“I started when I was 6,” Tara Callaghan says. “So I came a bit late.”
It sounds like she’s kidding, but actually, 6 is considered a late start to your career when it’s Irish dancing. If you’ve ever seen this kind of dancing, you can understand why. The seemingly tireless high-energy dance is a huge tradition in Ireland, passed down through generations between families and carried on for years.
Callaghan is part of Murphy’s Celtic Legacy. Created by Chris Hannon, former principal dancer of Lord of the Dance, Murphy’s Celtic Legacy is a tribute to Hannon’s grandmother, who founded the Hannon Murphy School of Irish Dancing in the northeast of England. The show features original choreography, traditional Irish and modern dance, song and live music.
“I was later as well,” Hannon said. “I didn’t start until I was 8. My mother and grandmother were teachers, so I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, and when I was 8, I jumped into it.”
That means they’ve both been dancing for at least 20 years, and some of the cast much longer. Murphy’s Celtic Legacy is currently on a North American tour and will be stopping at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 14.
Hannon, Callaghan and Kelly Stephens spoke by phone recently from the road.
“My sister and I went, not really to take part, but then I ended up taking part from age 3,” Stephens said. “I’ve been dancing now for 30 years.”
With a cast with that kind of combined experience, Hannon said, “We have the best of Irish dance from all over.
“The show has a story,” he added. “It’s told through a narration and song and dance.”
But it has changed a lot over the years. It originally took Hannon a full year to put a pilot show together and another 18 months after that to get the professional outfit together.
“We first started in 2013, and six years on, a lot has changed for the better,” Hannon said. “It’s improving all the time. From the music to the band, the raw talent of the cast, they’re all world class.”
But Hannon said it’s not necessarily a prerequisite to start dancing at such a young age in order to have a career in the field.
“We actually have a fine example of that on tour,” he said. “A guy here fell in love with Lord of the Dance and Riverdance when he was 16. He worked and worked and worked and joined our tour last year, and I was so impressed. So I guess if you believe in it and you want to do it and put the hours in, you’ll get there.”