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Interview with Alice Butler, adult Irish dancer at McGrath Academy of Irish Dance

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When I talk to other adult Irish dancers, I often find that they feel isolated. While you may be the only adult dancer in your area, there are thousands more who lace up their hard shoes and pound the floor with seasoned feet. Watch for more spotlights each month.

Alice Butler, adult Irish dancer at McGrath Academy of Irish Dance

When did you begin Irish dancing?  I began Irish dancing ten years ago. I was 58 years old and thought I would simply learn a jig that I could perform at my friend's annual St. Patrick's Day Party. I never intended to compete, but was encouraged to do so about six months after I started lessons and, to my surprise, I placed in every Feis I competed at and within three years had reached Adult Prizewinner Level.

Would you rather compete or perform?  Performing is a lot of fun but one has to compete to be able to put on a good performance. Competing keeps one's dancing sharp and focused on technique which makes a performance look so much more professional. I have competed in many states inthe U.S. as well as in Canada and Acapulco.

Alice Butler, adult Irish dancer


Do you prefer soft shoe or hard shoe?  I prefer hard shoe, perhaps because my dream when I started dancing was to be able to execute a treble reel - just like Riverdance!  Also, the traditional hard shoe dances do not require the high kicks that are now a part of all the advanced steps in soft shoe dances, and the hanging overs are almost impossible for an older adult dancer to achieve.

What is your advice to adult Irish dancers who are beginning their Irish dance journey?  Focus on technique: turnout, point, arch, cross over, lift behind.  My first teacher, whom I had for two years, did not emphasize technique, and it is much more difficult to correct bad habits than to learn the correct way from the outset.
Alice Butler teaching a class of children

Do you teach irish dance or have plans to do so? I am an assistant teacher with the McGrath Academy of Irish Dance but, unfortunately at 68 years old, it is too late for me to consider studying for the TCRG.   I am motivated to teach by my love of Irish dance and my desire to pass the joy of the dance onto the next generation.  

What do you think the future holds for adults in Irish dance?  Adults take Irish Dance because they really want to learn and I get a great deal of satisfaction out of helping them achieve their dream. I believe it is possible for an athletic 18 to 30 year old to drop down to compete with the young champions and go all the way to the Worlds. I am hopeful that at some point a certification will be offered for assistant teachers which would allow them to teach up to prizewinner level without the presence of the TCRG certified teacher. The ability to use good adult dancers in this way would help immensely to promote Irish dance.

If you are an adult Irish dancer (any level or age) and would like to be spotlighted, please send an email to christy at dorrity dot net. 


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