Kieran Jordan, based in Boston, is an Irish dance performer, teacher, director and choreographer, and owner of the Kieran Jordan Dance Studio. With a professional freelance career spanning more than 15 years, Kieran is best known for her original stage productions and recordings, and her innovative teaching programs that have brought sean-nós and old-style Irish step dance to students and audiences internationally.
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 pursuit of health, wholeness, and joyful self-expression have guided her highly-individual career in Irish dance.
“One of America’s premier dancers and instructors” (Irish Echo), Kieran has been recognized as a leading artist and contributor in her field. She was the recipient of a 2008 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship and a 2010 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant. She has a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Dance from the University of Limerick, Ireland, and a B.A. from Boston College in English and Irish Studies. She also holds the TCRG certification for teaching Irish Dance.
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 reflect her life in dance — drawing from 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 a warm and uplifting presence on stage.
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 craft solo improvised sean-nós dancing into a form for small 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 performers including Kevin Doyle, Nic Gareiss, Maldon Meehan and Ronan Regan, Mats Melin, Caitlín Nic Gabhann, Aidan Vaughan, Nicholas Yenson, herself and others, to the music of 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 company, Kieran Jordan Dance, she has been active for more than a decade, training dancers 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 five new pieces for Kieran Jordan Dance, set to the 17th century Irish harp music of Turlough O’Carolan, arranged and played live by Symphony Nova, a Boston-based chamber orchestra.
In 2001, Kieran established a unique, non-competitive Irish dance program for adults and teens. She initiated 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 since become a mainstay in Boston’s arts and cultural scene.
Kieran teaches with a holistic focus emphasizing mindfulness, musicality, creative expression, and the historical, social, and performance aspects of Irish dance. Winner of City Voter’s “Best Irish Dance Class in Boston,” her 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 also teaches on the Irish Studies faculty at Boston College, and she has taught and performed at the Willie Clancy Summer School (Ireland), Catskills Irish Arts Week (New York), Augusta Heritage Festival (West Virginia), Acadia Trad School (Maine), O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat (Texas), Sean-nós Northwest (Washington), and other festivals and summer schools. She created and taught an academic/studio course on Irish dance for Mount Holyoke College in 2008-09, and she has given lectures and master classes in Canada, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and all over the US.
Kieran has produced three 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 series called Musical Feet! and Musical Feet Volume 2: the Next Step. Her percussive footwork and choreography is featured throughout the 2011 CD called Triptych (Laura Risk, Kieran Jordan, Paddy League) and on the 2016 CD she produced called Cover the Buckle: A Collection of Irish Set Dances for Listening and Dancing with Seán Clohessy, Sean McComiskey, Josh Dukes, and Matt Mulqueen.
Training and Influences
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 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.
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 crowd-pleasing duets with Kevin Doyle — her now long-time friend and dance partner, and a 2014 NEA National Heritage Fellow. 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).
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 in mind-body practices and contemporary dance have influenced her teaching methods as well as her choreography, and 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.
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 modern-day 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 annual visits to teach and perform with Kieran Jordan Dance. Kieran is grateful to Michael for his wisdom, good humor, and passionate but balanced 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.
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 in the great neighborhood of Dorchester, Massachusetts.