My name is Colleen Anderson and I am an Irish dance teacher at Johnson Dance in Toronto. I was contacted by Padraic Moyles, the Assistant Director of Heartbeat of Home, to help secure a venue to host young dancers from across southeastern Ontario for a one day workshop with the cast of the show. We were thrilled that Airship37 was able to help us create a day that was truly magical and unforgettable!
What was the inspiration behind having the dancers from Heartbeat of Home at Airship37?
One of the goals of Heartbeat of Home is to spread Irish culture, in particular music and dance. The hope was that by giving children the opportunity to speak to and learn from some of the professional dancers they look up to, the children would gain confidence and a renewed vigor for Irish dancing.
What is the significance for a young dancer to take part in an event like this?
While in Toronto the producers of Heartbeat of Home wanted to host an event to motivate, inspire and encourage the next generation of Irish dancers – and did they ever succeed! The dancers from Heartbeat of Home are some of the best in the world, but they were quick to remind the young dancers that they too were once beginners. It was incredibly powerful for the young dancers to be able to hear stories from the professional dancers that they could relate to and to be able to see what the future could hold with a bit of hard work.
What is the training like for a dancer at this level, as the dancers in Heartbeat of Home?
The dancers in Heartbeat of Home have been training for the last few months for several hours each day to learn and perfect the choreography for the show. Just like the actors, dancers or musicians in any other stage show, it’s a full time job. They are doing 8 shows a week and once their run is finished in Toronto they are off to Chicago, Detroit, Boston and New York to continue their North American tour.
What was some of the feedback you got from the dancers after the experience?
The dancers absolutely loved it – no one wanted to leave. There was so much energy in the room and it was such a unique opportunity that it will be a long time before the dancers forget their morning at Airship37. The dancers loved learning some of the actual choreography from the show and being able to perform alongside the dancers from the Heartbeat of Home.
Ciara Sexton, one of the lead Irish dancers in the production posted her experience at Airship37 online and was very enthusiastic and positive in sharing her experience. What would be the positive impact of this kind of input from such and accomplished dancer for a young dancer?
There are few dancers as well known in the Irish dance community as Ciara Sexton and she is a role model for many young dancers. One thing Ciara shared was that every dancer in the show has had disappointments in their competitive career but they never gave up. Ciara’s passion for Irish dance is undeniable and the fact that she took time to come to the workshop (early on a Saturday morning with a matinee and evening show still to be performed) meant a lot to the dancers.
How have you seen the Heartbeat of Home production impact the Irish dance community in Toronto?
When I tell people that I teach Irish dancing, the question that often follows is “Oh you mean like Riverdance?”. So when shows like Riverdance and Heartbeat of Home come to Toronto, it helps spread Irish dance and culture to a much broader audience. Within the Irish dance community shows like Heartbeat of Home remind young dancers of what is possible with dedication, determination and hard work.
What do you love most about Irish dancing?
There is a lot that I love about Irish dancing – the music, the energy, the community. As teacher, one of the things I love most is when a dancer has a moment where it just clicks and everything comes together.
Thanks Colleen Anderson for sharing your inspirational thoughts!
Dancers Heartbeat of Home
Pictures: Paul McNulty