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Kieran Jordan
Irish dance performance, instruction, choreography

bio

Kieran Jordan bio
Photo: Kelly Sullivan Lorenz

Kieran Jordan, based in Boston, is an Irish dance performer, teacher, director and choreographer, and owner of the Kieran Jordan Dance Studio. Drawing from a background in contemporary dance, somatic work, and more than 40 years of immersion in traditional Irish dance, Kieran is recognized as a leading artist and contributor in her field. She is best known for her warm and engaging stage performances, her original approach to Irish dance choreography, and her innovative teaching programs that have created vibrant and lasting communities through sean-nós and old-style Irish step dance.

Kieran was born in Philadelphia in an Irish American family, and she started Irish step dancing when she was just five years old. A life-long passion for music and movement — and a quest for health, wholeness, and joyful self-expression — have guided her highly-individual career in Irish dance.

Regarded as “one of America’s premier dancers and instructors” (Irish Echo), Kieran is a two-time recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship (2008 and 2018) and was also awarded two Master Artist teaching grants in the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program (2010 and 2020). Kieran has a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Dance from the University of Limerick, Ireland, a B.A. from Boston College in English and Irish Studies, and also holds the TCRG certification for teaching Irish Dance. 

With a deepening focus at the intersections of dance, movement, and healing arts, Kieran has recently expanded her work to offer energy healing and bodywork, with certifications in Reiki and Polarity Therapy.

Performance

performing with Laurel Martin Mark Roberts
Photo: Zarmik Moqtaderi

With a style described as “playfully theatrical” (The Boston Globe) and “wonderfully expressive” (The Living Tradition), Kieran has toured as a featured solo dancer for more than two decades, collaborating with some of today’s finest traditional musicians. Her performances are inspired by the rhythmic precision and elegance of Irish step dance, the full-body freedom of contemporary modern dance, and the fluid musicality of sean-nós dance.

Kieran has performed in concerts throughout North America and Europe, working closely with musicians including Laura Risk and Paddy League, Laurel Martin and Mark Roberts, Seán Clohessy, Sean McComiskey, Cleek Schrey, Hanneke Cassel, Matt and Shannon Heaton, and the group Childsplay —  combining her “fanciful footwork and improvisational flair” (The Boston Globe) with an open and uplifting presence on stage.

Choreography

Living Landscape Kieran Jordan original choreography
Photo: Brandon Fitch

Kieran’s choreography is “firmly rooted in Irish tradition, yet full of modern energy… infused with adventure, confidence, and a mischievous wink, ensuring the long-term survival of this ancient form” (Susan Gedutis Lindsay, author of See You at the Hall.) As one of the first to bring sean-nós dancing into theatrical ensembles on stage, Kieran’s work “eschews the spectacle of many large-scale productions” (The Boston Globe), highlighting the intimacy and immediacy of live Irish music and dance.

Kieran choreographed the WGBH theater production A Christmas Celtic Sojourn from 2004-2011, creating and directing dances for artists including Kevin Doyle, Nic Gareiss, Maldon Meehan and Ronan Regan, Mats Melin, Caitlín Nic Gabhann, Aidan Vaughan, Nicholas Yenson, herself, and others, to stellar musical line-ups including Liz Carroll, Danú, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, Solas and more.

From 2012-2014, she wrote, directed, choreographed, and performed for the US touring show Atlantic Steps, produced by Oisín Mac Diarmada and sean-nós dancer Brian Cunningham. She has also choreographed for A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn, The Christmas Revels, Dancing at Lughnasa, Childsplay, and The Sole Mates, a five-piece ensemble she brought together for a tour of Germany in 2011.

With her own performance company, Kieran Jordan Dance, she has created work in her distinctive style, often merging “undulating, languid modern dance with upright Irish step dancing” (Boston Herald). Her evening-length productions include The Living Landscape (2013 and 2014) and Little Gifts (2016), which both feature live music and original set designs painted by her husband, artist Vincent Crotty. In 2017, she created a new suite of work for the Kieran Jordan Dance company, set to the Irish harp music of Turlough O’Carolan, arranged and played live by Symphony Nova, a Boston-based chamber orchestra.

