Irish dancing brought Glenview studio owner lifetime of memories
Members of the Sheila Tully Irish Dancing Studio perform at the Citi Bank as a warm up for the upcoming St. Pat's day celebration. From left Emma Novy, Shannon Robson and Eleanor Jackson kick up their heels. | Joe Cyganowski-For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 10:08AM
GLENVIEW — It’s still there, the tan checkered brick bungalow at 3127 N. Monitor in Chicago where Sheila Tully, a Glenview resident since 1969, grew up.
“My mother (Delia) lived there from 1930 until she died six years ago when she was 105,” said Tully.
Her parents (her father, Michael, a Chicago fireman) hosted celebrations for friends from nearby St. Ferdinand Parish (5900 W. Barry Ave.) in their English basement.
That lower level is where Tully, owner of Glenview Sheila Tully Academy of Irish Dance, taught her first Irish dance class.
“My mother made me, how’s that?” said Tully, with a laugh, when asked what prompted that first November 1962 class.
Then, she was a Notre Dame de Namur H.S. (for Girls) senior (1963 graduate) who had taken dance classes since she was five.
“In my neighborhood (Belmont and Central),” said Tully, “there was no dance school, you had to go to the south side of Chicago for Irish dancing.
Tully’s mother finally said, “’Okay, so tomorrow, you are going to teach Irish dancing.’
“There was no plan.”
Seven girls were her first pupils.
Today, Tully’s academy at 1750 Glenview Rd. (opened eight years ago), welcomes about 200 students, mostly girls but hopefully, more boys.
A future Lord of the Dance?
“He’s a billionaire, I know him well,” said Tully, of choreographer Michael Flatley.
St. Patrick’s Day 2013 had Tully reflecting on her 50 years of Irish dance instruction.
“They (her parents) started a social club, the Sarsfield Club (where) they would have these big (basement) parties twice a month,” recalled Tully, now a grandmother of nine.
“She (mother Delia) would cook for 100 people and I would dance.
Guests enjoyed a buffet of, “a couple of hams, potato salad, cole slaw… and everybody would get up and do the jig and Siege of Ennis (Irish dance).
“All of the dances are still done today.
“We just had a blast.”
Tully and her husband Patrick of 44 years (a Cook County states attorney) have four children, Cathleen Dettling (Evanston), Tara Shannon, Patrick, (both of Chicago) and Michael, an attorney and Marines major.
Tully credits Mary and Bob Foley and Dr. John and Loyola Gleason (all Glenview) for early encouragement.
“They saw my dancers at Old St Patrick’s Church (700 W. Adams) in 1967,” recalls Tully.
“I was a young girl at the time (and) they said, ‘Oh my goodness, this is so fabulous, we want our children to learn Irish dancing.’
“Long story short, they brought me to OLPH (Glenview Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church) in 1968.”
Westchester was an early gig. Deerfield (Holy Cross Parish) lasted 20 years starting in 1963.
She lists the Chicago Park District, Lake Forest (School of St. Mary for 25 years), Northfield, Crystal Lake, Cary, Woodstock, Palatine, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Winnetka, Wilmette, Evanston, Oak Park, River Forest and Glen Ellyn.
“I’ve taught everywhere,” said Tully, proudly.
“It’s my passion.
“I’m still in contact with the families I’ve taught over the years.”
Before Easter over spring break, Tully will escort 40 dancers to the (Boston) World Irish Dancing Championships. Kristen Anklewicz of Wilmette, a New Trier H.S. freshman who started with Tully as a first grader, will compete.
“I like it (Irish dancing) because I get to meet a lot of new people,’ said Anklewicz, who appeared March 8 with fellow dancers at Northbrook St. Norbert Church.
Said Kaitlyn Baele, 8, an OLPH third grader: “I like it because I get to have a bouncy wig and I love to perform.”
“Sheila prepares them (students) so well,” said parent Denise de Silva, whose daughter Stephanie, 14, also a NTHS freshman, is a senior dancer.
Said Tully: “Dancing helps to bring people together around the world.”
“You don’t have to speak a language.”