Mayer School of Irish Dancing



Mary Mayer-McHugh, TCRG

Mary began her Irish Dance Life with lessons in County Clare, Ireland while on an 8 week summer stay visiting her Grandmother.  Those eight weeks became the start of a longtime love of Irish Dance.  Mary returned home from Ireland and began lessons in 1970 with the Dennehy School of Irish Dancing. Mary's classmates at Dennehy included her brother John Mayer, a North American Champion, as well as Michael and Mary Alice Mullane (now owners of the Mullane Academy of Irish Dance) Michael, Patrick and Thomasina Flatley (we all know what Michael Flatley has done for Irish dancing); Mark and Myra Howard (Mark is the founder of Trinity Academy of Irish Dance). Kathleen Carroll was also a dancing buddy (she is the owner of CrossKeys School of Irish Dance) as were Kathy Dennehy and her brother Dennis (Kathy is one of the Dennehy teachers now).

During her dancing career, Mary quickly advanced to championship level by 1972. Mary came in 12th place in her first National Championship in 1972. From 1973 to 1979, Mary was in the top 3 at the Nationals.

Mary started teaching in 1980 with her brother John and became certified with An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha in 1982. The Mayer School of Irish Dance started with one location and quickly moved into 3 states: Illinois, Indiana and Missouri.

Mary is also an Irish Music champion tinwhistle player. Many years were spent in Ireland as a teenager competing for world titles and playing music with the best of traditional musicians. Mary has also taught many children how to play the tinwhistle before she became too busy with the dance school. One of the best students she ever had was a girl named Kathleen Keane who is a world renowned musician playing with groups such as the Drovers and Gaelic Storm.

Mary, along with Tim O'Hare have hosted the 2010 and 2011 Mid-American Irish Dance Championships.  

Today Mary teaches dancing 6 days a week to over 150 dancers. She has 3 grown children of her own and plays music on occasion with her husband, Paul McHugh. They always do live music for Mayer dance performances.

Mary teaches in Villa Park and Galena. Contact Mary at  


Paul Mayer, TCRG, ADCRG

Paul Mayer began Irish dancing at the age of six years old under the direction of his older brother and sister, John and Mary. He is an 8-time Mid-America Regional Champion. Paul competed at the World Championships three times – his best finish was 12th in 1992. He retired from actively competing at the age of 21 in 1995 to join the staff of the Mayer School of Irish Dancing. He received his TCRG (teaching) certification from An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha in Dublin in1995 and his ADCRG (adjudication) certification from the same organization in 2004.

Paul has actively served on the Irish Dance Teachers’ Association of Mid-America board in the past – from 1997-2001 as Sergeant at Arms and 2001-2005 as Regional Director. He served as co-chair for the Mid-American Championship (Oireachtas) in Chicago in 2001, 2002 and 2004. He was also host of the North American Championships in Nashville, Tennessee in 2005. Paul is a certified adjudicator (ADCRG) and actively judges throughout North America on a regular basis.

Paul’s professional career includes numerous television and movie appearances. His most notable big screen moment includes dancing with Jennifer Jason Leigh in the Movie Road to Perdition. Paul trained Jennifer, as well as several other actors and actresses, to dance for the movie.

Paul holds an undergraduate degree in Accounting from DePaul University and a masters degree in Secondary Education from Roosevelt University.  In addition to teaching dancing, he is a high school teacher.

Paul currently manages and teaches at the Elburn location.  Contact Paul Mayer at


Julie Mayer-Ciesla, TCRG

Julie Mayer started dancing at the age of 5 under the instruction of her brother and sister, John and Mary Mayer. She began competing at a very young age and placed as high as third at the Oireachtas and sixth at the Nationals. Julie also qualified and participated in the World Championships on several occasions. She began teaching with her sister Mary when she was 19. A few years after that, she earned her TCRG certification. Julie plans to take her ADCRG exam to become a judge within the next few years.

Julie has appeared in several television spots throughout her professional career. Her most memorable was her small role in the major motion picture Road to Perdition where she got to shake hands with Academy Award winner Tom Hanks and act along side Paul Newman and Daniel Craig. Julie, along with other teachers and former dancers, trained many of the actors and actresses to dance for the movie.

Julie teaches and operates the studio in Gilberts.  Contact Julie Mayer at


Kara Wilke, TCRG

Kara Wilke is a recent graduate from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.  She has been dancing for over 10 years, which has led her to the Championship level and has recalled at both the North American Championships and Midwest Oireachtas. Through her years as a dancer, she has performed at Milwaukee’s Irish fest and helped with performance choreographies for St. Patrick’s Day shows. She has been assisting/teaching since 2005, with various levels of students who have been successful in competition over the years. Kara obtained TCRG status in December 2011 from An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha, the Irish Dance Commission in Dublin, Ireland. She is a member of the Irish Dance Teachers’ Association of North America and is the newest addition to the Mayer School of Irish Dance.









Peggy Maloney-Guardiola

Peggy teaches all classes in Indiana (Chesterton and New Carlisle). Contact Peggy Maloney-Guardiola at








Noreen Lydon

Noreen started dancing at three years old with the Rince na Cara school of Irish dance, created by long time dance teacher Anne Marie Norton.  The school grew throughout the years with Gary Healy and Breda O’Brien as dance teachers.  They, along with Anne Marie have made her into the dancer she is today.  She began assisting as a teacher at the age of 16.  She was a championship dancer and competed and placed in all major competitions including the All Irelands and North American Championships.