The World’s are coming to Glasgow 2016

I can still remember the very first time I went on stage for an Irish dancing competition.  I was 11 years old and my heart was racing. I remember walking out smartly, wrapped in a scented cloud of hairspray and shoe polish waiting for the accordion music to start and the adjudicator’s bell to ring. I remember the nerves, the tense build up of anticipation and my muscles coiled like springs waiting to be released as soon as the beat began.

It was, and still is, one of the best feelings in the world.

Today, the stage has grown a lot bigger and the swirling world of Irish dance has seen some changes. There are now curly wigs, sock glue nd fake tan for a start, but that feeling – of anticipation and release – remains as powerful as it was all those years ago.

This year, the World Irish Dancing Championships returns to Glasgow and thousands of dancers will descend on the city to experience that exact same feeling –it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been dancing – that feeling never dies.

Winning the ‘Worlds’ as they are commonly known is the absolute for most dancers. To even attend and compete is a massive aGlasgow-2016-Final-Logoccomplishment and one that all dancers, parents and supporters recognise.

Traditionally held in Ireland since 1970 it was in 2002 that Glasgow became the first city to host t
he Championships outside Ireland – and this year will be the fourth time they have made their grand return.

I wish all the dancers taking part this year the very best of luck but I also know that it is not just down to luck. It is down to the months and years that have led to this; the hours of hard work in class but mo

re importantly those hours of private practice at home, in school and anywhere else you could find the space to dance.

I remember dancing on the concrete floor in the garage, on the wooden loft hatch brought down to the living room and on the patio in the garden. I swapped my gym class at school to practice and I’d dance before I went to school as well as travelling to classes twice a week. I wasn’t even competing at the highest level and I didn’t take it as seriously as those incredible dancers who would return after a victorious weekend with their trophies and titles.

I was lucky enough to attend The McLaughlin School of Irish Dancing in 1495124_867094213416684_3618817286211031584_oGlasgow one of Scotland’s most revered and successful dance schools. They are now celebrating their 50th year. I am also delighted to note that James and Kathleen McLaughlin, my first and best teachers have been announced as the official honourees by the An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha at this year’s championships. An Coimisuin said ‘The McLaughlin School Glasgow has had much success on the competitive circuit training multiple World, All Ireland and Scottish champions in Solo, Team and Dance Drama events. Kathleen has adjudicated at Irish dance events worldwide and James is a leading figure in An Coimisiún. The next generation of McLaughlin’s is teaching alongside James and Kathleen thus ensuring the continuation of this legacy. They will be guests of honour at this year’s event in Glasgow.’

My love of Irish Dance was discovered at the McLaughlin School in a darkened church hall on the south side of Glasgow where the notes of the beginner reel music would come tumbling down the stairs each Saturday morning and it has shaped my life. I will be forever thankful for the teaching I received from James and Kathleen. Today, I infuse that love of dance with different styles and adopt a more lyrical take on Irish Dancing.

I now run one of the largest schools in Edinburgh; Siamsoir and The Irish Dance Academy. Siamsoir is the performance troupe and The Irish Dance Academy is where dancers come to learn about fitness, health, performance choreography as well as traditional steps to take part in feisanna. We specialise in Performance Irish Dance rather than focusing on competing and I love every minute of it. I get to help new dancers through their first nervous classes and build them up to go on stage. I help returning dancers remember their passion and rediscover what they loved about dancing. There is a different pressure associated with performing that brings out the best in these dancers.

I am proud to say that we are the only award winning Performance Troupe in Scotland winning The Best Dance and Theatre Act at The Big Burns Supper festival in Dumfries for our faery tale in Irish Steps ‘The Prophecy’.

We produce large scale shows and invite dancers from across the city to join us. Thunder and Lightning is our St Patrick’s show, which typically sells out each year. This year we look forward to hosting the dancers from the Ward School of Irish Dance as well as traditional Celtic musicians and a Samba drumming band. There will be nearly 100 artists taking part on March 19, so it will be a varied, energetic and uplifting experience.

