WITH normal life still a distant dream for many, one of Ireland’s top professional dancers is getting ready to hit the world stage when the Feet of Flames tour launches across Taiwan in just over a week’s time.
While the pandemic has meant a bit more time spent at home this year due to travel restrictions, Lauren Clarke, from Newtownards, is once again back living her dream as a dancer with Michael Flatley’s Lord of The Dance show which is set to take the country by storm, performing at seven sold out stadiums in the run-up to Christmas.
At the moment Lauren and the rest of the cast are on day nine of a two weeks’ quarantine period prior to the Feet of Flames opening night of the tour in Taichung on December 11th.
Now aged 21, Lauren has been dancing since she was 4-years-old with Scoil Rince Realta based in her home town. She’s dedicated her life to Irish dancing and is grateful for the friends, memories and experiences dancing has given her during her career to date.
The life of a dancer is a pretty hectic one, and only a handful ever make it to the top. Travelling across the country at weekends; spending hours rehearsing steps and working on strength and fitness – it’s fair to say the modern-day dancer is an athlete in everything but name.
While not knowing for sure if the tour across Taiwan would definitely go ahead due to Covid-19, Lauren wanted to make sure she was in the best shape possible should the tour get the green light. In recent weeks she has been mixing daily high intensity work-outs with weight training and sessions to build up stamina and core strength. As well as that she manages to find time to fit in three-hour dance classes three evenings a week.
Back in August while looking to elevate the profile of Emerald Dance Photography, I reached out to Lauren after she had answered a call out I had made for a dancer. We planned a photoshoot for the scenic grounds of Tollymore Forest Park just as autumn was in full swing and were blessed with a beautiful day.
My good friend Leo McCourt from Catchlight Camera Club joined me and with the park busy we decided to head to the well-known Foley’s Bridge, more popular with landscape photographers and always a magnet for snappers at this time of the year. Lauren was accompanied by her good friend Stephanie Andrews who we hope to get a chance to work alongside some time in 2021.
Surprisingly, our luck was in as there were no photographers about, something I wasn’t expecting. There were plenty of families out enjoying the day and while I don’t know if any were Irish dancing fans, a few took the opportunity to stop and watch what was going on. Maybe they recognised our famous Irish dancer, who knows?
In her final few years dancing competitively Lauren won three Ulster titles, two Irish National titles, top five in many major competitions and was among the top 10 dancers at the Worlds for three years running, a just reward for her dedication to reach the top.
“Dancing is my life but few people realise the amount of commitment, hard work and perseverance associated with trying to be the best you can be,” said Lauren.
“There are so many kids out practising seven days a week just like me, all hoping to get the chance to dance on a world stage or be prized with a Globe in honour of their hard work and talent,” she said.
Over the years she has been blessed with great support from her mum Elaine and dad Alan.
“They have supported me every step of the way and I am thankful for everything they have done for me. I also have to mention my granny Esther who always made time to drive me to classes every Saturday before I passed my test. My brother, David, and sister Hannah, who is also a dancer, have always been there for me too, and I appreciate everything they have done for me,” said Lauren.
LORD OF THE DANCE
In February 2019, aged 18, Lauren was grateful to get the chance to travel to Killarney to audition for Lord of The Dance. Five months later she was offered a role in the show for a residency at Niagara Falls and so began the dream she has been chasing since she was four years of age.
Since then the greatest dance show on earth has seen her travel the globe and tour across America, China, Brazil, Mexico and many more countries.
After impressing the directors and choreography team Lauren was delighted to be given the opportunity to train for the lead role of Soairse, the good girl in Lord of The Dance. However, since the beginning of this year she has moved to the dark side, after being asked to train for the lead role of Morrigan, the lead female bad girl role!
Looking ahead Lauren hopes that things can get back to normal to allow the Lord of The Dance team to entertain audiences around the world once more and in turn help her travel and sample more of the amazing cultures she feels fortunate to have seen already.
And whether it’s in the role of a good girl or a bad girl she’s determined to make the most of her opportunities and nail down a solid lead role as part of the greatest dancing show on earth.
Naturally enough, we think she’s going to succeed – best wishes Lauren!!
Lauren Clarke; Scoil Rince Realta; Lord of the Dance; Feet of Flames.