Teenagers and siblings, Joey and Clare Roca are competitive Irish dancers. They are also Irish dancers with professional dance experience. Eighteen year old Joey and sixteen year old Clare recently performed in the professional Irish dance showcase, Rhythm in the Night. I had a great time chatting with their mother, Colleen Roca. We definitely chatted about the experience of having had her children in a professional Irish dance production, but we also chatted about where Joey's and Clare's love of and talent for Irish dance came from.
"Clare started Irish dance in the fall of 2005 or 2006, not sure which one. She was just turning ten, I think. She learned from the very best, Margaret Merrill, TCRG and Catie McGuckin, some of the best Southern U.S. region dancers ever!" shared Colleen when I asked her how it all got stared. The Merrill family and the Roca family were friends and also fellow-homeschooling families. With Clare being friends with certifified Irish dance teacher, Margaret Merrill's daughter, it came about that Irish dance was something that Clare asked to try. Colleen also shared, "I loved it when Clare started Irish dance because she soaked it up like a sponge; she LOVED it and learned quickly. She was always dancing all over the house."
|Clare and Joey Roca|
Photo: Colleen Roca
Big brother, Joey, started a year later at the age of thirteen at the urging of a friend. Both Joey and Clare started their Irish dance training with Margaret Merrill, T.C.R.G. in her school, the Kelly School of Irish Dance. They then danced with The Drake School of Irish Dance, and now, they currently dance with Glor na Daire Academy of Irish Dance.
|Joey Roca December, 2011 |
Winner- US Southern Region Oireachtas under 17 boys'
Photo: Colleen Roca
Both brother and sister were able to travel to the World Irish Dancing Championships in 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland. Joey competed at the 2011 World Irish Dancing Championships and also qualified to compete at the 2012 World Irish Dancing Championships that took place last month, but was unable to attend. Joey and Clare are both Open Champion Irish dancers.
|Joey and Clare April, 2010|
World Irish Dancing Championships
Clare was putting Joey's competitor number on
Photo: Colleen Roca
With their current Irish dance school, Glor na Daire Academy of Irish Dance, being 4 hours away, Joey and Clare spend quite a bit of time practicing at a local dance studio where they rent space to use for their Irish dance practicing. The owner of the studio was very impressed with the teens' work ethic. In the way of this small world that we live in, that same studio had been used in the past by professional Irish dancer Justin Boros who had performed with Lord of the Dance. Justin asked the owner of the studio if she knew of any champion Irish dancers for a showcase performance he would be producing, Joey and Clare Roca were mentioned. An audition was set up, and Joey and Clare were the first two Irish dancers hired for the international cast of the show.
|Roca Family in Glasgow, Scotland|
2010 World Irish Dance Championships
Photo: Colleen Roca
You'd think with these talented Irish dancing kids, the parents would be Irish dancers or dancers or at the very least Irish. What about dad, Jun Roca? Nope. Nada. No Irish blood or dancing going on with dad's side of the family tree. He's Filipino. A funny story Colleen shared with me about that Filipino blood- It was once mentioned to Clare before her first Southern Region Oireachtas competition that one of the things to do to get ready for the Oireachtas was to tan for a better look on stage. The whole class looked at Clare's naturally-tan legs and burst out laughing. Obviously with dad's great coloring, Clare has never needed to succumb to self-tanners or tanning sessions to get that healthy, tan color.
So, what about Mom, Colleen? Well, when I asked Colleen about her background, I hit the jackpot. Colleen is three quarters Irish and her dad was full Irish. When she was little, her mom took her to ceilis, otherwise known as Irish group or social dances. Also, when she was still an adolescent, her older brother worked for the National Endowment for the Arts. He was responsible for the first tour of the Chieftains. Pre-Riverdance fame, Michael Flatley toured with the Chieftains. Colleen traveled with her brother when the Chieftains and Michael Flatley performed in New York. She says that she "went along for the ride" and was treated to quite a bit of Irish music and culture.
|Full cast of Rhythm in the Night|
Joey and Clare are top center
Although the Rhythm in the Night show only ran one night, both teens are excited for the possibilities of being in other professional Irish dance ventures in the future. Joey is working on possibly performing at Busch Gardens in Tampa with his Irish dance, but for right now, he is getting ready to graduate high school and is training and practicing his Irish dance steps to compete at the upcoming North American Irish Dance Championships in July in Chicago, Illinois. Clare is taking a break from Irish dance while she concentrates on high school, but she plans to get back into it. Joey and Clare are also both contemplating sitting for their T.C.R.G.s (Irish dance teacher certification testing) at some point in their futures.
|A memento of the show|
signed matte around the flier
Mom, Colleen had these final words to say, "Joey and Clare met some really great dancers in the cast of Rhythm in the Night, and most of them would likely recommend my kids for shows they learn of, as my kids would in turn do for them. When they first started out in Irish dance, I didn't even know about the competition part of Irish dance. I didn't even think about the possibilities of what kind of shows they could hope to be involved with, and this after even having seen Riverdance on TV and Michael Flatley's tour earlier on!"
Thank-you, Colleen for taking the time to chat with me about this wonderful family adventure in the world of Irish dance! We look forward to seeing what Joey and Clare do in the future with their Irish dancing. Check back here for news, results, photos, interviews and more! Help us celebrate Irish dancing by sharing this story with your friends, like us on Facebook, Tweet the link or start a conversation with a comment in the message box below. THANK YOU!