Féis Fusion, the first-ever Irish dance competition in Africa, was hosted in Kampala, Uganda on September 16, and the joyous scenes have won the approval of none other than Michael Flatley.
"We're very proud of our very own Jean Kennedy for spreading Irish Dance and some Lord of the Dance moves (watch till the end!) to communities in Uganda," Irish dance phenom Michael Flatley said on social media this week.
We're very proud of our very own Jean Kennedy for spreading Irish Dance and some Lord of the Dance moves (watch till the end!) to communities in Uganda 🇺🇬Uganda Hands for Hope #lordofthedance #irishdancers #irishdancer #michaelflatley #irishdancePosted by Michael Flatley on Wednesday, September 20, 2023
Irish dancers from three schools - Victoria Montessori in Entebbe, Hands for Hope in Kampala, and Early Learning School in Entebbe - came together for Féis Fusion on September 17. The event was hosted at Yellow Haven Resort on Lake Victoria in Kampala, which is co-owned by Dublin native Joan Kelly and her husband Ronald Scheer from Holland.
Photos and videos of Féis Fusion have gone viral throughout the global Irish dance community over the past week.
"That is the happiness that it is all about," the Uganda Irish Dancing social media account said, sharing a video and photo of ecstatic dancers from the feis.
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Perhaps unique to this feis was the stunning fusion of Irish dance with other dances, such as waka waka and local cultural dances.
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Féis Fusion was part of a wider Irish culture programme started by John Walsh, a native of Co Galway who is now based in Uganda with his wife Deborah and their children.
Walsh coordinated with Jean Kennedy, a native of Co Laois who is a professional dancer in "Lord of the Dance," who jumped at the opportunity to teach Irish dance remotely to the Uganda schoolchildren.
Kennedy recorded Irish dance lessons once a month and then uploaded them to YouTube, which the students watched and learned from in their classroom.
Today's lesson was The Two Hand Reel 👏👏 Our shoe appeal is going strong! If you have an old pair of dancing shoes to donate please contact me and I'll arrange to pick up, if you would like to sponsor a pair you can donate to the link below! This money will buy second hand shoes from charity shops in Ireland. Please let me know if a charity shop near you has any dancing shoes for sale! https://www.gofundme.com/f/irish-dance-shoes-for-ugandaPosted by Jean Kennedy on Monday, April 3, 2023
Less than a month after the remote Irish dance classes began, fellow “Lord of the Dance” cast members Niamh Shevlin and Ciara Loughran were in Uganda to launch the Irish Dance society at Hands for Hope School, Kampala for St. Patrick's Day.
More than 100 students are now learning Irish dance across three schools in Uganda, while plans are underway to start classes in a fourth school this month.
Meanwhile, Kennedy, who organized an Irish dance shoe donation drive for the Ugandan children earlier this year, has launched the "JigJoy" YouTube channel, which gives anyone, anywhere, free access to learn the basics of Irish dancing.