Siamsoir is all about creating opportunities for dancers to perform and taking dance to people and places that wouldn’t normally experience it. Instead of competing every weekend we are performing and entertaining at varied gigs throughout Scotland and further afield. We have travelled nationally and internationally performing our original shows.

Whatever the style of Irish Dancing, whether it’s the competition driven World Irish Dance Championships where steps are executed with precision and energy under a huge amount of pressure or whether it’s the soul baring experience of sharing your love of dance with an audience who have paid to be transported by your performance on stage; both are valuable experiences for dancers and spectators alike.

No matter what the stage or the style, the experience for you as a dancer remains the same – the glow of the lights, the feel of the music through your feet and that moment when your routine starts and the dance takes you

Enjoy every single minute of it – it is, after all, one of the best feelings in the world.

The World Irish Dancing Championships 2016 will be held at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall from 20th to 27th March.

For ticket and event information contact Glasgow Royal Concert Hall www.glasgowconcerthalls.com or the governing body An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha www.clrg.ie

For ticket information for Thunder and Lightning visit www.siamsoir.co.uk or www.tickets-scotland.com

My week with Riverdance – Arrival!

Flying high - the Siamsoir Way!

Flying high – the Siamsoir Way!Sunday Night

I was more nervous and anxious leaving Edinburgh as I looked out the window over the sunny green fields of Scotland than when I arrived in Dublin – equally green fields here! Maybe I had used up all my nervous energy or maybe the anticipation, as with most things, is bigger than the actual event. The hungover Stag Do on Aer Lingus did well to distract me. I sat next to a cabinet maker who quickly put his head phones on to zone out of my Riverdance chat… only kidding – he was feeling weary after a full on weekend in Edinburgh.

Arriving at the airport I was met by two lovely guys. I was the last one to be picked up that day so they came in the taxi with me. We had a quick glance of Dublin City as we drove to Trinity College Hall. Upon arrival I went to reception and of course I was not on the list… it was hard not to see this as a bad omen of things to come?

The room is small but well furnished with a desk, wardrobe containing 6 hangers and a built in bedside table at the head of the bed. The rooms are all en suite and are basically tiny wet rooms fitted with a shower, toilet and sink. It’s definitely a lovely personal private space for the week ahead. I do feel like I am back at university in St Andrews which to be honest has always been appealing ever since I left in 2007 – that time of little responsibility – just one room as your empire.

Meeting up for dinner felt a bit daunting but then I reminded myself that there were 16 year olds here from across the globe and surely I will be fine. Luckily I sussed out the groupings pretty quickly – the pretty girls with designer hand bags who seem to know everyone already, the confident boys, the quiet shy types and those somewhere in between. I am the oldest by a good ten years. This should therefore make me confident by default but alas, the insecure student has re-emerged to showcase her skills thought to be left in the corridors of Andrew Melville Hall at St Andrews University in 2001.

I sidled over to one established group but quickly moved on!  Here I met a girl from Ottowa, IMG_1565Tessa, who is a Step Dancer. She was leaning against a cabinet separate from any group and fixated on her phone – classic first day stuff! She seemed like me – quiet and not quite sure what to make of the young age of the groups surrounding us. I hope my warm welcome was appreciated. We are handed wristbands and then head through for dinner. Dinner is dry chicken and equally dry mash potatoes. The veg is fine – green beans flop beside carrots which are bright in colour and soft in consistency but still pretty tasty.

The conversation over dinner is limited to where do you come from and are you going to qualifiers…  I quickly explain that I am a performance Irish Dancer – no follow up questions. I don’t blame them. They are being pretty sociable for being half my age. I bring up Pretty Little Liars in an attempt to downgrade my age status and fit in and it seems to work.

Now for the truly awkward bit – a showcase – we have been asked to show off our skills in a desperately terrifying ‘fun activity’ for the evening. Doubting whether to do something contemporary or my audition video which is a hornpipe. Spur of the moment decision coming up!

Thankfully no one had to dance! – just the girls from last week showing us the steps they learned during their week.

They seemed to really enjoy themselves and now I feel less stressed and nervous about tomorrow. Off to bed – can’t wait for tomorrow!