Teaching

Photo: Tony Kearns

In 2001, Kieran established a unique, non-competitive Irish dance program for adults. She founded her teaching practice at the Blackstone River Theater in Rhode Island and then transitioned to studios in the Boston and Cambridge area. Her weekly classes and special events — called “a rare find” (Cambridge Chronicle) — were the first of their kind in New England and have become an integral part of the region’s Irish music, dance, and cultural community for more than 20 years.

Kieran teaches with a holistic focus emphasizing mindfulness, musicality, creativity, and the historical, social, and performance aspects of Irish dance. Winner of City Voter’s “Best Irish Dance Class in Boston,” her impactful teaching programs have nurtured and inspired a new generation of performers and teachers of non-competitive Irish dance.

In 2009, Kieran and tap dancer Julia Boynton co-founded Boston Percussive Dance at Green Street Studios, which flourished for 5 years as a studio space and artistic community devoted entirely to percussive dance. In January, 2017, she opened the Kieran Jordan Dance Studio — a dedicated home for her classes, company, and community — in Hyde Park, Boston.

Kieran taught on the Irish Studies faculty at Boston College from 2010-2017, and in the Dance Department at Mount Holyoke College from 2008-09. She has given lectures and master classes on Irish dance at universities throughout the US, and she continues to be in demand as a sean-nós dance teacher at festivals and summer schools. She has taught and performed at: the Acadia Trad School (Maine), Augusta Heritage Festival (West Virginia), Catskills Irish Arts Week (New York), MAD Week (Washington, D.C.), O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat (Texas), Sean-nós Northwest (Washington), and the Willie Clancy Summer School (Ireland), and others. 

Kieran is continuing to teach and perform through the changing landscape of dance during the Covid-19 pandemic. Her online classes have reached students from Australia to Japan, Eastern Europe to Ireland, and all over Canada and the US. She has collaborated virtually with artists on the Tune Supply roster, based in New York City, and has taught for dozens of online festivals and events.

Recordings/Publications

Secrets of the Sole Irish Dance Steps and Stories

Kieran has produced several films and videos on sean-nós and old-style step dancing including: Secrets of the Sole (a documentary with dancers Kevin Doyle and Aidan Vaughan); Musical Feet! and Musical Feet Volume 2: the Next Step (a sean-nós dance instructional series); and The Dan Furey Dance Group and a Circle of Squares (a documentary on Irish dancer Dan Furey and his legacy as shared through Céline and Michael Tubridy). Kieran’s own percussive footwork has been featured on numerous audio recordings, including Triptych (Laura Risk, Kieran Jordan, Paddy League), Cover the Buckle: A Collection of Irish Set Dances for Listening and Dancing (Seán Clohessy, Sean McComiskey, Kieran Jordan, Josh Dukes, and Matt Mulqueen), and CDs by many other artists.

Training and Influences

Kevin Doyle performs with Kieran Jordan
Photo by Niko Alexandrou, Eye on the Stage Photography

As a young dancer in the Philadelphia suburbs, Kieran trained with the Timoney, Coyle, McHugh, and DeNogla schools in the Philadelphia area. She was exposed to a wide range of Irish dance traditions — from community céilís, to competitive feisanna. She competed for 14 years, achieving the Open Championship level and participating in many regional and national competitions.

Finding herself to be more of 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, at concerts 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 charismatic duets with Kevin Doyle — her long-time friend and dance partner. Others 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).

Kieran Jordan Bio
Photo: Ariel Mandeville

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 studies there in embodiment practices, improvisation, and contemporary dance have influenced her teaching methods as well as her choreography. She has continued to train in these fields, taking workshops at the Bates Dance Festival in Maine, Movement Research in NYC, and in the Boston area, with classes in Experiential Anatomy, Franklin Method, Bartentieff Fundamentals, and more.

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 today’s masters in sean-nós and old-style step dancing, and continues to explore these forms of dance through research and performance collaborations.

In 2011, Kieran had the opportunity to host a workshop and performance at her studio for legendary Irish musician and dancer Michael Tubridy. This experience led to a friendship and collaboration that has continued ever since, with Michael making many visits to teach and perform with KJD. Kieran is grateful to Michael for his wisdom, good humor, and passionate but easy-going approach to Irish dance. His steps and stories have invigorated her student groups in Boston and have connected them to a like-minded community of dancers in Ireland and worldwide. 

Before making dance her full-time career, 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 Vincent Crotty live on the ancestral land of the Neponset tribe, near the Neponset River marshes in Dorchester, Massachusetts.