McGuire brings back world title from Sweden
One can't help but wonder, upon meeting Prestonsburg attorney Earl M. “Mickey” McGuire, what it was that lead this practitioner of law to waltz his way out of the courtroom and into the arena of competitive dance. According to the newest world champion of country dance competition, McGuire says that it all started with a simple radio ad, an open evening, and a desire to engage in what might turn out to be a “fun” activity.
“It was in about 1992, I was driving between Pikeville and Prestonsburg, when I heard a radio announcement that free dance lessons were being given that evening at the old Center Stage Night Club. I thought, ‘that might be fun,' and decided to stop in...well, as it turned out, the lessons were going to be taught in about the next 20 minutes, so I stayed, and afterwards, I guess you could say that I was hooked,” he said.
McGuire shares that although he had found the evening to be fun, it wasn't without its challenges and he told dance instructors J.J. and Charlene Johnson, of Martin, that night that he “would never be able to do it.” “I just thought that I'd never be able to keep up,” he said.
Spurred onward by words of encouragement, McGuire says that he began taking lessons from Nadina DeLong and Terry Preece, of Paintsville. “That's where I took my first two-step class,” he said. Grinning broadly, McGuire said, “You just would not believe how many times during those first practices that I almost gave up.”
Once bitten, however, McGuire continued on, and with the pattern “quick-quick, slow-slow” now running smoothly in his head, he entered his first dance contest in 1994. “We came in dead last that first time,” he said. Last in two-step, but seventh in swing, meaning that McGuire and then partner, Stephanie Barnett, had beat three other couples to get that seventh place spot. “It was enough to keep me encouraged,” he said. “Stephanie wanted to quit, but I wanted to go on.”
Eventually, McGuire found himself desirous enough of seeing just how far he could go, that he enrolled in dance lessons in Charleston, West Virginia. Now, under the tutelage of competitive coaches Lorinda and Rick Nease, the dancing attorney found himself making weekly drives to Charleston and back each Monday evening for instruction.
By October, 1998, McGuire found himself entered, along with Lorinda, in his first pro-am ballroom dance competition, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “In pro-am, it is only the amateur who is being judged,” he informed. “So the judges were looking only at me, not Lorinda.”
Along the way to his recent world championship title, McGuire has found himself dancing not only around this country, in country music havens such as Branson, Missouri and Nashville, Tennessee, but in hot spots like Las Vegas, Nevada, and a few “calmer” areas, as well, like Chicago, Illinois and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Mickey's pursuit for excellence has also landed him in the international arena; most recently, the world dancing competition in Stockholm, Sweden, where he and current dance partner Jessica Bryant, of Louisville, were just named the 2005 World Crystal Champions on January 5, 2006, by the United Country Western Dance Counsel (UCWDC). An impressive feat for any couple, but even moreso for McGuire and Jessica, who have only been dancing together since May, 2005. (In a brief aside, McGuire shares that choosing a dancing partner is an intangible process: “It's not about body types or even personalities, so much...it's just that you ‘click' together,” he said. “It's in the hand, really, just something you feel in the hand...” he shared as his words seemed to drift away into dreamlike thought.)
In this most recent competition, McGuire informs that he and his partner entered two separate divisions; one, a Novice Division for persons over the age of 30, and the other an Open Division,with no age restrictions. “In the first division, we did five dances and the seven judges gave us first place in four dances and second place in one (qualifying the couple for the world championship)...in open division, we were the world's third place overall, placing second in waltz, night club, and cha-cha.”
The UCWDC conducts qualifying contests all across the United States and in thirteen countries.
In winning the North American National contest in Las Vegas, qualifying them to compete in the world championship in Stockholm, McGuire and Bryant found themselves dancing the waltz, two-step, cha cha, swing, and night club dances, competing against talented couples from Italy, Belgium, France, Germany and England.
“Honestly, we were so in awe of the level of competition and skill of our competitors, that we never, I mean, not even once, considered that we would ever walk away with the world title,” McGuire said. “At most, we thought maybe we would place fourth or fifth, but never first.”
As a matter of fact, McGuire said that he was so convinced that he and his partner were going to leave Sweden with nothing more than “a ribbon or something,” that he opted to forego the awards ceremony in favor of sightseeing with his two college-aged children, Adam and Audrey, who had accompanied him on the trip.
“I guess that was kind of awful,” he said. “They arranged the awards ceremony Olympic-style, with the third, second and first place winners standing on those little podium things, you know, and Jessica had to go up there and stand all by herself,” he said with a hearty laugh. “But, you know, I never once thought we were going to win or I'd have been there.”
But win they did and as the two Kentuckians boarded the 19-hour return flight home, McGuire paused to reflect on the years spent traveling the road to world recognition. “I have been fortunate enough to achieve the highest acknowledgment and success,” he said. He credits each of his dance instructors, J.J. and Charlene Johnson, Nadina DeLong and Terry Preece, Lorinda and Rick Nease, Andy and Nikki Blakemore of Winchester, Linda Jackson and Charles Jones of Ballroom East in Louisville, and country coach, Kevin Johnson of Nashville, along with Don Fields of Pro-Fitness who instructed him in fitness exercises, and Jillian Brown-Vickery whose yoga classes helped stretch and strengthen his muscles.
“It's been a great year and a great time, and now I'm back in Prestonsburg practicing law and getting back into the standard routine of waltzing into a courtroom, leading a witness and being quick on my feet - just gotta dance,” he grins.