Celtic Colours Artist Profile; Zeph Caissie

Zeph Caissie started dancing at the age of four, competing and performing locally and internationally until he was 21. After placing 2nd in the Great Britain and All Ireland Championships and 4th in the World Championships, he signed on with Riverdance The Show, and toured with the company for 8 years. He and his Diaga Irish Dancers will be performing tonight as part of the 50 Years of Celtic Charm show at Centre 200 in Sydney, NS.

What is your own ethnicity?
My father is Greek from the Island of Crete, and my mother is half Irish and half Acadian. Both my parents were/are dancers. My father lead a Greek group in Vancouver, and my mom took Greek, Croatian, and Irish dancing classes throughout her life. She is currently with a Greek group and performs regularly! I got involved with Irish dancing at the age of 4 after watching a performance by my teacher and his dancers, and expressing interest to my mom. She thought I might be too young, but my teacher agreed to work with me, so off I went. I competed locally and internationally with the Comerford School of Irish Dance in Vancouver, and placed 4th in the World Championships in my final year at the age of 21.

Are young people still interested in Irish-Celtic dance?
Young people are still interested in Irish dancing and as the original shows like Riverdance are winding down, there is a more contemporary form emerging. Shows are now no longer limited to guys in puffy white shirts playing the archetypal hero, and lines of Rockette-style dancing in unison. Now, if you can imagine it, you can create it. Many of the former cast members of the shows are also opening schools of their own, which is strengthening the competition scene all around the world. Countries such as Russia, Japan, France, and Germany now have Irish dance schools, and plenty of keen students.

What are your thoughts on Celtic culture?
Celtic culture is definitely alive and well. It is so deeply woven into the fabric of society in the Maritimes and there are many gifted teachers passing on Celtic language, music, and dance. What could galvanize the scene, though, is a unifying element. A Celtic Centre in Halifax, for example, would give the different groups, artists, and teachers a place to pool their efforts. It’s not inconceivable, and I don’t think it’s too far off.

What’s next on your agenda?
My next creative/business agenda is to continue to expand my school, and to do an East Coast tour with my performance troupe. I want to give my girls a taste of what it’s like to dance professionally. I also have designs on opening up a second school outside of Canada, but that’s on the back burner for now…simmering.