Former Riverdance star brings Irish dance to St. John

2014-01-31T00:00:00Z Former Riverdance star brings Irish dance to St. JohnDamian Rico, The Times
January 31, 2014 12:00 am  • 

ST. JOHN | Dearbhla Fay approaches dancing with great passion and wants her Irish folklore students to understand that learning to dance is much more than memorizing steps.

“There is so much discipline and structure that dance teaches,” Fay said. “It’s a lot of fun, but there is also such a great sense of accomplishment when you learn to master the moves. It is very reflective to life’s teachings.”

Fay left her home in Dublin, Ireland at 18 to pursue a career with Michael Flatley’s world-renowned Lord of The Dance world tour. During this “euphoric time of her life,” Fay admitted, she was in the middle of an “explosion” of Irish culture for seven years.

She now teaches Irish dancing in several Chicago suburbs and last September, bought her McCormack/Fay Dance Academy to a group of nine students in St. John.

“I love teaching and I get a kick out of the drive my students have when they come to class,” Fay said. “Music and dance speak to us, and when people want me to teach them, I take it very seriously.”

The Irish dance culture became popular in the mid 1990’s, at the height of the Riverdance phenomenon. That cultural dance remains popular, with three national dance productions still touring the world.

“I visited many countries and enjoyed sharing our life with the world,” said Fay. “I guess I really was too young to understand the magnitude of what was going on. I was just having a great time with wonderful people doing what we did all of our lives.”

Fay started dancing at 2 and comes from a great line of performers. That list starts with her mother, Grainne, who has taught Irish Folkloric for five decades in Dublin and is currently the president of The Irish Dance Organization; her late father, Martin Fay, one of the original members of the Irish band The Chieftains; and her brother, Fergal also a dancer.

"Dearbhla was always a wonderful child," said Grainne Fay during a U.S. visit last summer.. "She has so much passion and dedication. I am so glad she is teaching and sharing her gift with others."

Fay has taught throughout Ireland and England, and now teaches in Oak Forest, Crystal Lake and Woodstock, Ill., as well as offering a Thursday evening class at St. John VFW Post 717, 10400 W. 93rd St., St. John.

Contact Fay at (708) 439-9850 or

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