Birgit Engelken, adult Irish dancer at the Munich Feis 2012
Photo: courtesy Birgit Engelken

Welcome to Birgit Engleken, an adult Irish dancer at The Gabriell School of Traditional Irish Dance, in Hamburg Germany. 

Feis America:  When did you first begin Irish dancing?

Birgit:  My very first lessons were at a two-week language course in 1999 in Cork/ Ireland. But at this time there were no Irish Dance School, or teacher in the region of my home near Hamburg, so I couldn't continue.

In January, 2008 I got to know about my school, The Gabriell School of Traditional Irish Dance, in Hamburg, and started to dance immediately with my great teacher, Robert Gabriell, who founded his school first in Frankfurt, and then 2006 in Hamburg.

Birgit Engelken and other adult Irish dancers
Photo: courtesy Birgit Englelken

Feis America:  Is Irish dancing a novelty in Germany or is there a large following?

Birgit:  I think Irish dancing is not a novelty anymore in Germany(the first school was founded by Ian Creaner in 1987, or so in Stuttgart). There are a few good schools throughout Gemany. However, it is a fringe sport without a significant following, because the most children don't know Irish dancing (or think it is just for adults, as they see only adults in the shows), and the adults think they are too old to do it. Contrariwise there are "teachers" who attend one workshop, and think they can dance and teach Irish dancing. 

Feis America:  Is your Irish dance school supportive of adult dancers?

Birgit:  Oh yes. Most of the students at my school are adult dancers. It is rather difficult to find younger dancers in Hamburg. Many parents don't like to drive their children long ways to take part in an Irish dancing class.

All over Mainland Europe (and Asia I think), there are so many adult dancers competing that we have not only adult competitions, but also several age groups up to 35 and over.

Feis America:  What is your favorite dance? 

Birgit:  I love all dances, but my favorite is the Heavy Jig.

Birgit Engelken and other adult Irish dancers at the City of Dublin Feis 2012
Photo: courtesy Birgit Englelken

Feis America:  How do you think Irish dance will change for the better in years to come?

Birgit:  I think with more public relations by performances from German dancers,  more people see, young and old, that they can learn it themselves. For example, in the last season of "Germanys next Topmodel" by Heidi Klum, the girls had to learn a reel. After that my teacher had some inquiries about classes. And in the next season of  "Das Supertalent" (the German version of "America's/Britain’s Got Talent") a group of young dancers from a Munich Irish Dance School will perform for a big group of TV viewers.

The Irish dancing community in Germany and mainland Europe changes from year to year and enlarges more and more. Every year, new teachers establish their own schools, registered in different organisations, and also the number of feiseanna hosted in Germany, and nearby will increase.

Feis Ameria:  Thank you Birgit.  Good luck with Irish dancing in Germany!


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