Celtic Ceilidh Dance Academy

dawn mossFounded in 1995, Celtic Ceilidh Dance Academy began as a Highland dance school, later expanding to include Irish, Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Lyrical, Stretch and Hip Hop. Recently we spoke with owner Dawn Moss about her Edmonton-based business.

What are your own roots?
Although I consider myself a Scot, my Dad’s family was from the Orkney’s and my Mom’s was from Wales and other sorted backgrounds. She called herself a Heinz 57!

When and why did you get involved with dance?
I spotted a photo of a Highland dancer in an ad for lessons at the neighbourhood grocery store when I was 3 years old. As I understand it, I wouldn’t leave it alone until I was registered in dance.

Are they the same reasons you do it today?
Well, I would still love for someone to register me in a dance class haha. I have loved the pipes and the sport from day 1. There is a very special kind of connection amongst Highland dancers across the world. We seem to be driven by a challenge and a desire to promote and preserve our special world of Celtic dance.

What are the challenges involved? 
For me, the challenges are finding the time to fit in everything I plan to do. Our students enjoy performing, competing, taking part in exams and travelling. The calendar fills up quickly and the whirlwind picks up in October and doesn’t unwind until mid July. Money is always a concern with having to find space large enough to rehearse in but small enough to afford.

What are the rewards?
I welcome many of the students into class near their 3rd birthday and am lucky to watch them grow into Adults. As a teacher, I see them discover the commitment required to become a competitive athlete and the dedication involved in being part of a team. They are part of a community we call our dance family. Nothing compares to the joy I feel watching the pride on the faces of the dancers and their families whether they are dancing for Grandparents in Scotland or Ireland, winning their first medal or wearing their first kilt.

What is the school’s mandate, and who are your students?
Our students come from various backgrounds; the majority being of Celtic descent. In many cases their parents hope to preserve a tradition of dance or heritage. We strive to provide a well balanced education in dance-both technically and performance based while fostering a love of the Celtic world. Many of our teachers have Celtic backgrounds thus creating a community of extensive experience and knowledge. We are a wee bit of home for many of our families.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Celtic marketplace?
I think it is exciting that we can find Celtic art, clothing, classes and celebrations where we live. I have a stream of people each year wanting to join us to learn Irish dance and Highland dance because they are somehow drawn into it. We now have a shop to provide dancers with shoes and costumes and the music required along with jewellery, books and other fun Celtic items. Things I never saw growing up.

Is enough being done to promote and preserve Celtic culture generally?
I think so. At least I know we are certainly trying to do just that by teaching our children and taking them overseas to experience it for themselves.

What can we be doing better?
I wish, now that my Dad is gone, that I had the chance to hear his stories. We need to remember to tell stories, preserve pictures, network with others around the world and encourage our children to be a part of it.

What’s next on your business agenda?
I hope to produce a live Celtic show. We have a group of dancers and musicians who meet to practice and perform wherever we can. I want to bring the Irish and the Highland together on stage with dancers, musicians, vocalists and all there is to celebrate the Celts.