Name: Courtney Jay TCRG
Position: Director and Instructor, all levels
How long have you been working at SRL? Why SRL?
It was my dream to create SRL! Since I was 12 years old I knew I was going to own an Irish dance studio. While I did not fully comprehend what that meant at the time, I had files upon files of documents on my computer with all my plans and visions. Looking back, it is pretty incredible that I had an idea at a young age that I committed to and brought to life in adulthood.
I opened SRL in 2014 when I was 22 years old and since then it has taken on a life of its own, much bigger and faster than my 12 year old self could have ever envisioned! My work at SRL includes the day to day operations, managing our team, teaching classes, protecting and executing the vision, and implementing business strategies to ensure we continue to grow and thrive. Everyday is different!
What are you interested in that most people aren’t?
Two things – competitive gymnastics (Elite and NCAA) and The Sims. Gymnastics is the only sport I’m interested in, and I can tell you in great detail what skills are being done while watching routines, about NCAA line ups, and watch every meet I can for both divisions. The Sims is something I indulge in during my VERY rare and sporadic moments of free time and I love to build things and get lost in my imaginary world.
How long have you been dancing? Why Irish dance?
I started Irish dance when I was six, after starting gymnastics and ballet as a two year old. I was really drawn to the quick movements and the driving music as a kid who was getting bored at the ballet barre. I begged my mom to let me switch to Irish for an entire summer before she agreed to sign me up, on the condition that I continued ballet. I was the kid who liked to quit everything, so I’m sure she wasn’t very confident I’d stick to Irish dance but here we are 23 years later!
As I got more into Irish dance, the draw that has kept me after all this time is you’re never done learning. There is always something new to learn or create – movements that trend and work their way into our repertoire each year, new rhythms that come to you in your sleep, and different pieces you’re creating to showcase a particular dancer’s strengths. No matter how good you get at it, there is always something more you can do, improve, or learn!
What movie can you watch over and over and never get tired of? Why?
I actually prefer to watch the same movies over and over again – my go to’s are: Any of the Harry Potter movies, Mean Girls, and Catch Me If You Can. I hate the process of picking something new to watch and wondering if I’ll like it, so I’m perfectly content to watch something tried and true.
How has dance affected your everyday life?
There aren’t very many areas of my life Irish dance hasn’t touched – my best friends and closest social circle is from Irish dancing. My oldest friends and I grew up dancing together elementary through high school and now we’re experiencing adulthood together. So many of my best experiences in life have been because of my involvement in Irish dancing – traveling the globe for competitions, attending events that have made me a better and stronger person, and building this business living out my dream career.
What’s the coolest place you’ve ever visited? (Remember travel?!)
Hawaii; if it wasn’t so far away and expensive, I would have already gone back. I really love the beach but there’s something about Hawaii that feels more magical and exotic than other beach destinations I frequent.
Why do you think people dance?
Ultimately I think it brings people joy – you get to move your body and release the endorphins that make you happy. Your mind gets to focus on something outside of the ‘everyday’ thoughts, worries, and stressors that we often get lost or caught up in. You are surrounded by people drawn to the same activity and have a common interest that bonds you. Going to dance class is like being surrounded in pure joy.
What did you want to be when you grew up when you were little? Why?
For quite some time, I wanted to be an architect. Part of that may come from my love of the Sims, which I’ve played since it was released in 2000. I was always drawing floor plans on paper, building in the Sims, and then in high school took drafting and architecture classes. While it ultimately wasn’t for me, I’m glad I got to experience those classes before I needed to make college decisions.
What advice do you have for aspiring dancers?
It sounds cliché, but never give up. I was not naturally talented and Irish dance was not easy for me when I started. I struggled until I decided I wanted to get better at it, started practicing at home, and then eventually reaped the benefits. Even once I had success, there were still times where certain steps, dances, or competitions challenged me and required me to be patient and dig deeper. If I had given up early on or once I was frustrated for a period of time, I wouldn’t be where I am today!
This post is part of a series. Read our Q&A with another instructor, Bailey, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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