Taipei Irish Dance Academy at the first Taipei Feis in Taiwan
Photo: courtesy Yi-han Hsiao

Yi-han Hsiao TCRG, and Ronan Morgan TCRG founded the Taipei Irish Dance Academy in 2006. In November they hosted the first open feis competition in Asia, and recently sent their first World qualifier to the World Irish dance competition in Boston, USA.
Christy:  Tell me about the Taipei Irish Dance Academy. How did the academy get its start?
Yi-han:  Along with my teacher Ronan Morgan, we set up the school in the summer of 2006. I lived in Europe for 14 years, and felt that it would great opportunity to return home and open the first Irish dance school in Taiwan.  We spent about 3 months promoting classes and were well up and running by September.  
Taipei Irish Dance Academy trophies at the first Taipei Feis in Taiwan
Photo: courtesy Yi-han Hsiao
Christy:  You recently hosted Asia's first open feis. How did this event come to life?
Yi-han:  Our initial objective was to begin the competitive scene here in Asia, and provide a platform for dancers from other Asian schools to compete close to home. Up until now, dancers in Asia either traveled great distances to compete, or did not get a chance to experience the competitive side of Irish dancing at all. We felt that as the first Irish dance school in Asia, it was up to us to get the ball rolling in the hope that other schools would follow suit.  We now hope that dancers from other regions will come here to participate in the future to raise the overall standard across Asia.    

Christy:  Was the feis well attended by schools in the area?
Yi-han:  We were delighted to welcome dancers from schools in Hong Kong and Japan, and believe that dancers from other countries will attend in future as the word spreads about our feis.

Christy:  What was the atmosphere at the feis? Were the dancers nervous? Was there a feeling of camaraderie, as well as competition?

Taipei Irish Dance Academy dancer
at the first Taipei Feis in Taiwan

Photo: courtesy Yi-han Hsiao
Yi-han:  It was a great feis and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We did our best to keep it light and fun over the microphone. It helped that our students had competed abroad before and  they really danced well, and managed to control their nerves. They were very welcoming to the visiting competitors, and I think everyone went home with good memories from Taipei.

Christy:  Do you teach adult Irish dancers?
Yi-han:  We teach people from the age of 4 and have no upper age limit. We are delighted to have many adults in our school. In fact, I would say we have more adults than children, although the school is growing on an ongoing basis and we are starting more children's classes now than in the past as Irish dance spreads here.  We feel that Irish dance is for everyone, and should not be limited by age. [Students] attend classes on a weekly basis, and also participate in CLRG feiseanna worldwide.

Christy:  Is there room for Irish dance to grow in Taiwan?
Taipei Irish Dance Academy dancer
at the first Taipei Feis in Taiwan

Photo: courtesy Yi-han Hsiao
Yi-han:  We have worked hard over the last seven years to promote Irish dancing and Irish culture here, through the mediums of television and public events.  We were asked by the promoters of Michael Flatley's "Feet Of Flames" tour 2012 to participate in promoting the show. We had camera crews from different local tv channels visit us in the studio, and the lead dancers Bernadette Flynn and Damien O'Kane also came to visit and work with our students, which was televised. It's growing all the time, thankfully.  
Christy:  What do you feel is the future of Irish dance in Asia?
Yi-han:  Irish dance has just started to take off now in Asia. There are CLRG schools in Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul. Now it's up to us teachers to ensure that it remains and grows, as it has in every other region, and we look forward to getting to the stage where we have our own qualifying round for the World Championships. At the moment, our students have been granted permission by An Coimisiun le Rince Gaelacha (CLRG) to qualify through Europe, as the Asian region is so young. We look forward to the day when the numbers and standard justify having our own regional qualifiers.

Christy:  Thank you, Yi-han, for giving us a peek into what Irish dancing is like in  Asia. Good luck to all of the Irish dancers at your school.

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A new WIDA feis in the western United States is accepting registrations for May 18, 2013. It is open to all platforms. For more information, click here

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