The Dancer Celtic Life Magazine Sept 2012
Celtic Life Magazine September 2012
Respected dancer and choreographer Shawn Silver is feeling
as high as one of his own fabled leaps. Having established his
Canada-based company iDance in Australia, Silver will next take
his Irish dance school to China.
Known for his work with Magic of Ireland, Riverdance, and his
own touring show, Talamh an Eisc, Silver is credited with reviving
Irish dance in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador
and making it mainstream elsewhere.
The most easterly point in North America, Newfoundland has
a strong Irish culture. Silver boasts Irish, Portuguese and Welsh
heritage and was first inspired by the dancing skills of his dad
He calls himself “a modern dance master” like the travelling
Irish masters of old. His many international successes include
establishing iDance Ireland, iDance Portugal and iDance
Exploring other traditions is a joy.
“In Portugal there is a burgeoning traditional Celtic dance
community,” he says. “In Iceland, when we performed in
Reykjavik, a quarter of the countr y’s population came to watch.
They’d never seen Irish dancing live.”
Down under, he formed iDance Australia and will spend six
months there next year teaching and preparing for the Australian
Celtic Music Awards and The Australian Celtic Festival. Then,
it’s on to China.
“The Chinese have some incredible dancing,” he says. “We saw
a glimpse during the Beijing Olympics. Shows like Riverdance
are popular. There’s even a Chinese version of Riverdance but
with the music altered to suit the audience.”
Silver’s new ventures are especially precious given that four
years ago he almost died in a car crash.
It was a sunny December day in Newfoundland when Silver
skidded on black ice while en route to a performance.
“I felt like I was in a washing machine,” he recalls. “As soon
as the car flipped, I felt a deep, harsh thud in my back, bounced
several hundred feet, and cars smashed around me.”
He was in a coma for several weeks and woke to find he
remembered no one – not even his long-time partner, Bruce
Pearce. Two of his vertebrae were smashed and doctors thought
he would be paralyzed, but the strong dancer’s muscles in his
lower back held his bones in place.
Just three months later, he performed at a Saint Patrick’s Day
show. Recover y was painful, but he was accustomed to pain.
“I’ve broken legs and feet dancing,” he says. “Once I knew
there would be no paralysis I was unstoppable. I didn’t want to be
the guy who used to dance.”
Gradually, his memor y also improved, although he now pieces
dance routines together, “like a quilt”.
The accident brought him even closer to his large family of 13
and Bruce, who acted as caregiver.
“I remember the fear in Bruce’s eyes and the compassion,” he
says. “Faced with that situation, you feel helpless, a burden. He
showed me strength, love and support, and became my hands.”
That he is dancing again seems incredible good fortune to the
performer who also loves math and once worked as a financial
He tells youngsters to follow their dreams and says dancing
“It’s a language to me. When I’m dancing hard and moving
across the floor I almost feel I can float. I love to share it and I
love to teach it. It’s in me and it just won’t leave.”