Isle of Erin Irish Dance is the only CRG-affiliated school in the MidWest
Last month, IrishCentral asked for nominations for Irish dance schools to receive a special feature on our website. We received plenty of wonderful recommendations from all over the world, but this submission shines a light on Isle of Erin in Peoria, Illinois and its involvement with Cumann Rince Gaelach (CRG), one of competitive Irish dancing’s open-platform organizations.
In her submission, former student Jessica Tucker described Isle of Erin’s owner and founder Erin Rockhold, TCRG as “fun, amazing, and talented” and made special mention of Rockhold’s dedication to students with disabilities.
33-year-old Rockhold, who grew up in the Midwest as an Irish dancer within the CLRG organization, described what may be considered her unusual pathway to teaching Irish dancing. While she dabbled in many different dance forms as a child, she discovered in high school that Irish dance was her passion.
Rockhold continued in the competitive realm of Irish dancing through her teen years, even opting to travel up to two hours each way from Peoria, IL to attend practice in Chicago after her first school shut down.
Throughout it all, Rockhold said her parents instilled the importance of kindness with her, something she now aims to pass down to her students, which range in age from children to adults.
As a freshman in college, Rockhold was approached by the mother of two girls who used to dance with Rockhold and asked if she would consider teaching the girls in their home. Rockhold accepted, unaware that this would be the start of her very own Irish dance school.
The girls, who Rockhold now describes as some of the best Irish dancers she’s ever had, “snowballed” into a group of about 10 dancers. Around 2007, Rockhold made the jump and acquired studio space in Peoria, IL for her Irish dance school, Isle of Erin, where’s she been teaching ever since.
Rockhold, whose school operated under the North American Irish Dance Federation (NAIDF) organization until it disbanded, is proud to announce that she acquired her TCRG (Irish dance teaching certification) from CRG in August after her school joined the organization in January 2019.
This was a long time coming and I'm so proud of myself and my loyal dancers and families who helped me achieve this!...Publiée par Isle of Erin Irish Dance sur Vendredi 3 janvier 2020
CRG, an open-platform organization, is separate from the CLRG organization (the oldest and largest Irish dancing competitive organization in the world) that Rockhold grew up dancing in. She says she was drawn to CRG as the organization places more emphasis on "letting kids be kids," and that the element of “pageantry” isn’t as much as a focus.
Founded in 1988, CRG is, indeed, small compared to CLRG. Isle of Erin is one of only a few schools in the US, with the majority being between Ireland and the UK. Rockhold says that CRG does host competitions throughout the year, including national and world events.
Competition aside, Rockhold likes to foster a sense of community amongst her students, some of whom have learning disabilities. She teaches her students that everyone can always learn something from someone else. Her proudest moments as a teacher, she says, is when she sees her students helping each other, be it with dance, schoolwork, or other matters, unprompted.
Rockhold notes that her college degree in education has her well prepared for teaching Irish dance and she’s able to modify her curriculum for students with both learning and physical disabilities.
“If you are willing and have the attitude,” Rockhold says, “I will figure out how to teach you how to dance.”
Additionally, Rockhold goes to great lengths to make sure that anyone and everyone can partake in Irish dance.
“I try to make Irish dance accessible for everybody,” she says. “If you can afford lessons, but not the shoes, I try to get donations. We shouldn’t let ‘things’ potentially stop you from learning a new skill.”
Happy St Patrick's Day from Isle of ErinPubliée par Isle of Erin Irish Dance sur Lundi 18 mars 2019
Looking ahead, Rockhold says she hopes to see her school grow, but is particularly keen on having some of her teenage dancers go on to receive their teaching certifications.
You can check out some Isle of Erin Irish dancers during a performance here:
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