Auckland New Zealand after watching a video of the Riverdance Eurovision performance.

She trained with schools in NZ and the USA before moving to the UK in 2015 and joining McGahan Lees. Her achievements include becoming New Zealand National Champion three times and placing at the North American Nationals and World Championships.

Ashleigh discovered her love of performing outside of the competitive world of Irish Dance when she joined her first professional show in 2010.

After getting a taste for touring, Ashleigh took a break to complete her studies in Business and Marketing before picking up where she left off and touring USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand with various different shows. Her favorite memory was dancing Lead with Rhythms of Ireland in her hometown of Auckland with all her family in the audience.

Ashleigh qualified as a TCRG in Dublin in 2017. She looks forward to being able to pass on her experience and love of dance to her students.

Melissa McDermott ADCRG

Originating from Limerick, Ireland, my journey in Irish dance began at the age of 4 under the tutelage of Patsy Fitzgerald and Anthony Costello. Growing up immersed in the rich culture of Ireland, I quickly developed a deep love for Irish dance, which led me to compete nationally and internationally.

Achieving success early on, including podium placements at the Munster Oireachtas and All-Ireland Championships, solidified my passion for Irish dance. My journey took me to the global stage of the World Championships, dancing in both solo and team categories where I proudly earned 10 World medals.

Transitioning from competitive dancing at 18, I pursued my academic interests in mathematics, completing my degree and masters, while continuing to share my love for Irish dance through local shows and performances.

After attaining my ADCRG in 2014, I established the Melissa McDermott School of Irish Dance in Hong Kong, driven by a passion for sharing Irish culture in a new environment. Over the years, our school became a focal point for celebrating Irish traditions. Our students showcased their talents at prestigious events like the St. Patrick’s Society ball and have achieved podium places at competitions such as the RCCEA Oireachtas and the Australian International Oireachtas. Also, the school received awards at the British Nationals, Great Britain, All Ireland, and World Championships. In 2021 the Irish Consulate in Hong Kong recognised and honoured us for our contributions to promoting Irishness abroad.

Now, as I join the amazing McGahan-Lees team, I’m committed to sharing the joy of Irish dance and culture to new audiences.

Katherine Toong
TCRG

Katherine, from Ontario, Canada, embodies a diverse cultural background, with Chinese and Irish roots. Her journey in the realm of Irish dance commenced at the age of five under the tutelage of Yvonne Kelly, and then later competing under the guidance of June Butler. Concurrently, she pursued her fervour for highly competitive soccer within the Ontario Youth Soccer League.

Demonstrating a commitment to dancing and leadership, Katherine embarked on her assistant teaching path at the age of 17. In 2010 Katherine decided to take her TCRG exam and received her diploma at the Dublin 2011 Worlds

In 2014, Katherine embraced an enriching opportunity abroad, serving as a personal trainer to corporate professionals, but Irish Dancing never left her side. Katherine started to help dancers in Hong Kong who were seeking to compete in CLRG and naturally over time her dance lessons flourished.

Now that Riverdance and LOTD is back touring in Asia, dancers in Mainland China (youth – adult) are starting to travel to Hong Kong seeking lessons under the McGahan Lees Academy

Ellie Arthurs Assistant Teacher

Ellie started Irish dancing classes at the age of 2, following in the footsteps of her siblings due to her mother’s Irish heritage. She joined McGahan Lees in 2008 along with her sister, Danielle, who was also inspired by Frances to teach Irish dancing. Ellie was privileged to dance for McGahan Lees for 15 years, winning 2 consecutive Southern England regional championships, placing top 5 in multiple major championships and achieving 5 world medals, with 4 in the top 10 and a personal best of 6th place.

Ellie valued the individual expertise that each of her teachers brought to her dancing career. She began assisting with classes as a teenager and knew she wanted to teach after retiring from competition in 2023.

Ellie is most grateful for the experiences, life skills and friends she has gained along the way, and is excited to help others on their own dance journeys.

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