Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Interview with a Festival Dance Teacher from Tir Na n-Og Irish Dancing School

Festival Irish Dancers
Photos: Jackie White
I'm pleased to bring you an interview with Jackie White, owner of the Tir Na n-Og Irish dancing School, Belfast. Tir Na n-Og dancers dance in the Festival style.

Christy Dorrity: Tell me about Festival dancing. How is it different from other forms of Irish dance? What are the goals of your dance school?

Jackie White: I founded The Tir Na n-Og Irish Dancing School in February of 1998, along with my sister, Bronagh. We concentrate on celebrating the individuality of each child through development of style and technical ability. We are a small, friendly, school with very high standards, both competitively and in our performance work. We choreograph all of our own steps and have many champion dancers both locally and nationally. We are an Irish Festival dancing school, and as such, do not wear wigs. The use of fake tan and make up in young children is not permitted. In addition to our competitive work, we have a skilled performance troupe who perform regularly at many events.

Read more about the Festival style of dancing here.

Christy Dorrity: I've noticed that your dancer's appearances are very different than other Irish dance organizations'. Can you tell me what is different and why?

Jackie White: All of our female dancers wear soft velvet costumes with traditional Celtic embroidery. The softness of the full circle skirts reflect the movement and style of our dance, which is elegant and free flowing. We do not wear wigs or tiaras nor is makeup or fake tan permitted amongst our younger dancers. In fact, most of the competitions we take part in stipulate this as a rule on their syllabus. We try hard to celebrate individuality of appearance, and whilst we will ensure some standardization when performing as a team, we encourage dancers to celebrate their individuality in presentation at Festivals.

Christy Dorrity: Where have your dancers competed/performed?

Jackie White: We compete all over Northern Ireland at local Festivals, and also at the Northern Ireland Championships, and the FDTA Ulster Championships. We have also performed in the Republic of Ireland, and England. Our dream is to bring a Festival dance performance to the USA, to share what we do in person to wider audiences

Christy Dorrity: What's your favorite part of teaching Irish dance?

Jackie White: My favourite part of teaching is a dancer’s journey from a tiny child through to a senior dancer. We try to get every dancer to be the best that they can be. For some that is many times a senior champion, and for others it is to simply enjoy their classes and stay fit and healthy.

Christy Dorrity: What plans do you have for the future of your dance school? How does the future look for Festival dancing?

Jackie White: We plan to continue teaching with high standards in our school. We are extremely proud of what we have achieved, and want to build on that ,as much talent exists in our younger school, so it will be nice to see how that unfolds in the coming years.

I think the future looks extremely bright in Festival dancing, as many in the Irish Dance world learn of its existence and are struck by its beauty and tradition. We currently have a Festival dancer (Lauren Smyth) as a lead in Riverdance. Lauren demonstrates how our art form translates particularly well to performance work.

Anyone wishing to find out more about Tir Na n-Og Irish Dancing School should visit the website, or contact Jackie White at


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