The Dance of Running Your Own Business

Running a business is a lot like dance: responding to the rhythm of life happening around you, the highs and lows in the music and directing the story of the company around them.

There is so much to manage when running your own business
– relationships,
– self belief
– creativity and
– expertise to name a few.
Running Siamsoir has all of these elements to consider but in huge, exciting quantities.

Relationships
I wrote a lot about the relationships with dancers in a blog post from a few years ago and re-reading it recently has been empowering. I have learned and implemented these convictions recently and I feel amazing for it. Siamsoir is continuing to flourish because I am strong and have strong relationships surrounding me. Which brings me on to self belief…

Self Belief
I have this in bucket loads, well, most of the time!
I used to not have very much – enough to keep me going and doing this Irish Dance thing but not always enough to enjoy myself whilst doing it. Every now and then something would happen which would make me doubt myself. In these times I would call on my cheerleaders (you know who you are) and they would tell me the truth of the situation, not the version I was telling myself.
Now, years on do you know what…? I now believe the things they tell me. So much so, that the negative thing that has caused me to pick up the phone suddenly becomes an affirmation that I am doing this right, my way. So much so that I can hear my own voice telling me the truth of the situation and there is no negativity. I feel free and so powerful because of this. It’s amazing. I know that I am only this strong because of the cheerleaders who have been there supporting me. I am this strong because I believe myself. Wow – life is good, especially because of the affirmations. Thank you to everyone who has ever tested me and to those who have supported me. I am flying now because of you.

Flying… well that’s another word for Creativity

Flying high - the Siamsoir Way!

Flying high – the Siamsoir Wa

This is one area that Siamsoir just cannot slow down in. I cannot wait for this year. I am bursting at the seams with all the announcements to make. I won’t say another word just now but do check in again to find out what we will be getting our teeth stuck into this year!

Expertise
I am continually developing and honing my skills so that I can offer the best knowledge and expertise in my field to my dancers. This is something that I am extremely committed to and enjoy doing.  However, I also know when to draw on the expertise of others and this is what makes Siamsoir so strong. There is a lot going on behind the scenes where experts in their fields are contributing to the success of Siamsoir.

The success of Siamsoir comes from the collaboration of experts creating something unique.
#DanceManagement

The Prophecy… how the story began. A tale about a wobbly tooth

When I was younger I had a most exciting occurrence… the wobbly tooth. Going by my 5 year old niece’s own reaction at the moment to this most incredible of happenings, I had forgotten the mixture of dread and anticipation of the wobbly tooth, the falling out and the tooth faery. Who, according to my niece lives in a house made out of children’s teeth, (bloody bits and all) and mustn’t it be HUGE by now Aunt Jenni?

So, I had a wobbly tooth, which inevitably fell out.  However, this time I happened to be in Ireland on a summer holiday visiting family.  That night I put the tooth under my pillow, reassured by mum and dad that the tooth faery did in fact know where I was located. I fell asleep, dreaming of what I could spend the 50p on in my Aunt Cathleen’s shop, which luckily was attached to the house. Back then you could get Cidona and a Emerald Caramels I imagine!

I woke up the next morning to discover that a lot more than 50p had been left… in its place was a music box decorated with wistful faeries. When I opened it the music started, the pink tu tu around the perfect ballerina faery (quite the combination!) began to pivot on the spot. It was entrancing. Written in beautiful cursive writing along the back was a poem:

Come away, Oh human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand

Now to be honest I found this idea a little frightening but also fascinating and so began the lifelong interest in the magical little creatures. Many dances I have choreographed have been influenced by the magic and myths of Ireland. I have my parents to thanks for instilling a curiosity into this magical world.

The Prophecy is based on the poem above, written in 1886 by W B Yeats, The Stolen Child. Our protagonist, Aoife, is stolen in her sleep by the Queen of the Faeries, Erin (that’s me, by the way) and we travel together to the Isle of Shadows, a dark and scary kingdom inhabited by the Shadow people. The Prophecy is a long ago written legend which must be fulfilled before time runs out. Like most of us, the deadline is now dangerously close and so Erin decides to do something about it. She sends her little faeries to find The One. The one child who can bring together the warring clans to save the future of kingdom.

