Irish Dance School Takes Root
Jennifer Pelley September 13, 2007
By JENNIFER PELLEY
An ancient and traditional form of dance is firmly establishing itself in the central region.
Over the past six months, Irish dancing has taken off and is now solidifying itself with a permanent school in Grand Falls-Windsor under the direction of master trainer Shawn Silver. The school is called the Exploits River Dancers and is a division of iDance Shawn Silver Irish Dancing.
Mr. Silver first came to central in March, when he offered a series of workshops for anyone interested in learning the basics of the dance style.
Due to the high level of interest and support he received at that time, he has been travelling back to Grand Falls-Windsor regularly from St. John’s, where he runs his iDance school, offering classes for dancers of all ages and skill levels.
“The beginning of our work last spring was to try and introduce ourselves and build a profile,” said Mr. Silver. “I think we’ve successfully done that, so now we’re looking at being more permanent in Grand Falls-Windsor.
“I wasn’t interested in just a one-shot deal. That’s not really what I’m about. I’m more interested in growing and fostering and preserving and presenting Irish culture.”
Mr. Silver will be in town at least once a month, and more often twice a month, offering three consecutive days of dancing. Beginner classes will be available for those of all ages who are looking to start with the basics of Irish dancing.
In between Mr. Silver’s visits, practice classes will be held weekly so dancers are able to keep their newly-learned steps fresh in their minds.
Sara Sheehan, business manager for Mr. Silver in Grand Falls-Windsor and Irish dancer, says that this style of teaching, while different from most other dance instruction, reflects the ancient tradition of how Irish dance was learned.
“The dance masters hundreds of years ago would travel from county to county, teaching people how to dance,” she said. “And today, there are so few Irish dancing teachers – there’s only 2,000 of them in the world – the master trainers actually have to travel in order for the dancing to work.
“The way that it’s taught around the world gives you an indication of how rare it is to find somebody who is certified to be able to give that same quality of instruction that these famous dancers who are putting off Lord of the Dance and Riverdance received. We’re getting the exact same cultural experience, it’s not just the instruction, as these world class dancers.”
The fall season will end with a Christmas ceili in December that will showcase the work the students have put into their dancing.
IRISH DANCING CHAMPION
The highlight of the season will be when Don McCarron, principle dancer with the internationally acclaimed show Lord of the Dance and five-time Irish dancing world champion, comes to town to offer classes to all of the students involved with Exploits River Dancers.
“He’s just as excited to come as I am to have him,” said Mr. Silver. “Irish dancers are always interested to go into a new market or a new area where they can really help to share and grow what it is they love to do.
“Don is considered one of the leading exponents of Irish dance culture on the planet. He may not be creating nuclear science or sending people to the moon or discovering cures, but somebody else will do that and what we’ll do is help preserve and grow a form of culture that is ancient and very special.”
Mr. McCarron will be in Grand Falls-Windsor on Oct. 4-5.
CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE
Mr. Silver has big dreams for the central region of the province. He hopes, in time, to establish a centre of Irish and Celtic cultural excellence in Grand Falls-Windsor, where people can come from all over the world to learn about a number of ancient cultural traditions from Ireland and other Celtic strongholds, including dance, music, art and language, among others.
He cited places like Boston College in the United States and the College of Piping in P.E.I. as examples of places like this that already exist.
“I’ve always been of the frame of mind that here we are in eastern Canada and we’re the granddaddies of Irish culture in the country,” said Mr. Silver. “I think people recognize we have a strong Celtic influence, probably one of the richest outside of Ireland itself.
“We have bridges we can build to add to our already rich culture, and this is just one element that I can see happening down the road.” Registration for the upcoming fall season will take place Friday, Sept. 21 from 7-9 p.m. at Holy Trinity Anglican Church. For more information, contact Ms. Sheehan by telephone at 489-3359 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.