Daniel Callanan has the gangly look of a middle school student, just coming into his own as a young man with the glint of Ireland in his eyes and the polite handshake of an eldest child. He’s an athlete with a busy schedule, a good student, and the oldest in a tight-knit family of six including three younger siblings.
The seventh-grader at the Transfiguration School in Tarrytown stands out, though, in one particular area. He happens to be the Boys Under 12 2016 World Irish Dancing Champion. You can’t miss the three huge silver trophies in his family’s living room, including the big globe – transported all the way from Glasgow, Scotland, after he swept the competition in the “under 12” age group with his fast moving feet and his well-trained legs. There are dozens of other smaller trophies and ribbons scattered about the house as well.
Focused primarily on footwork, Irish dancing is performed either individually or by teams of dancers, and is accompanied by traditional Irish music played on a variety of instruments like the accordion, piano, fiddle, flute or banjo. Timing and rhythm are extremely important, along with the intricate and fast paced footwork that has captured the fascination of the rest of the world, thanks to Riverdance and Lord of the Dance.
Callanan came in third place in 2015 at the World Championships and had a feeling 2016 might be his year. “I just had a feeling I could do it this time,” he said. “It’s ll about the focus. You have to be in the zone.”
He has been dancing since he was four years old, and continues to practice at the Lynn Academy of Irish Dance in Tarrytown, (www.lynnacademy.com) a growing Irish Dance center run by his Aunt Maureen Collins, with help from dozens of instructors. His mother, Mary Lynn Collins-Callanan, is also an instructor and his beloved grandmother, Dr. Mary Lynn Collins, is enrollment director at the Academy.
Callanan is also an avid football player with the Pop Warner Eastchester Blue Devils team, and plays lacrosse and basketball. “I like to stay busy,” he said. “I love sports, and Irish dancing is a sport, too. I’ve met so many great kids in Irish dancing.”
Callanan lives in Tarrytown with his mother and father, John Callanan, a teacher and coach. His younger siblings – all of whom participate in Irish dance – are Mary Kate, 10; Johnny, 8; and Rosie, 5.