Dawn Moss began dancing at the tender age of three after seeing an image of a Highland dancer posted on a grocery store wall.
“That was all it took to begin a lifetime love of dance,” she explains via email from her home in Edmonton, Alberta.
Crediting both her mother and her Highland dance teacher Joan Brox for the “everlasting passion and commitment” that led her into a long and successful career, Moss describes her personal style as a fusion of traditional and modern.
“The basic nature of Highland and Irish dancing is traditional, but I love to venture out of the norm with choreography. My style quite often incorporates modern music and a fusion of various dance forms. I love to create exciting new choreography for performances and competitions.”
Moss’ career has seen many notable highlights, including her time with both the Provincial Tattoos and Disney – where she worked as a choreographer – and her live performances alongside Canadian fiddler Natalie MacMaser and Celtic rock band Celtic Fusion Illusion. However, her biggest accomplishment happened in 1995 – the year she founded the Celtic Ceilidh Dance Academy.
“It was a truly unexpected career! I had pretty much retired from dance when I was approached to take over an existing dance class that needed a new teacher. I accepted, and that turned out to be the beginning of a wonderful new journey. Since then, I have been encouraging young people to join the Celtic dance community and to experience all it has to offer.”
“I have a passion to inspire youth and to pass on the traditions of Celtic dance. It has become a part of me, and a way of life.”
Originally, the Celtic Ceilidh Dance Academy offered only Highland dance classes. Over time, it grew into a multidisciplinary facility and now offers classes in Irish, jazz, tap, lyrical and stretch.
“My students are people with a passion for Celtic dance and traditions; people who used to dance or those who wished they had. I have even had students register who have no idea what Highland dance is but quickly fall in love with the community and stay for life. I now teach their children – which is really amazing. They learn about dance technique and commitment and the meaning of hard work and teamwork. They experience failure and success and everything in between. They experience the rich traditions and culture in Scotland and Ireland, and they perform, compete, study, take exams, travel and make friends all over the world.”
Moss feels very confidently about the future of Celtic dance, noting that not even the COVID-19 pandemic was enough to slow it down.
“Surprisingly, the global pandemic has brought together thousands of dancers from all over the world in ways that we could only dream of a year ago. Dancers and teachers are sharing knowledge and experience with each other and we are all working together to preserve and promote our wonderful world of Celtic dance. It is all extremely exciting and so full of energy – which is why, I believe, young people are mesmerized by it. Often, it is their parents who are drawn to Celtic dance because it is a family tradition in some way, but I do see a steady stream of young people loving both Highland and Irish dance. The world of Celtic dance is magnetic and one of community rich in tradition and pride.”
While the ancient art has remained unaffected on a large scale, the ongoing pandemic has forced Moss and her team to cancel a number of future projects. But even amidst the uncertainty, she says the rewards of her vocation make it all worthwhile.
“The memories, the life-long friends, the excited smiles of thousands of dancers I have worked with over the years. There are shelves of dusty old trophies and medals, but the most treasured rewards are in the friendships and memorable experiences from travelling the world to dance. I believe dance is so much more than technical exercises in the studio and that the gifts include self-motivation, discipline, creativity, confidence, self expression, and the ability to critically analyze our own work and the work of others.”
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