Aoife must unite the Shadows and the Faeries and she does this by falling in love with the King of the Shadows, which as you imagine doesn’t go well with Vala, the Queen of the Shadows. So battle ensues and a lot of scary stuff goes down. You’ll need to come and see it to find out what happens.

But did it even happen…

You can watch the trailer for the show here…

The Prophecy is touring Scotland in 2014:
Saturday 8th February, Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow 7pm tickets…

The Prophecy - Award Winning Irish Dance Show - a faery tale in Irish steps.

The Prophecy – Award Winning Irish Dance Show – a faery tale in Irish steps.

Saturday 22nd March, The Institute, Fochabers 7pm
more dates to be announced.

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes at Siamsoir

Hop 1-2-3, rock and cut, smile and laugh and kick your butt!

Behind the scenes with siamsoir... photo op in the Peatbog Faeries 'tour' bus

Behind the scenes with siamsoir… photo op in the Peatbog Faeries ‘tour’ bus

There are several sides to everyone… a friends-only side, something special for that someone special side and a professional side, to name a few. I feel that it’s pretty sensible and polite to connect with your audiences in the correct way … because let’s face it; they are dynamic, evolving and varied, just like our many sides. For Siamsoir, we know that we have so much to share and we want to do it with the right tone and voice on the (more importantly) right platform. Different people accessing us in different ways will be looking for different things! Therefore I feel it would be important to manage your fans expectations of the type of information they will be receiving by joining a mailing list, ‘liking’ you on Facebook, following you on Twitter or joining watching your YouTube channel. We won’t post for posting’s sake!

Here at Siamsoir, our website is informative and practical, our Facebook page is chatty, interesting and supportive of the aims of the company and of the dancers at the academy, and Twitter… well Twitter is where you see Siamsoir, the troupe, behind the scenes at siamsoir – this is a bit more quirky, relaxed and informal… the fun, sparkly and sassy side of the professional troupe.. Our YouTube channel allows you to re-live performances, discover new ones and see the variety of what we produce.

There are many sides to Siamsoir… why not see them for yourself:

YouTube channel (coming soon)

Facebook.com/Siamsoir

Twitter @siamsoir

Siamsoir.co.uk

#RespectYourAudience

What gets me excited?

Back-treble toe up, hop step (HUGE) slice-click-down – hello smile, goodbye frown!

In one word ‘music’. I LOVE MUSIC. I also love musicians, a little too much… but that’s another story for another time, probably best to check out Twitter for ‘behind the scenes’ if you are after the gossip… Thank goodness my husband is a guitarist. I definitely hit the jackpot with that handsome devil.

in some sort of 'zone' when dancing to music you love!

in some sort of ‘zone’ when dancing to music you love!

But back to music… I love traditional music, learning my first hornpipe to Begley&Cooney and Foster&Allen and this love came from my parents but more about them in a future blog!

I love to choreograph to music that moves me and when I say moves me I mean that literally gets me off my seat and gets me dancing, creating and envisioning my troupe on stage dancing to it. For the most part, these days the honest answer is the Peatbog Faeries. They will get me every time. The tune I make everyone listen to is Marx Terrace. PBF (yes, I am that cool!) are different and inspiring. They have an understanding for the audience, what they want from a tune but they are also very generous with the passion they put into their music. It’s why it works because it is honest. They are also stonkingly good live and if you haven’t been to a gig yet then you have a wee sad part in your soul waiting to be filled with banging tunes, haunting melodies and charisma that flows off the very stage they stand on. Too much gushing? Yep, I’ll move on here otherwise I am sure I will starting massaging their ego a tad too much… maybe I am getting an ego thinking they will read this.

