Fiona's Story - From Irish dancing to Charleston

I was born in Portsmouth, the second eldest of four children, we are all loud, lively and prone to bursting into song.  Needless to say it was a vibrant and somewhat raucous household. 

Many of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my older sister as were my first dance lessons. She was in the habit of starting classes and dropping out so to get my parents would send me along in her place. When I was eight I decided I wanted to learn Irish dancing, my Dad is Irish and I loved the dresses. Back then they were beautiful hand sown designs and you didn’t have the tacky wigs which have sadly become standard. I competed in regional and national competitions until I discovered Jazz in Pompey…

 Fiona in her 80's leotard and leggings!

Fiona in her 80's leotard and leggings!

Portsmouth Youth Dance were auditioning for a new dance toupe, I attended wearing a swimsuit as I didn’t have a leotard and to my surprise I got in! The drama centre where we rehearsed became the centre of my universe. It was here I meet my future husband Tom aged 11! The friendships from that group have lasted a lifetime and it’s all thanks to Donna Bish, my slightly scary dance teacher who I love. She whipped me in to shape and had some success in getting me to stop talking!

 Tom and Fiona at Portsmouth Youth Dance

Tom and Fiona at Portsmouth Youth Dance

 Tom and Fiona dancing at their wedding 

Tom and Fiona dancing at their wedding 

I kept on dancing all through university and during my ten year career at the BBC. The styles I liked were Jazz, Street, Bollywood and African. I found an amazing teacher Francis Angol who leads they way in contemporary African dance.  It was while working on a dance show for Angol that I had my road to Damascas moment. I was suddenly sent to Thailand for some filming and had to miss out on the performance I’d been rehearsing for. I realised how much dance meant to me and decided it was time to make it central in my life.

I moved to Brighton with Tom and I signed up for a course in street dance at Brighton city college. It was a real eye-opener being a 30 something in a class with 18 year olds but it gave me the confidence to start running my own classes. It was in January 2013 Elena came into my Jazz class I had just been asked to put together a little Charleston Troupe and she was up for getting involved. We had no idea then what would develop from that small performance but we must have recognised something in each other. Through our passion for dance, creativity and Charleston we began plotting and the rest as they say is history. 

 Fiona and Elena's first performance in February 2013.

Fiona and Elena's first performance in February 2013.

I’ve recently been reading about the roots of jazz dance in America and it emerged from a fusion of Irish Jigs with African American dances. So I guess my journey from Irish dancing to Charleston was meant to be.

Fiona