John Carey at the Celtic Cafe - Page 1


There are few dancers who generate the kind of excitement and enthusiasm that John Carey can. It's no wonder that Michael Flatley chose John as his understudy during the original Lord of the Dance tour, and was assigned to the Lord role when LOTD Troupe 2 debuted.

After leaving the show, John worked on many things, including his own show, Realta. Those lucky enough to be at the Independence Day celebration in Lititz, Pennsylvania, had the opportunity to see a portion of his creation on the evening of July 4th. See the link at the bottom of the page for more information about this event, one of the oldest celebrations in the United States.

The reactions coming in have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic... "Air Carey" and Fiona Kidd and the troupe members were the hit of the night. Can we look forward to an actual tour of Realta one day soon? Here's hoping!

Click here for a review of Realta's first public appearance!

Please note:

The videoclips in the links will be available for viewing for only a short time, because of limited bandwidth. Thanks go to John for the Realta promo tape and to Olive Hurley for the 25th Anniversary of the World Irish Dancing Championships video, a rare gem.


The following interview was conducted in Birmingham, England in August of 2000.

John Carey: Both of my parents are from Ireland, and they moved over to England when they were 17 or 18. They actually met in England even though they were from the same town in Ireland. When I was younger, my brother and I basically did everything. We were in all different types of sports -- swimming, football, tennis and squash, music… and everything. We just tried everything. Every night of the week, we were doing something different.

I went to a very academic school. They really, really push people to get to Oxford and Cambridge. We did a lot of sports in school as well, but the main emphasis was on academic subjects; they didn't see any future in anything like drama or music. Which I did a lot of it in school as well, but it was like a thing as a pastime, not like a major career to follow.

TB: John, how did you get started in dance?

When I was seven and a half, my Mum took me along to Irish dancing lessons just because, "You really need to get into something that you're really interested in, so why don't you try dancing?" There were two sisters teaching me that were really nice and didn't shout. They weren't really very competitive. They just taught for fun, not for competition. It was great.

Then the next year they retired from teaching. Then Danny Doherty took over. He was a completely different type of teacher, you know. He's very competitive. He had dancers that used to compete at the World Championships all the time. And he shouted a lot in the class. All of a sudden, it wasn't as much fun as it used to be.

So I took a break. "I don't think I want to do this anymore. I think I'll go back to swimming. I can just go and do that every Monday night." I reluctantly went back a couple of months later. Started to enjoy it.

I went to a few competitions. I really started to enjoy it then because you can meet up with a lot of different people every weekend from all over the country. Most of the people are now in Lord of the Dance or Riverdance. You know, the same people I used to compete against all my life. That's when it became really fun.

The following year then, when I was nine, I entered for the Great Britain Championships. And I won it! Which was a bit of a surprise at the time. I didn't expect that at all. That was 1987. I won the 'Under 9 Boys'. Then the qualifying for the World Championships was coming up in a couple of months after that, and my teacher suggested I go in for them. Each region in the country has a qualifying round. My region was the Midlands of England. I entered and I won. We started to travel then for the whole of the next year. In January, I went to the All Ireland Championships, which I won. This was all a big shock to me.

Then at the World Championships I was dancing against boys a year older than me, because the youngest age was 'Under 11' and I was only ten. So I thought "This will be a tough competition. I'm not going to do very well here." But - I WON it! An even bigger shock! In that year, 1988, I won the All-Ireland, the World, the North American, the British National and the Great Britain Championships. All in the same year. I think I was the only person to have ever done that at ten. And I think I still am, because now you can't compete at the Worlds until you are eleven.

So we went to the American Nationals in Oakland. That was my first time into America. This dancing competition was like a big family holiday, just an excuse for us to go to America. It was a brilliant holiday. We went down to Disneyland as well. So myself and Catriona Hale, another girl from my class and one of my best friends, went with my teacher, my Mum, my brother, her Mum and another girl from Birmingham, Fiona Kidd, and all three of us won.

