Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Pasadena, just down the road from League City, and live in League City now. I’ve been Irish dancing for about 25 years now and teaching for 17 years. I’ve competed and taught Irish dance throughout the state of Texas. It’s provided me many opportunities to not just share culture, but to help people realize their potential.
How did you get into Irish dancing?
My mom and dad’s side of the family come from Northern Europe, Ireland, and Scotland. As I got older, I found interest in Irish culture and started going to festivals so I could learn more about it. I was about 21 or 22 when I first started Irish dancing. I think starting at that age helped me teach adults and recognize some of their challenges, because I faced some of them myself.
Tell us about the Tew Academy of Irish Dance and how it came about.
In 2004, I finished my last Irish dancing competition at the North American Irish Dance Championship. I decided that it was time to start my own academy because I wanted to pass the tradition on and teach others. At the Tew Academy, we teach kids and adults, ages 3+. All ages begin by learning soft shoe, which is the dance form that doesn’t make any noise. Students eventually progress to learning hard shoe with a couple of dances they have already mastered.
Is Irish dancing difficult?
Very difficult. I’m a little biased towards Irish dancing but I’d say it is the most difficult dance form. There’s not just one style. There’s soft shoe, hard shoe, céilí, solo dancing, and group dancing.
What makes your dance academy unique?
I offer a dance form that many people don’t know about. It’s a dance form that is appealing all around the world and is over 400 years old. I encourage our dancers to be stewards of our great dance tradition. From beginners' classes to advanced classes and recreational to competitive dancers, God has blessed me with many students who show a lot of dedication to our dance form. I hope they share their skills and experiences with others, so that Irish dance can continue to grow and flourish.
What’s your biggest success/accomplishment with the academy?
Seeing our dancer’s progress from beginner steps to more advanced dancing. Being able to watch our dancers look back at what used to be difficult to them and then realizing how easy it comes with practice and determination is an experience I’m most proud of.
What was your favorite competition memory?
My first competition. I was in Dallas in 1998 and I had only been dancing for a month and a half. I convinced my teacher that I had learned enough to at least try and compete. I ended up doing the first competition. I was so nervous but afterwards, I couldn’t believe I had done it. I got off the stage and thought to myself, “I want to keep doing this.”
What does dance mean to you?
It’s an outlet for me. I use it to get over stresses in my life. I go to the studio and forget all my troubles, it’s like an escape and I’m able to embrace what makes me, me.
Any tips you want to give to people who want to start Irish dancing?
You need to set up realistic expectations, be open to listening to criticism, and trust your mentors.
How can people sign up for classes or contact you if interested in Irish culture?
What’s an interesting fact about yourself?
I run the world’s largest Irish dance and music podcast. It’s called RINCERadio and you can find it on YouTube. Rince means dance, so it’s a dance radio. It’s an informational podcast that documents a lot of the stories of Irish culture around the world. I’ve interviewed teachers from Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Russia, Ireland, and America.
Are you part of any organizations?
I’m a member of a world-wide organization called An Chomhdhail (pronounced an co-gal) which means the congress of Irish dance teachers. I’ve been a member for about a year and a half. Our organization teaches the Irish language, the music we dance to, and the culture and the history behind the dances. We want to preserve all the traditions of Irish culture. The organization also allows you to enter kids in competitions that they sponsor.
Do you like living in League City?
I do! The historic district reminds me of the small town I came from. It has a home feeling.
Do you have a favorite park in League City?
I go to League Park and practice sometimes. You might find me out there dancing under the gazebo.
What’s your favorite restaurant in League City?
Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta.
For more information about the Tew Academy, visit www.tew-academy.org.