As it turned out, the boys were all really talented dancers, too. They started the three oldest kids with Julie Showalter at the World Academy of Irish Dancing in Chicago.
|Jessica the eldest of the Willis children and
one of eight girls
Christy: Tell me a bit about your experiences with Irish dancing - where have you performed, do you compete, what school do you attend?
Jessica: We have performed all over the US and in Ireland. We had the opportunity last year to perform at the O2 arena in Dublin, Ireland, opening for Brad Paisley and The Band Perry. We competed in Irish dance when we were younger, but injuries prevented us from continuing. Jair, Jenny, Jack and Jedi are all Oireachtas champions and Jair placed sixth at All Irelands and seventh at Worlds several years back. We did compete with the Kristin Butke School (Nashville) at the World Championships this year in the drama division.
One of the most beautiful things about Irish culture is the older generation passing the music, dance, stories, history and tradition down to the young people. Sometimes competitive Irish dancers miss this part. If you have never gone to a pub in Ireland during a session and spontaneously got up and danced because you were moved by the music, you have missed what Irish dance is all about.
Christy: What is it like to have siblings who also Irish dance? Are you ever in the same classes together?
Jair: Having brothers and sisters to dance with allows us to do so much. Creating choreographies and dancing together takes it to a whole new level. We have our own Riverdance! We have been in classes together and it works out great. We can help each other and encourage each other and then work on it at home.
Christy: Will we see you Irish dancing on the new show for Great American Country?
Jair: Absolutely! The cameras followed us to the World Championships in Boston where we competed in the drama division. I think there is a whole episode devoted to it. They filmed the behind the scenes work such as costume making, rehearsals, set design—even some of the set backs and disasters.
Christy: Do any of you plan to pursue careers in Irish dance performance or teaching?
Jessica: We are all pursuing careers in music and dancing, but not just Irish. Riverdance introduced us to dance—all styles of dance. We all teach our younger siblings. Since we are on the road quite a bit we can't attend regular classes, so the younger kids in our family have to learn from the older ones.
|The Willis Clan family band|
Jair is the most talented dancer in our family. He is one of the few young men in the dance world that has incredible star power, and is multi-talented, like Michael Flatley. Jair definitely plans to base his career around dance and music, and with the help of his brothers and sisters, hopes to create a world-class brand of Willis Clan entertainment.