By the time I was I was 17, I won seven World Championships, seven All-Ireland, five North American . . . I think, eight British Nationals and nine Great Britain. Cat, the girl from my class, won eight World Championships - every time I won, she won, and the two years I got second, she got second as well - it was like we were jinxed every year; and she's still one of my closest friends.

When I was 17, during my spring half-term break at school, my dancing teacher got a phone call saying that Riverdance was looking for two more dancers and that they were opening in London this week. And would Catriona and I come down and audition for them. They'd held auditions a couple of weeks before, but we didn't hear about it; I think it was only the London school they'd auditioned. I said, "Yeah, of course I will - no problem!" So on the Tuesday we went down and we met Michael. He auditioned us.

We had to do three dances for him. He just said, as soon as we finished dancing, "Right, you're in. The first show is on Friday. You'd better start learning the steps now." I was thinking, "Oh my God!"

I had my driving test the next day. I had just turned 17 and I said, "I have to go home tomorrow 'cause I have my driving test. I booked it 3 months ago." So we stayed and learned all the steps we could in the one day. I went home that night, did the driving test the next day and I passed, then got the London train straight afterwards.

Myself and Cat, with all our stuff, moved into the apartments. Then we went through rehearsals Wednesday, all day Thursday; we did the dress rehearsal on Friday and did our first show Friday night. We only did two numbers in the first show, because that's all we had time to learn. We did two shows on Saturday. I came home on Sunday because Sunday was a day off. I had to go to school on Monday morning. Back to school again! I went to my form teacher and said, "I have a bit of a problem. I've got a job in London. I'm dancing in Riverdance every night of the week. I've got to be there at 7 o'clock every night and I don't know what to do."

They couldn't believe it. This was my second to last year in high school. I was going into my most important year of high school, where I'd be applying to universities. They couldn't believe that I'd just joined Riverdance. What was I thinking? I was going to be an Oxford candidate. I was going to apply to Oxford University in the next couple of months.

So I said to them, "I think I could come to school on Monday and Tuesday. I could take Wednesday off because Wednesday was games afternoon, so I only had a half-day of lessons (and I said that I thought I'd be getting enough exercise in Riverdance anyway), I'll come back to school on Thursday and I'll take Friday off." We only had a half-day on Fridays as well. So I was only missing two half-days.

They weren't really very happy about it, but I told them that was the way it was going to be because I really wanted to do this. This is something, that you know… I'd worked… I'd danced all my life and this was the best opportunity for me.

So I did it. I used to go to school on Monday. I'd catch the train at 4:30 after school and get to London at 6:30. Take the tube across London and get to the theatre at 7. Do the show at 8. Get the last train home at a quarter past 11, and I'd be home at 2 o'clock in the morning. Go to school and do the same the next day, Tuesday. Then I'd stay in London on Tuesday night 'cause I had the day off school on Wednesday, and then do the show Wednesday night. Come back after the show on Wednesday night at 2 o'clock in the morning again. Go to school on Thursday. Back down again after school on Thursday. Then I could stay down Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights because I took Friday off from school.

I did that for about five weeks, until about July. I was completely dead at the end of it. I'd do my homework on the train on the way down. It was a really tough time. But I had the best time. It was so much fun. Myself and Cat were the first two English-born dancers to ever be in Riverdance. Everyone else was from Ireland.

I went to the American Nationals straight afterwards in Toronto. Came September, Riverdance was coming back to London and I got another phone call saying, "Will you come back down again? We're doing a three-month run this time, until Christmas. We'd like you again." I'd just started back to high school again full-time in September. I thought about it for a long time and it was a bit of a hard decision.

Cat had just gone back to college to finish a computer course, and I was in my last year of high school, and I'd applied to Oxford. I said, "Well, you know, I've only got another eight months of high school really, till next May. I'd like to finish that out. My parents paid a lot of money for me to go to this private school . . . but I'd really like you to keep my name on the list. My exams finish June next year and please keep me in mind. I really want to join then. I'll take a year out and I'll do it for a year, at least." So they said, "That's fine, ok, no problem."

