Buck, who was born and raised in the Portage Lakes area, comes from a long line of people who have a great appreciation for Irish tradition.
Her grandmother, Kay McNamara-Seeman, emigrated from Ireland to New York where she met her husband. Upon relocating to Akron, she worked at O’Neil’s as an elevator operator, and her husband was an Akron police officer. They enrolled their children in Irish dance classes, and since then, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren have all participated in Irish dance and cultural events.
Buck, the founder of MacConmara Academy of Irish Dance in Akron and Stow, began Irish dancing at age 5, and by the time she was 16, she was teaching Irish dance and competing internationally.
“My first memory of Irish dance was performing in the Songs of Ireland show at the Akron Civic Theatre with my aunt, Irene Uhalley, who sang with the band, Irene and the Irishmen,” she says. “ … I was embraced by Akron’s Irish community at a young age while attending dance classes at the Hibernian Club and have continued to support them to this day. Akron has been blessed with such a deep-rooted Irish culture producing many musical artists and performers.”
Do you have to be Irish to be a good Irish dancer?
TB: When I was younger, most people dancing were from an Irish decent. Ever since “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance” came onto the scene, Irish dance has evolved, embracing students from all races and cultures.
Does a shot of Irish whiskey help?
TB: Besides driving a car, when does a shot of Irish whiskey hurt?
Do you think television dance shows accurately represent the competition experience?
TB: Some of the reality dance shows seem to portray both dance parents and teachers in a negative light. Irish step dancing differs from other forms of dance because we are our own little community, supporting each other in dance and non-dance events alike.
What are the health benefits of Irish dance?
TB: Irish dance is a demanding cardiovascular workout requiring coordination, balance and stamina, but it’s the most enjoyable way I have found to get in a workout.
What’s the hardest part and the most rewarding part about teaching kids?
TB: Today’s demands on children and young adults with school work and extracurricular activities make it difficult for children and parents to juggle and prioritize their commitments. It makes it all worth it, when I see children excited to come to dance class or when I see them running up to me at a dance competition with their medals.
What inspires you to teach a new generation of Irish dancers?
TB: It is my goal to teach Irish dance to the best of each child’s ability … most importantly, to make it a wonderful and memorable experience while cultivating a love of Irish culture and dance. Irish dancing has been a part of my family my entire life. I want children to enjoy coming to classes, going to competitions and giving performances, just as I did growing up.
The skills taught in Irish dance go beyond dance steps and have been proven to be invaluable many years later to so many people. Lasting friendships are formed among students, parents and teachers, as well as memorable experiences.
If I weren’t the founder of this dance academy, I’d be …
TB: A preschool or elementary school teacher. I loved being the preschool director and teacher at St. Mark’s in Brunswick before starting my own academy.
In my spare time, you’ll find me ...
TB: Spending time with my husband, Todd, and playing with my two boys, Gage and Devin. We love to spend our time swimming, riding four-wheelers, fishing and riding bikes.
If you were on a desert island, what three CDs would you take along, and why?
TB: I would like to have an Enya CD for relaxation, a Carrie Underwood CD because I love to listen to country music, and an Irish CD, such as my aunt’s CD, to remind me of my home and heritage.
St. Patrick’s Day is coming up. How do you plan to celebrate?
TB: I will start my day at an Irish Mass at the Hibernian Club at 9 a.m. and then go home to our annual Irish-coffee-and-breakfast party that my husband and I have been hosting at our house for the past six years.
After spending time with family and friends, we caravan to all of Akron’s popular St. Patrick’s Day festivities, including the Barley House, the Hibernian Club and Legends Sports Pub and Grille. We love listening to all the local Irish bands, such as The Shaffer Brothers, Callahan and O’Connor, Fergie and the Bog Dogs, and a few more.
All of our stops include the MacConmara dancers entertaining the crowds with their amazing talent. This is definitely the busiest day for my dancers, but it’s the most fun. We will be performing throughout March at various locations in Akron and the surrounding areas.
What’s next for you and your students?
TB: We have two girls competing at the World Championships in Montreal this April and five students going to the North American Championships this July in Rhode Island.
In May, we will be holding a competition, “The Akron Feis,” with more than 1,000 competitors at the Summit County Fairgrounds. It’s one of the longest-running feiseanna (competitions) in North America. Check out our website, www.macconmaraacademy.com, for an updated schedule.