I have become well known for my ‘fusion choreography’, creating a lyrical and accessible style of Irish Dance that entertains audiences. I have a huge respect for the traditional dancers… it’s where we all came from and I learned my trade like everyone else but instead of choosing Riverdance or Lord of The Dance I chose university, where I founded my company, started teaching and met my husband so I definitely picked the right path for me! I am pretty sure I was one of the first and youngest people in the UK to have their own performance Irish Dance Company, founded in 2002 but officially launched in 2005, although I started teaching my own style in 1999 winning an award for my choreography way back then as a 16 year old! Anyway, the point being that this ‘fusion’ stuff is incredibly popular with our audiences, dare I call them fans? It’s also the most fun to have as a dancer who trained with the traditional dances. We have performed to Beyonce’s ‘Lose My Breath’ (on a cat walk!), Prokofiev’s ‘Montague’s and the Capulets’, and Paolo Nutini’s ‘Pencil Full of Lead’ for which we won an award as part of our Award Winning show The Prophecy. We still love this Charleston-Irish piece and so do our audiences!

So, I love music, a variety of music, it motivates me through my days and makes me happy. It excites me and that comes through when the Troupe are on stage.

#lovinglife

The Rhythm of an Irish Dance Teachers Life

Tip tap and treble hop back – the building up and breaking down of relationships with students and how it impacts your life. Some thoughts for Dance teachers…

Working hard...

Working hard… the students dancing and the teacher teaching!

Every day I wake and it’s one of the first things I think of… what does today have in store? Am I prepared for the lessons, not just the lesson plans, music lists, choreography and the admin but am I physically ready to take people on another part of their journey? Am I ready for the next part of my journey? I think people forget that the teacher is human, with a life, hopes, desires, incredible sadness and joys to deal with on a daily basis. Their classes are their lives.

 The responsibility of being a teacher is a huge one. I love it and that’s because I care (probably too much) about each and every student and every class. I feel a huge responsibility over their happiness and development and the impact that I can have, not just in class but in other areas of their lives too. I’ve been told by numerous dancers over the years that this is the case… that dancing with Siamsoir has impacted them professionally, mentally and physically. I take great pride in these results but I know that this is ultimately down to them but I am always happy to be a part of their journey.

As one student recently said – there are other Irish Dance classes but there is only one Jennifer Roxburgh Irish Dance Class. I like to think that this is true. I am my own unique person (as is everyone else, of course). Siamsoir’s strength is in the way that I teach – with my whole heart, passionately, professionally and devotedly and this is a reflection of my personality. No one else teaches like me and I don’t teach like anyone else (for this I am eternally grateful!). I know that for a lot of people they love this about Siamsoir. That is why the people who are for Siamsoir are really for us – ridiculously loyal, passionate, creative, driven and selfless.

Of course, there are those who do not like this and who don’t ‘get me’, I hope that these people find what they are looking for elsewhere. I genuinely want people to get what they want out of life which is why I support people and offer so many opportunities to them when I can. However, if I cannot be the one to help them get what they want, then we are both wasting our time.

Yes, it hurts a lot when people don’t get the Siamsoir philosophy (correction… it used to hurt!), now, however it is the best thing for them, and for me and the rest of my treasured dancers. A negative entity in the studio can just about destroy a good thing. I nearly let this happen once. I nearly lost everything because I cared so much about every dancer, even the ones who were not for me and what a lot of energy that wasted by both parties. Looking back I can now see how toxic it was to have allowed (yes, allowed) other people to control the mood and spirit of my classes. But, you learn from experience, you grow strong and you take control of your situation. I always say in class – ‘this is your class not mine’ – because it is, you are paying me to teach you, it is nothing to do with my ego or my dancing – absolutely nothing!  The other side of this is that it is my company and I am the Director and I am responsible and directly affected by the people who I allow to be in my classes. Luckily I have become very good at holding on to the people I want in my life. Life is far too short to waste your energy, passion and love on people who are ultimately not going to appreciate it. So, if you are in my class you know that you are loved, respected, appreciated and valued.

If you are a dance teacher, like me, I know you will appreciate the sentiment and experiences in this blog post. Knowing the responsibility you have in looking after your students, being very much aware of the impact they can have on your life too but ultimately, staying true to what you want to get out of life and always, always taking the high road. Dance is ultimately about respect.

#LoveMyStudents