Creative artist Kieran Jordan is a dynamic performer, teacher, director, choreographer, and writer in the field of Irish dance. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, she has established a professional freelance career spanning more than 15 years.
Kieran’s dancing reflects her broad interests and experience, ranging from traditional Irish dance to contemporary modern dance. She has a particular passion for sean-nós dance — the improvised “old-style” tradition from Ireland — and through her innovative recordings, teaching programs, and performance projects, she has played a major role in introducing it to the US.
A life-long Irish step dancer, Kieran has performed at concerts and festivals throughout North America and Europe, combining her nimble footwork and sean-nós dance musicality with a warm and uplifting presence. Her dancing has been described as fluid and elegant, subtle and sweet, with rock-solid grooves and guts underneath. “Wonderfully expressive” (The Living Tradition) and “playfully theatrical” (The Boston Globe), Kieran creates soulful and memorable moments on stage.
Kieran has collaborated with some of today’s finest performers in Celtic music, including Liz Carroll, Hanneke Cassel, Danú, John Doyle, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, Matt and Shannon Heaton, Sean McComiskey and Cleek Schrey, Solas, Téada and others. In 2009, she performed as part of a Boston gala for Ireland’s then president Dr. Mary McAleese.
She has produced two DVDs on old-style Irish dance — a documentary called Secrets of the Sole, with dancers Kevin Doyle and Aidan Vaughan, and a sean-nós dance instructional video called Musical Feet! Her percussive footwork can be heard on several audio recordings as well, and is featured throughout the 2011 CD by Triptych (Laura Risk, Kieran Jordan, Paddy League).
Kieran was honored with a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in 2008 and a Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant in 2010. She has a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Dance from the University of Limerick, Ireland, and a B.A. from Boston College in English literature and Irish Studies. She also holds An Coimisiun le Rince Gaelacha TCRG certification for teaching Irish Dance.
Choreography and Teaching
“Besides being a talented and inventive dancer, Jordan stands out as a creative choreographer” (The Irish Voice). She is Co-Director and Choreographer of Atlantic Steps, the touring sean-nós dance show founded by Connemara dancer Brian Cunningham. She choreographed and directed dance for seven years for the WGBH theater show A Christmas Celtic Sojourn. She has also choreographed for A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn, Childsplay, The Christmas Revels, Dancing at Lughnasa and more. In 2010-11, she created The Sole Mates, an original music and dance show that toured throughout Germany. With her own company — Kieran Jordan Dancers — she has been active for more than a decade, training dancers in her distinctive style and presenting her choreography throughout New York and New England.
In 2001, Kieran initiated a teaching practice focused on non-competitive Irish dance for teens and adults. She launched her first programs at the Blackstone River Theater in Rhode Island and then transitioned to studios in the Boston/Cambridge area. Kieran’s teaching mission is to share a holistic view of Irish dance, by preserving, celebrating, and contributing artistically to its living traditions. Her classes encompass Irish dance history, Irish music appreciation, choreography, and embodied technique and repertoire in traditional and “old-style” Irish dance.
Her classes — called “a rare find” (Cambridge Chronicle) — were the first of their kind in New England, and have since inspired a new generation of dancers who are teaching non-competitive, old-style Irish dance. In addition to weekly classes, Kieran has produced dozens of visiting artist workshops, student performances, and other collaborations with live music, making her programs a mainstay in Boston’s lively Irish cultural scene.
In 2009, Kieran and tap dancer Julia Boynton co-founded Boston Percussive Dance at Green Street Studios, creating a space and a community devoted entirely to percussive dance. In addition to her studio teaching, Kieran also teaches part-time on the Irish Studies faculty at Boston College. In 2008-2009, she developed and taught an academic/studio course on Irish Dance at Mount Holyoke College in Western Massachusetts. She teaches sean-nós dance at summer schools including the Catskills Irish Arts Week in New York and Augusta Heritage Center in West Virginia. She has given lectures and master classes at universities, festivals, and private dance studios in Canada, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and all over the US.
Training and Influences
Born and raised in Philadelphia in an Irish-American family, Kieran started Irish dancing at age five. As a young dancer, she trained with the Timoney, Coyle, McHugh, and DeNogla schools in the Philadelphia area. She was exposed to a wide range of Irish dance settings — from the community céilí, to the competitive feis. She competed for 14 years, achieving the Open Championship level and participating in many regional and national competitions.
A performer at heart, Kieran spent her high school years seeking out theater, music, and dance in many genres. With her family, she attended Irish music festivals up and down the East Coast, where she was inspired by the work of performer and academic Mick Moloney. She fell in love with traditional Irish music and was invited to perform as a solo dancer with Mick Moloney, Eugene O’Donnell, and Seamus Egan, throughout the Philadelphia area. In 1990 and 1991, she performed at Radio City Music Hall, New York, in the Frank Patterson St. Patrick’s Day Spectacular that featured 100 champion step dancers from the Mid-Atlantic region. In 1992, she won the first Cyril McNiff Memorial Scholarship, awarded by the Irish Dance Teachers’ Association of North America.
As a student at Boston College, Kieran immersed herself in Boston’s thriving Irish music scene, dancing at sessions and concerts alongside musicians such as Seamus Connolly, Paddy Keenan, Laurel Martin, Jimmy Noonan, and Mark Simos. She spent her junior year abroad at University College, Cork, Ireland, where she had the privilege to study for one year with Dance Master Joe O’Donovan. This experience became a defining influence and kindled her passion for old-style, music-driven Irish step dance.
Kieran performed for several years with the Rhode Island band Pendragon, creating crowd-pleasing duets with Kevin Doyle — her now long-time friend and dance partner. Other teachers who influenced Kieran in her early dance career include Melody Cameron (Cape Breton set dance), Pierre Chartrand (Québecois step dance), Róisín Ní Mhainín (sean-nós), Sandy Silva (percussive dance), and Mary Beth Griffith, TCRG (Irish dance choreography).
At age 30, Kieran moved once again to Ireland, to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Contemporary Dance Performance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick. Her tutors there included contemporary dance artists such as Michael Klien, Mary Nunan, Liz and Jenny Roche, and Mark Taylor. Her studies in contemporary dance have influenced her teaching methods as well as her choreography, which has been described as “truly unusual, merging undulating, languid modern dance with upright Irish step dancing” (The Boston Herald). She maintains her studies in contemporary dance and improvisation, taking classes and workshops in the US.
While living in Ireland, Kieran devoted much of her time to researching and practicing sean-nós dance. At University of Limerick, she carried out a year-long, one-on-one study with County Clare set dancing master Aidan Vaughan. Vaughan’s close-to-the-floor battering footwork and improvisational solo steps are an ongoing inspiration to Kieran’s own dancing. In 2005, Kieran won second place in the Comórtas Chóilín Sheáin Dharach — the sean-nós jig competition in Ros Muc, Connemara. She has taken workshops with many of the greats in sean-nós and old-style step dancing, and continues to explore these forms of dance through research and performance collaborations.
Kieran worked as arts writer and editor for the Boston Irish Reporter newspaper from 1996-1999. She has also contributed freelance articles to Irish Dancing and Culture Magazine, the Irish Edition, and Irish Music Magazine.
She and her husband artist Vincent Crotty live in Dorchester, Massachusetts.