I learned to Dance from an English Japanese Sword Master

D’fhoghlaim mé conas Damhsa ó Mháistir Claíomh Sasnach - Seapánach

11 Feb 2021

Inspired by Gene Kelly and then David Byrne from Talking Heads, at the age of nineteen I ended up at a ballet school in London being thought by a very kind Lebanese ballet master who had once thought twelve year old boys at the Kirov School in Leningrad. Many other ballet teachers followed after him and attempted to teach me.  There were Swedes, Cubans, Russians, but nothing worked, I just got worse and worse.

further afield

I started looking further afield, hanging out at different dance studios. I’d go to modern dance classes and contemporary dance classes. I met Americans, Belgians, Dutch, French and Germans but I was getting more confused and more frustrated.

Many times I thought about giving up, about going back to college, as my father had continuously suggested. By now I could already be a successful barrister. But for some reason, a reason I may never fully understand, I stubbornly stayed on the path I had chosen when I was eighteen years old.

A man who succeeded in keeping his great sense of humour hidden from me for more than a year… I finally began to learn how to dance.

In desperation I started to explore, yoga and martial arts. I tried Shamanics in Mexico, sweat lodges in Texas, fire rituals in India and although things were not getting any worse, they were not getting any better.

But it was when I met a man in London who thought me yoga; a man with tightly cropped hair, pale skin and an intense gaze. A man who succeeded in keeping his great sense of humour hidden from me for more than a year; that I finally began to learn how to dance.

The interesting thing about this man was that he was not only a yoga teacher but a Japanese Swordsman, an art he had studied in Japan for many years with one of its greatest exponents.

I won’t try and explain how I learned to dance from a Japanese Sword Master who was English but after studying with him for three years or more, I learned how to become a good enough dancer to work with great dancers and then finally began to make the kind of work I had always imagined I could be making.

To this man, I will be forever grateful.

Michael Keegan Dolan, 2021

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