So then, the next day, I read in the paper 'Michael Flatley leaves Riverdance.' I was thinking - oh my God, is it going to be finished? Maybe it was a good job I didn't go down then. I'd have given up my school… and then I thought, oh well maybe if I had gone down… maybe…I don't know… if they were looking for someone to (laughs)… I didn't know what to think, whether it was a good thing or a bad thing. But anyway, I'd made my decision.

So I applied to do Chemistry at Oxford, my best subject. I did a Chemistry exam and a Math exam. You do two exams on two subjects. If you do well on the exams, they invite you for an interview. When I got home from the exam, my Mum said, "Oh, there's been a phone call for you. Michael Flatley's agent's been on the phone. He's starting up a new show. He wants you to come down to London because they are doing a stint on the Des O'Connor show [an English chat show]. Will you come down and audition on Sunday?"

That Sunday was my regional qualifying for the World Championships. So my Mum told him, "I don't think he can come on Sunday." The agent rang back and said, "Well, Michael knows him anyway, because he was in Riverdance. He's seen him dance, so he doesn't need to audition. Just come down on the Monday for rehearsals."

So I had to go back into my school again and say, "Look, I've been offered this. It's only temporary at the moment. It's only going to be a week's work here to do this thing. A couple weeks, here and there. I'm definitely going to college. I'm only just going to take next week off school." So they still weren't very happy with this, but I was doing it anyway.

I did the week's rehearsals from Monday to the next Friday. In that time, I got word back from Oxford that I did well on the exams, and I had an interview the next Monday at Oxford. I finished in the studio on the Sunday night and caught the last train home, 'cause we were rehearsing all day. I got home at two in the morning. Had to leave my house at 6 am to get my Oxford interview at nine.

The interview was meant to be over a three-day period: you have the interview, you look around the grounds, then you stay and have dinner - the whole formal thing. So when I got into my interview I had to explain to them, "Actually, at this moment, I'm in this thing with Michael Flatley. We're recording a TV show tomorrow. I have to leave - right now, right after this interview, to go and do the dress rehearsal to record this TV show tomorrow." "Umm…weeellllll…. okay… we can't really say no, you're not a student yet. You've done the main part of it."

So I went straight from Oxford and turned up at the studio in my suit that I'd worn for the interview. I had to get changed for the dress rehearsal for the Des O'Connor show. We recorded it the next day. Everything went fine. Then I went back to school again. That was the middle of November, and the show didn't air until January.

Then, I got the word just before Christmas that I'd got in to Oxford. I'd been accepted! That was great! Then I got another phone call from Michael's agent, saying that we were doing the same piece live for the Irish National Entertainment Awards on the 28th of December. It was going to be in Dublin, and I was spending Christmas in Ireland anyway with my family, so all I had to do was get the bus down to Dublin.

The Des O'Connor show aired in the January. Then in February, just after the All-Ireland Championships, there were open auditions for the full show. There were maybe 200 people who turned up. All the people, even those who had done the TV shows, had to go through the auditions. They called back about 60 and we started training. In between times, I was still going to school all the time.

It must have been the second or third audition that they picked out ten boys and ten girls for a piece on the Royal Gala Performance on the British TV. It was like a variety show, where there were lots of different acts on. Shirley Bassey was on it, we were on it, some magicians were on it and some boy bands that were around at that time. The Queen was there as well. So (laughs) that meant I had to be out of school again for another week's rehearsals. That was in March.

Then it came up to Easter time and the World Championships. So I went to that. And I won. It was my last year of competing, 1996. On April 22, I moved to Dublin to start full-time rehearsals for the show.

So I left school for good, basically. I'd been away for so many weeks here and there that I'd missed a whole load of course work. I was really good friends with my drama teacher at school, and she convinced my headmaster and the rest of my other teachers that this was the best opportunity for me, something fantastic. She and my form teacher and my chemistry teacher as well managed to get my exams transferred to a college in Dublin so that I wouldn't have to fly home to take them over (because you have to take the exams at the school you were taught at).

Go on to page 2 of the 3 pages of the interview.

Interview: Tonda Brandon
Original Web Design: Alexander Servas
Editing: Louise Owen


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