Gerard Carson may be only 20, but he’s almost ready to retire from Irish dancing.

Carson is slim, dark-haired and has a strong Northern Irish accent. A four-time Irish dancing World Champion, he is a co-organizer of the Big Apple Feis, where his role was to help Unateresa Gormley, the main organizer.

Although he was thousands of miles away in Belfast, he was very much involved in the Big Apple Feis – he was, for instance, in charge of running the competition's Facebook group.

He grew up in Belfast, and met Gormley 12 years ago through Project Children, a group that has brought children from Northern Ireland to New York during the summers to let them temporarily escape the Troubles.

Even though he now studies marketing at the University of Ulster, Carson remains passionate about dance. “It has given me a lot of opportunities. I’ve been able to come to the U.S and to travel the world,” he explains.

Gormley says that Carson, who turned down offers of tours with Lord of the Dance and Riverdance,  has "an awful lot of talent."  But still, she supports his decision to not lose sight of his college career.

"He makes his own decisons, and he knows what he wants," says Gormley. "I think he'll be his own entity, and will go on to something different. He has a lot of friends in the dancing world, so I think he'll take things a step further."

It was "Riverdance" that inspired Carson to get into Irish dancing, as it did many other Feis participants. He saw it on television when he was just seven years old.
Although more girls than boys are involved in Irish dancing, Carson is adamant that plenty of men participate. Between 40 and 60 men compete in the World Championship finals each year, he says. And the good thing is that dancing has no age limit. “I loved it,” Carson says. “I’ll always dance.”
Dancing is important because of its role in Irish culture. “It’s very cultural, it goes back to years ago,” he says. “And it keeps on in Irish culture.”
You might expect that for a Catholic living through the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Irish dancing, with all its cultural associations, could be a problematic hobby. But no, Carson says. “I have a part-time job in a clothes shop, and I work with Protestants,” he says. “They’re very supportive. They even come to competitions.”
What next for the young Belfast man? He’s in the U.S for  two more weeks. Soon he'll be heading to Philadelphia to compete in the World Championship for the last time – where he’ll defend his title.  “I want to go out on a high,” he says, proudly.