Tennessee Irish clan on their new TV series, Irish dance and family - VIDEO


Family: The Willis Clan, twelve Irish dancers
Family: The Willis Clan, twelve Irish dancers

This week a new series "The Willis Clan"  premiered, on Great American Country, featuring the family of 12 kids, aged from two to 21 years, from Tennessee. All of whom are Irish dancers.

Many of the Willis kids are Oireachtas champions and Jeremiah (20) has placed sixth at All Irelands and seventh at Worlds. In 2013, the clan competed in the drama division at the World Championships, placing fourth.

The new series, which runs Thursdays at 8pm, ET, features the day to day goings on in the Willis family as they prepare for the many musical and dance performances that are propelling their family band into a career.

The Willis family is busy getting ready for the premier, but I was able to chat with the two oldest children, Jessica and Jeremiah, about Irish dance, family, and what the future holds for them.

At 21 years old, Jessica is the main singer/songwriter in the family band. She plays piano, violin, and sings, and has written over 200 pieces of music. She has also enjoyed exploring various creative outlets including poetry, novels, costume design, and other visual arts.

Starting off in Irish step dancing, she is now pursuing a wide education in all areas of dance including ballroom, west coast swing, and flamenco.  Jessica has been called one of the last true romantics.

Jeremiah (20) one of the best Irish dancers in the Willis Clan
Jeremiah (20) one of the best Irish dancers in the Willis Clan

Jeremiah, commonly called Jair for short, is 20 years old, and plays the acoustic, nylon and electric guitar, cello, uilleann pipes, whistles, flute, mandolin, banjo, and piano.

Jair is a three-time champion in west coast swing and a three-time place winner in the World Championships of Irish dance.  He also is a Tennessee state champion in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

Christy:  What is it like living in a family that puts so much emphasis on performance?

Jessica:  A lot of hard work and a whole lot of fun!

We get to travel, meet wonderful people, learn new things and enjoy a very full life. Since we perform so many different styles of music and dance we are able to take elements from all these genres and create a style that is our own unique fusion. The question is, what is coming next?

The Willis Clan is looking to fuse elements of all these influences to create a new generation of music and dance that has Irish at its base and will continue in the great tradition of "Riverdance" that has allowed Irish music and dance to become mainstream worldwide. Irish dancers and musicians should follow The Willis Clan particularly if they study multiple styles as there may be opportunities to be a part of this amazing future.

Christy:  How did you get involved in Irish dancing?

Jair:  Our dad grew up in a family of nine kids, mostly boys, and they all wrestled. My mom and dad decided before they got married that they wanted 12 kids and my dad assumed that they would have 12 sons and he would teach them all to wrestle.

However, he got eight daughters. His thought was, "What in the world do you do with daughters?"  Then my parents saw "Riverdance" and knew what to do with all those girls - Irish dancing!