Lord of the Dance held virtual zoom auditions at the start of October for their upcoming tour in Taiwan – dubbed the impossible tour, due to the COVID19 pandemic. Fast forward to November 2020 and 90 Irish Dancers flew to Taiwan and became the first Irish Dance Troupe to go through a full two-week hotel quarantine upon arrival in Taiwan. Following the quarantine these dancers performed 8 sell out shows in 6 days! Here at CEIM we have interviews from 4 cast members, Callum O’Neill, Tiernagh Canning, Gareth O’Connor and Lauren Finglas who have taken the time to share their experience with us and offer a few words of wisdom for aspiring professional show dancers. A huge thanks to these dancers for their interviews and to their teachers for their help in putting them together.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who do you dance for, how long have you been dancing, what are your major dancing achievements?
My name is Tiernagh Canning. I am 19 years old and I have been dancing for the McCaul Academy in Derry since I was 6 years old. I have been lucky enough to win the All Irelands, Irish Nationals, British Nationals, All Scotland’s, Great Britain’s and the Ulster Championships. I am also currently 2nd in the World (2019).
Have you always wanted to be a professional dancer and was this your first experience of touring with a major production?
It was only as I got older that I realised I wanted to become a professional dancer and that it was actually possible if I put in the hard work. I’ve been so inspired watching these shows and always had a dream of being up on that stage myself.
The Feet of Flames tour in Taiwan 2020 was my first ever tour so I was so grateful to be given the opportunity especially in the circumstances at the minute.
How did you find the two week quarantine? Did you continue with any academic studies or training with your dancing class while you were in quarantine?
The quarantine was a strange experience and I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect as it was all so new to us. Despite this, it actually wasn’t all that bad. The cast were brilliant organising dance practises for us over zoom as well as workouts, yoga sessions and quizzes to keep us all entertained. The dance captains also made sure to check in with us to make sure everyone was doing ok, which was so lovely and made me feel so welcomed. I am currently in my first year of university studying personalised medicine so I was able to keep up with my studies online during this time.
Tell us the main differences between training to perform in a show compared to training for the World Championships?
As this was my first experience of touring with a show this was something I was quite worried about. In the lead up to it I was continuing my competitive training and I think they complimented each other well. I cross train to keep myself fit and feel like this is becoming increasingly important within both competitive and professional dancing.
When training for competitions like the World Championships it’s a solo goal of standing out with your own style. Although with professional dancing there is so much more to think about with arm movements and keeping lines etc. I feel like the tour built my confidence which is something I’ve struggled with in the past in competition.
Tell us about the opening night of the show, were you nervous, excited, anxious or could you not wait to get on stage?
To be completely honest, I felt every one of the emotions mentioned above. I was so excited to get out on the stage as its something I’ve dreamed of for so long and I couldn’t believe I was about to live it out. Although I did feel nervous, I’d be worried if I wasn’t nervous at all. Nerves are a good thing if you can control them and let it become adrenaline. The opening show was an outdoor stadium which was absolutely amazing and hearing the crowd was quite overwhelming. It was one of the best feelings and I am so delighted I was able to experience that, all with an amazing and supportive bunch of people.
What are your goals/dreams for the future, do you want to return to competing at a high level or would you like to get back on tour?
In the future I would love to be touring the world as a professional dancer. Although, I do still have a few gaols I would like to achieve competitively.
Do you have any words of wisdom for our younger aspiring readers who would like to follow in your footsteps and tour with a major production?
Always believe in yourself and never give up. I know some people are probably finding it hard to motivate themselves with lockdown restrictions but just remind yourself of your love for dance and how good it makes you feel. Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it and work hard towards your goals.