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High-Stepping Assistance from the Helen Ferris Memorial Trust Fund

Ella Kirkland with Riverdance Irish Dance Instructor
Ella Kirkland received assistance from the Helen Ferris Memorial Trust Fund to further her Irish Dance education and training. Summer 2022

Prince Albert Irish dancer Ella Kirkland spent a week this past summer at the Riverdance Summer School, with the support of the Helen Ferris Memorial Trust Fund. Her final report is so wonderful we're just going to use that as the post here!

With the Helen Ferris Memorial Fund, I was able to attend the Riverdance Summer School in Boston. This is a week-long training camp where Irish dancing students from across North America are taught Riverdance choreography, healthy nutrition, workouts, and coping with mental health in Irish dance. The camp trains the dancers alongside the leads of the Riverdance tours allowing them to experience Irish dancing at the professional level. At the end of the week, participants are put into a reproduction of the Riverdance show for family and friends in order for dancers to experience the showmanship required of this aspect of Irish dance.

My main goals were to have fun, become more confident performing, and gain information about maintaining my well-being as an athlete. I had an incredible time. I met fellow Irish dancers and the school was organized around building connections with the Irish dance community which is so small. The week was definitely stressful but I am proud of how well I performed under the very short time constraints. By learning the massive amounts of choreography at the camp, I have become much more confident in my abilities to dance in shows. Another part of the camp which fulfilled my goals was learning about mental health from the leads of Riverdance, learning about strong nutrition for athletes, and programs on how to maintain fitness all of which have made me into a stronger Irish dancer.

The camp allowed me to learn choreography from the Riverdance tours which I can now incorporate into our own productions with the Ashden School of Irish Dance in Prince Albert. It also means that not only myself but the entire club full of young dancers gets the opportunity to learn the Riverdance choreography which is something we have looked up to our entire lives. My pursuits in competitive Irish dance have been boosted with this camp by making me a more confident dancer on stage and giving me the independence to take trips to the states alone when my competitions demand so. The camp also gave me the tools in nutrition and fitness to become a better dancer and ultimately, a more competitive one. As a coach, the camp gave me new techniques on teaching choreography and structuring classes which I can utilize with our club.

I would like to thank the board profusely for their support. The experience was an absolute dream and I can’t believe a girl from Prince Albert was given the opportunity to dance with the leads of Riverdance. Thank you so much.

Congratulations, Ella! What an amazing opportunity. We're so happy to have played a small part in your experience.

If you know someone that could benefit from attending an educational experience like this one, in any art form, invite them to apply for the Helen Ferris Memorial Trust Fund. Guidelines can be viewed here.

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